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Olbermann, Alter in Denial Over GOP Winning Health Care Debate

Remember “Baghdad Bob,” the Iraqi Information Minister Muhammad Saeed al-Sahhaf? Even with Iraqi forces in a full rout and American Marines just blocks away Baghdad Bob would completely deny the presence of U.S. troops in the Iraqi capitol.


Watching MSNBC’s “Countdown with Keith Olbermann,” on September 24 was reminiscent of Baghdad’s Bob’s press conferences. Olbermann asked Newsweek’s Jonathan Alter, also an MSNBC political analyst, how “the GOP” would convince the public that the health care system “is not really in crisis” and that it does not need to be a priority compared to Afghanistan.  Turning right to page three of the current left-wing talking points, Alter used the opportunity to attack Sen. Jim DeMint, R-S.C., for suggesting that the president is letting Afghanistan slide to curry favor for health care, by invoking George W. Bush.


“It’s a pretty lame argument,” Alter said. “I don’t remember Jim DeMint saying when George W. Bush was proposing to reform Social Security a few years ago that somehow he was putting the troops at risk in Iraq, because he was worried about some domestic issue.”


And DeMint probably hadn’t. But had Alter done a little homework for a “Countdown” appearance meant specifically to debunk DeMint’s accusation – maybe flipped through DeMint’s recently released book, “Saving Freedom” – he would find that DeMint had a tenuous relationship with the Bush administration. But why do that when you can score a few easy points, plus the bonus of invoking George W. Bush in the discussion?


Alter continued his diatribe by attacking explaining how irrelevant Republicans are to the process, even though he was spending four minutes of airtime on MSNBC’s highest-rated program underscore that irrelevance.


“Look, the Republicans at this point are basically irrelevant to the process,” Alter said. “I know that sounds like a harsh and definitive thing to say, but they’ve taken a hard right off the main highway of American politics, and Democrats don’t need their votes. And whatever noise they make is ambient noise. It’s not really relevant to how any of this shakes out.”


And what Olbermann segment would be complete without and over-the-top statement from the host? In Olbermann’s view, the junior senator from South Carolina hates “American sick people” for opposing this bill apparently.


“There is a Harvard study that’s come out that says 4,500 Americans each year are now dying because they don’t have health insurance,” Olbermann said. “That is one every twelve minutes, five per hour. Does that not qualify – even in the context, even ceding DeMint the idea that this is a legitimate argument and not another straw man – but does that not qualify as a stunning casually list if that’s what we’re talking about, to compete with the worst conflict imaginable? And, you know, why does Jim DeMint hate American sick people?”


Alter accused opponents of discriminating against sick people and likened the legislation to Civil Rights Era bills. But polling data has shown the Republican side of the argument is gaining traction – Americans are growing skeptical of Obama’s version of overhauling the American health care system. Nonetheless Alter showed the symptoms of being in denial, and accused Republicans of being desperate.


“They’re getting to the bottom of the barrel of their arguments,” Alter said. “And I think that that is a happy indicator that we are moving towards some kind of resolution. There are a lot of tough issues. There are a lot of moving parts in this bill. There is an opportunity, as Sen. Rockefeller said, at the 11th hour, get some real important things, like a public option, back into this bill in conference.”


But for that happy outcome, Alter, Olbermann and their colleagues would have to do their part.


“So, there are a lot of details here,” Alter said. “And I think it’s important for the press and all of us to stay on top of this, and sort of follow the way we follow sports and really get into the sausage-making factor.”