Seelye Chides Conservative Sen. DeMint's "Ideological Purity," "Stoking Anger" vs. Obama-Care

Katharine Seelye, a reporter on the Obama-care health overhaul beat,filed Mondayfrom a town hall in Spartanburg, S.C., that featured conservative Republican Sen. Jim DeMint among supportive constituents who oppose Obama-care in ways Seelye findsunseemly blunt, misleading, and anti-Obama.

In "Fighting Health Care Overhaul, and Proud of It," Seelye looked askance at DeMint's "ideological purity," chided him for "stoking anger" and for not knocking down "misimpressions" about Obama-care - even though the Times itself seems less convinced that those conservative "myths," like the outcry over "death panels," are totally without merit.

Senator Jim DeMint, the South Carolina Republican who predicted that President Obama's effort to overhaul the health care system would become his "Waterloo," is doing his best to make that happen.

Taking questions from a friendly crowd of 500 people here the other day, Mr. DeMint did little to correct their misimpressions about health care legislation but rather reinforced their worst fears.

When one man said the major House bill would give the government electronic access to bank accounts, Mr. DeMint told him the bill was never about health care. "This is about more government control," he declared. "If it was about health care, we could get it done in a couple of weeks."

The text box reinforced DeMint's conservatism: "Gaining support by promoting ideological purity."

Mr. DeMint, 57, is a first-term senator, a back-bencher with little influence in Washington's corridors of power. But at home he is stoking anger over the health care issue as he advances his free-market philosophy, gains national attention and, perhaps, helps derail Mr. Obama's agenda.

If that agenda is not stopped at health care, Mr. DeMint warned at a town-hall-style meeting in Greenville, "he'll continue to spend and borrow this country into oblivion."

And how often does the Times refer to, say, Nantucket, Mass., as the "bluest region of the true blue state" of Massachusetts? Only Republican strongholds seem to get the adjectival overkill in the Times.

Mr. DeMint is popular in the Greenville-Spartanburg area, the reddest region of this ruby red state and the area he first represented in Congress. He is running for re-election next year and so far has no serious challengers. State Senator Brad Hutto, a Democrat, had been considering a run, but Phil Bailey, political director of the State Senate Democratic caucus, said Friday that Mr. Hutto had decided against it. At the same time, most of the state's political oxygen is being consumed by Gov. Mark Sanford, a Republican, who has been battling calls for his resignation since he admitted to an extramarital affair.

All of this has left Mr. DeMint free to fire up his conservative base, arguing for ideological purity at a time when other Republicans might compromise to try to rebuild their numbers.

Seelye found another so-called falsehood spread by DeMint:

Here, he fueled speculation that a health care overhaul would cover illegal immigrants, although specific language says it would not. He also said senators and members of Congress would "absolutely not" pass a new health plan if they had to go on it themselves.

In fact, over the weekend the Times tried to knock down the conservative accusation that Obama-care would provide taxpayer funded health care for illegals in three separate stories, including Seelye's.

Here's the headline to a brief by Duff Wilson from Sunday's paper: "An Airing of Border Issues, but No Coverage for "Illegal Immigrants."

(Then again, Wilson has been fooled before. His infamously shoddy front-page story on the Duke "rape" hoaxpresumed the guilt of three black Duke lacrosse players in the alleged sexual assault of a black stripper. The charges were later dropped and the prosecutor sent to prison.)

Another Sunday story, by Michael Mason, aimed at the same health care target, under the headline "When Facts Aren't - Vetting Claims in a Memo." One of those "false" facts being circulated, according to the NYT:

All non-US citizens, illegal or not, will be provided with free healthcare services.

But Mark Krikorian of the Center for Immigration Studies found conservative concerns over illegals getting tax-funded health care perfectly valid. In a post on National Review Online, he pointed out that "the supposed bar on illegal aliens getting subsidies is inadequate: The bar applies only to one section of the bill; there's no requirement that applicants' eligibility be verified, as is the case with other welfare programs; and the Democrats specifically rejected amendments to require verification."

Back to Seelye's story: She alsorode to the defense of the health insurance industry (not previously popular in the Times) to rebut DeMint, letting Sandy Praeger, the insurance commissioner in Kansas and past president of the National Association of Insurance Commissioners, saying DeMint's own reform idea of letting people shop in other states for insurance (dismissed by Seelye as having "never gone very far") "would destabilize the nation's insurance market and hurt consumers."