ObamaCare Aided by Big Doses of Media Spin
The end of Congress's long debate over ObamaCare could be near, as the President pushes for a final vote this week before his Asia trip, and House Democrats want a resolution before next week's Easter break.
Yet whether or not liberals' dreams are ultimately realized, they have had a huge advantage throughout the process. Over the past twelve months, journalists have continually stacked the deck in favor of a big government takeover of health care. A review of the worst spin:
■ On March 1, 2009, previewing Obama's first White House meeting on health care, ABC's Dr. Tim Johnson championed the liberal side . "We spend more than twice as much, per person, on health care in this country as the average of all other industrialized countries, yet we're the only one that doesn't have universal coverage. That's a national shame," Johnson announced on World News.
■ Obama's March 5, 2009 health care conference drew rave reviews . On Nightly News, NBC's Chuck Todd saluted how Obama had abandoned the "secrecy" of Hillary Clinton's mid-1990s effort, and he enthused over the "Knute Rockne-like boost" an ailing Senator Ted Kennedy provided. On ABC's World News, Tim Johnson gushed: "I was blown away by President Obama's grasp of the subject, how he connected the dots, how he answered the questions without any script."
■ As Obama kicked off his push for legislation, ABC News on June 24 hosted a two-hour prime time "town hall meeting," with ABC's anchors using the White House as home base for Good Morning America, World News and Nightline. On World News, reporter David Wright claimed "Democrats and Republicans alike" hoped Obama would succeed in fixing health care "because something needs to be done....The need is obvious."
■ At the outset, the networks permitted little conservative dissent. The MRC's Business & Media Institute calculated that, during the first six months of 2009, 70% of soundbites supported Obama's liberal health care ideas, and gave short shrift to complaints about the hefty price tag.
■ As opposition to ObamaCare began to take hold, journalists led a counterattack. On the July 22 Good Morning America, ABC's Chris Cuomo indignantly asked California Govenor Arnold Schwarzenegger: "Do you believe that the Republicans are playing politics here, at the risk of people's health care?...Is this getting to be a little bit of a reckless situation?" On NBC's Today, Matt Lauer accused Senator Jim DeMint: "Are you rallying conservatives to the cause of health care reform? Or are you rallying conservatives to the cause of breaking a President?"
■ As citizens voiced opposition in town hall meetings over the summer, journalists disparaged the dissenters. Writing on AOL's "Politics Daily" site, ex-CNN reporter Bob Franken blasted anti-ObamaCare protesters as "a crazed group" engaged in "organized intimidation." Hardball host Chris Matthews blamed it all on racism : "I think some of the people are upset because we have a black president." And Good Morning America's Bill Weir warned "the rising anger is now ramping up concerns over the President's personal safety."
■ MSNBC's Keith Olbermann was the most extreme, equating ObamaCare foes to suicide bombers : "When Hamas does it or Hezbollah does it, it is called terrorism. Why should Republican lawmakers and the AstroTurf groups organizing on behalf of the health care industry be viewed any differently - especially now that far too many Tea Party protesters are comparing President Obama and health care reform to Hitler and the Holocaust?"
■ Even as anti-Obama protesters were being vilified, the lobbying favor of ObamaCare continued. On August 6, Time senior political analyst Mark Halperin, previously political director at ABC News, declared on CNN's Lou Dobbs Tonight: "We're the only industrialized democracy that doesn't cover every citizen. That is immoral."
■ The broadcast networks seized on long lines at a free clinic in Los Angeles as evidence of, as CBS's Katie Couric led her August 13 Evening News , "why many believe reform is desperately needed." Two days later, ABC's Dan Harris hit the same story on World News: "Tonight, a vivid demonstration of the health care crisis: A clinic that provides free health care has been inundated with patients. Almost 46 million people in this country do not have health insurance, but the problem is a lot bigger than that...."
■ After Ted Kennedy passed away in August, journalists tried to use his death to boost ObamaCare. "Even though he's gone, his energy may help push this Obama plan through," CBS News presidential historian Douglas Brinkley hoped during live overnight coverage just hours after Kennedy's death was announced. "There is already an e-mail circulating that I've received today that reads simply, 'In lieu of flowers, pass health care reform,'" NBC's Brian Williams promoted early the next morning on Today.
■ Obama's September 9 health care speech to Congress also drew raves: "This might have been the most emotional speech I've seen President Obama give....This is very close to President Obama's heart," ABC's George Stephanopoulos enthused moments after the speech ended. On Nightline, ABC's Terry Moran saluted how Obama "sought to draw on the grand rhetorical tradition of President Kennedy and others, trying to summon the country to a great and necessary endeavor."
■ By late September, however, MSNBC's Ed Schultz was frothing at ObamaCare's opponents, accusing them of wanting Americans to die: "The Republicans lie! They want to see you dead! They'd rather make money off your dead corpse!" Two weeks later, MSNBC host Dylan Ratigan seconded the inflammatory charge: "There are people that are actually trying to derail health care in order to take down Obama, even if it means half the country dies."
■ On her September 18 CBS Evening News, Katie Couric touted a "Harvard study" that claimed "nearly 45,000 American deaths every year are linked to a lack of insurance." Neither Couric nor reporter Jim Axelrod noted the "study" was really produced by a group pushing an end to private insurance in favor of a single-payer system.
■ After the Senate dropped provisions for government-run insurance, ABC's Charles Gibson fretted on December 18: "Without a public option, without an expansion of Medicare, is it better than nothing?" ABC's Tim Johnson vouched for the bill's liberalism: "I would personally prefer to have the public option....But what's left is not insignificant." Two days later, on ABC's This Week, Cokie Roberts argued people were against the bill out of ignorance : "A lot of people are going to like it a whole lot once they see what's in it....It's just a question of understanding it."
■ Anti-ObamaCare candidate Scott Brown's victory was treated as dour news by the media. NBC's Meredith Vieira asked Brown about his post-election phone call to Ted Kennedy's widow: "How comfortable was that for both of you, knowing that you plan to do whatever you can to derail what Ted Kennedy called, called 'the cause of his lifetime,' which is health care reform?"
■ After a year of setbacks, reporters were still quick to crown Obama victorious after his health care "summit" with Republicans. On the CBS Evening News, Chip Reid insisted that Obama had laid the groundwork for jamming through a final bill, saying the President had succeeded in showing "that the Republicans are the party of no, they won't compromise, and he now has no choice but to move ahead with Democrats alone."
No conservative quest has ever been treated to the helpful press coverage ObamaCare has received. If it fails, liberals can't blame a hostile media.