ABC News anchor Chris Cuomo conducted a hostile interview of RNC
Chairman Michael Steele on Monday's Good Morning America. Noting Steele
hadn't used the term "death panel," Cuomo asked if it was "a sign of
positive progress." He also wondered why Steele wasn't bashing
insurance companies, since when there is "excess in the system, it
always comes back to the insurance companies."
The GMA anchor interviewed the RNC chairman 15 minutes into the 7 am hour. He zeroed in on Steele's op-ed plugging a "Seniors' Health Care Bill of Rights" which ran in the Washington Post on Monday . After Steele first summarized what was in the proposal, Cuomo brought up the hyped "death panel" term, which is a central part of the debate over ObamaCare:
"Now Mr. Steele, here in this health care bill of rights - very interesting what is not here, the word 'death panel' is not anywhere in here. Is this a sign of positive progress, that we're not going to talk about death panels anymore as a scare tactic?"
The RNC chairman defended that the term came from the public's reaction to the proposed health care legislation in Congress, and added that the federal government shouldn't ration health care for seniors. Cuomo followed up on something else that he found awry with the Republican proposal, hinting that insurance companies are always to blame for making excessive profits:
"Something else that's not in here, Mr. Steele, is there's no talk of the insurance companies. You know, when you talk about denial of care, or where that money is in excess in the system, it always comes back to the insurance companies, but nothing here."
Cuomo made it clear in his final question to Steele that he desired the swift passage of a health care "reform" package: "So where do you see, in terms of a time line, of getting this done? When do you think that you and I sit here on Good Morning America celebrating that there's a reform bill?" Would Cuomo ask a DNC chairman what he would be doing to make sure a Republican president could pass a tax cut?
The full transcript of the Cuomo's interview of Michael Steele from Monday's Good Morning America:
CHRIS CUOMO: Certainly, the [health care] debate goes on, so let's bring in from Washington- meeting us here on Good Morning America, the chairman of the Republican National Committee, Mr. Michael Steele. Mr. Steele, pleasure to have you.
RNC CHAIRMAN MICHAEL STEELE: Hey, it's great to be with you. Good morning.
CUOMO: So let's make some news here. There's all this talk about how we protect seniors. You have your own proposal. I have it in my hand right there- a seniors' health care bill of rights. Tell me what this is.
STEELE: Well, this is- this really another way to make sure that we're having the right debate here in America about what health care really means, and our seniors have really come under fire in the last few weeks, as more and more proposals look to be cutting benefits out of [the] Medicare program- some $500 billion the Democrats have proposed, and it's made a lot of seniors nervous. And I thought it was important for- for us to send an important signal, that as we begin this debate in earnest this fall, that we keep in mind the greatest generation and make sure that, if at all cost, we do no harm to them and the benefits they're currently receiving.
So we put together six points that- more philosophically, if nothing else- that we should be mindful of as we go through this debate. First off, we should protect the seniors' ability to access health care, to give them that relationship that they need with their doctors, so they can get the care that they need. We want to make sure that we are not cutting the Medicare program. In fact, we should be focusing our efforts on reforming that, because we've all been told that this system is going to go bankrupt in just a few short years. So why we're not focusing on this now as we talk about health care is one of those concerns that I have, along with a lot of other seniors.
CUOMO: Now Mr. Steele, here in this health care bill of rights- very interesting what is not here, the word 'death panel' is not anywhere in here. Is this a sign of positive progress, that we're not going to talk about death panels anymore as a scare tactic?
STEELE: (Laughs) Well, first off, no one has talked about death panels as- as a scare tactic. You've got to understand the context of that term came from the people of this country. There wasn't someone sitting in a shop making it up. People read a bill. They interpreted these panels that were being put in place as- of concern to them, and they addressed it in the best way that they could. My view of it is, I don't need the government rationing health care. I don't look at it so much as a death panel. Any time you get a body of individuals that go beyond me and my doctor who are going to make decisions about what kind of health care I get, that's rationing of health care. So we want to make sure that seniors are protected from any rationing of their health care going forward, that that doctor/patient relationship- for them- is sacrosanct.
CUOMO: Something else that's not in here, Mr. Steele, is there's no talk of the insurance companies. You know, when you talk about denial of care, or where that money is in excess in the system, it always comes back to the insurance companies, but nothing here.
STEELE: Well, that's-
CUOMO: Should we start talking more about them in this debate?
STEELE: No- absolutely, absolutely- I mean, it's very much a part of this, when you talk about how ensuring seniors keep their current coverage, and you talk about end-of-life discussions. Those types of discussions involve insurance companies, and certainly, insurance companies are going to play a very big role going forward in this- in this health care debate, and they're very much a part of making sure that seniors are not put on the short end of- of the stick when it comes to their health care.
CUOMO: So where do you see, in terms of a time line, of getting this done? When do you think that you and I sit here on Good Morning America celebrating that there's a reform bill?
STEELE: Well, that's a good question. It depends on what the President is prepared to do. If he's going to continue down the road of- of greater government involvement- growing the size of government in this regard- it's going to be a problem. There are a lot of Republicans and Democrats alike who are growing in their concern about the direction the President wants to take. So if the President comes back from vacation and he says that- you know, the idea of a big public plan, where there's more emphasis on government control, as opposed to individual and doctor/patient relationships- I don't see that plan getting done any time soon.
CUOMO All right. Mr. Steele- appreciate it very much.
STEELE: Thank you.
CUOMO: Thanks for coming on the show. Good luck with the health care bill of rights.
STEELE: All right.
- Matthew Balan is a news analyst at the Media Research Center.