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Tilting at Windmills

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February 13, 2009

EXPOSING A LIE ON A GRANDER SCALE.... The "award" for the Lie of the Week has some competition, but I have a favorite. Betsy McCaughey, a staffer at a conservative think tank who also used to be a Republican Lt. Gov. of New York, went after the economic stimulus plan on Monday, arguing that it would create a "new bureaucracy" to "monitor treatments to make sure your doctor is doing what the federal government deems appropriate and cost effective."

None of this is even remotely true, but the claim quickly ricocheted through conservative media outlets.

Part of the problem, though, is that those spreading the lie -- Fox News, Rush Limbaugh, et al -- have an impressive megaphone and echo chamber. I know several bloggers and online outlets that addressed the issue, but we have a less imposing reach. It was far more likely for the typical American to hear the lie than the truth.

To be fair, CNN's senior medical correspondent, Elizabeth Cohen, did a fact-check segment on McCaughey's claims and found, not surprisingly, that the argument is false. But I'm afraid the segment wasn't very good -- CNN anchor Kiran Chetry went out of her way to suggest McCaughey's demonstrably dishonest claim might be true (even though it's not) because something might happen in the future (even though it won't) that's unrelated to the legislation at hand.

Again, the typical U.S. news consumer can easily get confused. On the one hand we have biased outlets on the right repeating blatant lies. On the other hand we have neutral outlets hedging on what may or may not be true, when there's an objective reality staring them straight in the face.

Enter Keith Olbermann, who not only had a devastating segment on this last night, setting the record straight, he did so with a reach that blog posts can't have. I don't doubt that the right will whine that Olbermann isn't objective enough, but just watch the segment -- he explains the claim, explains why it's false, and then offers policy and historical context. That's what a news consumer needs because it's true. Reality may have a well-known liberal bias, but so be it. The right's lying, and Olbermann called them on it on national television. Somebody has to.

Indeed, Ezra reminds us this afternoon that it's a reminder of what makes media professionals like Olbermann and Rachel Maddow important: "Will Olbermann's segment on McCaughey end her relevance? Probably not. But it -- along with the blog posts, and inevitable columns -- will be part of what any CNN producer sees if he wants to run a segment on McCaughey the next morning. It will be part of what an NPR editor reads when she's researching a show. None of this progressive infrastructure existed in 1994.... This time, such arguments will not go unchallenged. That doesn't mean they will disappear. McCaughey's arguments are already taking root in the fertile swamp of talk radio. But it will be much harder for such bits of disingenuous nonsense to cement themselves in the center. And by the same token, it will be much easier for liberals to make, and disseminate, their own arguments."

Steve Benen 5:05 PM Permalink | Trackbacks | Comments (24)

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Steve Benen

Check out Chairman Obey come off the top turnbuckle on the wingnuts today right before the House passed the bill. He basically lined all their lies up and knocked all of them down in a 12 minute PWNING.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=rl5fDyUP718&eurl=http://smoothlikeremy.blogspot.com/&feature=player_embedded

Posted by: sgwhiteinfla on February 13, 2009 at 5:11 PM | PERMALINK

Besty McCoy is a very efficient whore. She screws us all for money.

Posted by: doubtful on February 13, 2009 at 5:11 PM | PERMALINK

It's not lying when you're insane.

Posted by: JoeW on February 13, 2009 at 5:12 PM | PERMALINK

And by McCoy of course I meant McCaughey or what ever you have to cough up to get through that spelling of the name.

Posted by: doubtful on February 13, 2009 at 5:13 PM | PERMALINK

Let me try this again.

Chairman Obey does it much better and right to the rethugs face!

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=rl5fDyUP718

Posted by: sgwhiteinfla on February 13, 2009 at 5:13 PM | PERMALINK

The problem is that KO's segment will never be repeated by any other member of the MSM while the other claim will be.

KO's too partisan, ya know.

Posted by: howie on February 13, 2009 at 5:17 PM | PERMALINK

This dissemination of misinformation by Republican mega-outlets is a REAL problem. Somehow, the Dems must get the facts out to the public. I've had at least 3 people at my work mention this healthcare lie (and these are intelligent people).

Posted by: ckelly on February 13, 2009 at 5:17 PM | PERMALINK

Holy @&^$! I just watched the Olbermann segment. Betsy McCaughey looks like *Michael Jackson*. No wonder she isn't a Lt. Governor anymore.

Posted by: Shade Tail on February 13, 2009 at 5:22 PM | PERMALINK

To be fair, CNN's senior medical correspondent, Elizabeth Cohen, did a fact-check segment on McCaughey's claims and found, not surprisingly, that the argument is false.

You obviously don't watch much CNN. A couple days ago they did the following two fact checks: 1) Between 29 and 37% of the stimulus package will be spent in the next two years - Barely true. Here they conceded that a Senator was actually talking about the House version, and that they didn't consider tax cuts in the equation. Of course, to get those numbers you had to include tax cuts and conclude that none would not be "spent" in the next two years.

2) There are no earmarks in the stimulus package - False. Here, with no specificity, they inserted the phrase "what we consider to be earmarks." The fact that the term actually has a definition didn't seem to matter.

I'll bet I fire off an e-mail to them at least once every other week after one of these offensive fact checks.

Posted by: Danp on February 13, 2009 at 5:27 PM | PERMALINK

Most right-wingers are not just liars, they are pathological liars, and we should call them out as such whenever they are caught. But we mustn't exaggerate the problem. Not all righties are pathological liars. Some are just terminally stupid.

Posted by: a giant slor on February 13, 2009 at 5:34 PM | PERMALINK

I am no liberal, but I watch Olbermann and Maddow every weekday night. Why? Because both give me substance, background and context to the various news worthy events occurring 24/7. Do I agree with their analyses - not often, but their analyses offer me substance to disagree with. Do I agree that the propaganda and dogma coming from far-right bully-pulpets has become too far-fetched and unattached to things real - YES!

So, like so many other libertarians, I listen to a goodly amount of information from a liberal bent because I can't trust that I will hear a goodly amount of information from "conservative" outlets that is independent of the Republican party talking-points papers, at any one moment in their "reporting." -Kevo

Posted by: kevo on February 13, 2009 at 5:58 PM | PERMALINK

Steve Benen wrote: "On the one hand we have biased outlets on the right repeating blatant lies. On the other hand we have neutral outlets hedging on what may or may not be true, when there's an objective reality staring them straight in the face."

And on the third hand we have "sensible liberal" bloggers who persist in the delusion that the handful of giant corporations that own and control the so-called "mainstream" mass media in the USA are "neutral" in their coverage of issues that have a huge financial impact on the corporate aristocracy generally, and often on the media corporations specifically.

You think Republicans believe "crazy" things? Believing that the corporate-owned media is "neutral" rather than propagandizing in favor of corporate interests is about as "crazy" as it gets.

Meanwhile, my fellow "liberals", for your own sake please remember that Keith Olbermann and Rachel Maddow are on the cable for one reason and one reason only: to get you to watch commercials.

I suggest watching their programs with a stopwatch at hand, and timing how much of their programs consists of actual program content, vs. how much of it is the commercials. It's a very revealing exercise.

Posted by: SecularAnimist on February 13, 2009 at 6:20 PM | PERMALINK

"...monitor treatments to make sure your doctor is doing what the federal government deems appropriate and cost effective."
Isn't this what private health care companies do right now?

Posted by: Nat on February 13, 2009 at 6:47 PM | PERMALINK

Nat,

When private health insurance companies do it, it's corporate capitalism and good for the rich white men who own the companies, er, I mean, the economy. When government does it, it's undue interference. De-regulate health care! The market is its own best overseer!

Posted by: Keori on February 13, 2009 at 7:04 PM | PERMALINK

SecularAnimist, your take on the outside problem is essentially true, but do you really think Steve B. doesn't appreciate that? I figure, most of the way he and Drum write is a rhetorical device rather than naivete.

Posted by: Neil B ☺ on February 13, 2009 at 7:22 PM | PERMALINK

Perception is reality. Confuse people's perception of an issue and you define the reality of it.

If there is one thing the GOP is still kicking the Dems butt at, it's manupulating the media with misinformation.

Posted by: mfw13 on February 13, 2009 at 8:29 PM | PERMALINK

It is important to remember that all too many legislative Republicans have no shame

Today's quick example (from NYT): "Jerry Lewis of California asserted that the program would do far too little to finance road construction, flood control projects and other works for the public good."

That would the road construction, flood controls, etc. that Republican repeatedly voted to take out of the bill, right?

Posted by: PQuincy on February 13, 2009 at 8:34 PM | PERMALINK

"So, like so many other libertarians, I listen to a goodly amount of information from a liberal bent because I can't trust that I will hear a goodly amount of information from "conservative" outlets that is independent of the Republican party talking-points papers"

Too true, Kevo. Libertarians are natural allies of neither liberals nor conservatives, but the mendacity of the right wing has reached the point that -- for the foreseeable future -- you're stuck with us. :) Glad to have you!

Posted by: tWB on February 13, 2009 at 8:45 PM | PERMALINK

Jerry Lewis of California asserted that the program would do far too little to finance road construction, flood control projects and other works for the public good

He then loudly said "Hey Lady!" and ran around erratically for several minutes to the absolute delight of French observers in the immediate vicinity.

Posted by: lobbygow on February 13, 2009 at 10:11 PM | PERMALINK

Mr. Benen - Damn!! I love it when you gotcher game on. Castrate the bitches, and throw the bloody skank to the dogs. If they'll have it.

Posted by: Conrads Ghost on February 13, 2009 at 11:46 PM | PERMALINK

The NYT has a similar piece today from Ryan, R from WI, which manages to misstate economy history and theory, as well as ignore the fact that the Republicans doubled the national debt under Bush. They don't have a leg to stand on in any reasonable policy debate among adults, and that fact needs to be pointed out consistently. Unfortunately, Obama needs to govern by putting the best sheen possible on the fact that you can't argue with crazy people.

Posted by: Foreigner on February 14, 2009 at 3:35 AM | PERMALINK

Jesus, some idiot was whining about this on the AHLA (American Health Lawyers Association) listserve. I was looking forward to a flame war but someone posted a link to the AMA's website Clarifications of Recent Mischaracterizations of H.R. 1.

This sums up (again) how fucking disconnected the GOP has become from the rest of the galaxy. They're forcing the AMA to say "Shut up you pinheads."

From the press release on the Senate bill:

There were widespread reports and commentaries this week that mischaracterize some provisions of the package pertaining to HIT and to comparative effectiveness research. To clarify, neither version of the bill would create a federal system for electronically tracking patients’ medical treatments or for monitoring compliance with federal treatment standards. While the legislation would impose financial penalties for those who do not adopt HIT in the next 6-7 years, those penalties bear no relation to individual treatment decisions made by physicians [This is based on provision in a regulation passed while Bush was in office -tAwO]. Further, neither bill would create a single new bureaucracy to determine whether treatments are appropriate or cost effective. In fact, both versions of the bill incorporate by reference provisions in current law that prohibit the Secretary of Health and Human Services from including mandates establishing national clinical guidelines or national coverage decisions in clinical comparative effectiveness research.
Posted by: The Answer WAS Orange on February 14, 2009 at 7:37 AM | PERMALINK

libbygow, Rep Jerry Lewis of Riverside, CA, once thought he had a dream of "Mr Hulot goes to Congress".

Posted by: berttheclock on February 14, 2009 at 8:49 AM | PERMALINK

Pssssst, hey didja hear there's a phantom earmark in the stimulus package giving $600 million to probing the navels of illegally immigrating kangaroos?

Quick let's get a speech going on the floor of the house, I'm sure Jeb Hensarling will want this one!

Posted by: Capt Kirk on February 14, 2009 at 10:42 AM | PERMALINK




 

 

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