Editore"s Note
Tilting at Windmills

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August 17, 2009

CONTEXT MATTERS, EVEN WITH REAGAN.... During last year's debate for the Vice Presidential candidates, Sarah Palin paraphrased a famous Reagan quote: "It was Ronald Reagan who said that freedom is always just one generation away from extinction.... We have to fight for it and protect it, and then hand it to them so that they shall do the same, or we're going to find ourselves spending our sunset years telling our children and our children's children about a time in America, back in the day, when men and women were free."

The problem with the quote was that Reagan was, at the time, condemning the very idea of Medicare. In context, Reagan actually said, "[I]f you don't [stop Medicare] and I don't do it, one of these days you and I are going to spend our sunset years telling our children and our children's children what it once was like in America when men were free." The line wasn't about "freedom," it was about a program to provide seniors with health care.

Apparently, conservatives still love the Reagan speech in which the line was delivered, but overlook pesky details, such as context.

Media Matters noticed that a whole host of prominent conservatives quoted the Reagan recording on Friday.

On August 14, the Drudge Report, Rush Limbaugh, and O'Reilly Factor guest host Laura Ingraham featured a recording of Ronald Reagan speaking in 1961 against "socialized medicine" for the American Medical Association's Operation Coffee Cup Campaign against Medicare. Neither Drudge, Limbaugh, nor Ingraham, however, noted that Reagan was speaking out against an early version of Medicare, which has become very popular since it was enacted 44 years ago, or that Reagan's dire predictions of curtailments of freedom were never realized.

Limbaugh aired portions of the Reagan recording from 1961 and, with Republican-mandated reverence, told listeners, "I tell you, I get chills up my back. I feel like I'm listening to my dad. My dad said the same thing to me: 'You boys are going to be slaves.'" After playing a clip from Reagan's recording, Ingraham added, "I have to believe that Ronald Reagan is smiling down on these town hall forums."

I realize for most of the right, Reagan is The Worshipped One Who Must Not Be Questioned, but they really ought to listen to the whole thing before praising it. Indeed, listening to the recording now, it's kind of embarrassing to hear how very wrong Reagan's attacks on Medicare were at the time.

According to Reagan, Medicare would lead federal officials to dictate where physicians could practice medicine, and open the door to government control over where Americans were allowed to live. In fact, Reagan warned that if Medicare became law, there was a real possibility that the federal government would control where Americans go and what they do for a living. The Tea Baggers of the day no doubt found this persuasive, but we now know these crazy warnings were completely wrong.

As Jon Chait recently explained:

You'd think conservatives would be embarrassed about this sort of talk. After all, can there be anybody who doesn't live in a militia compound who believes the passage of Medicare represented the death knell of that freedom in America? Does anybody think this business about the government dictating what city doctors live in has come true? Yet conservatives continue to trumpet it.

As for Reagan's warnings against "socialized medicine," which were demonstrably false, Reagan's misguided diatribe from 48 years ago also serves as a reminder that we hear the same arguments from conservatives, over and over again, every time real reform is on the table. It doesn't matter if it's true, it matters if Limbaugh and his followers "get chills" from the rhetoric.

Steve Benen 12:45 PM Permalink | Trackbacks | Comments (39)

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Comments

I like this quote:
My dad said the same thing to me: 'You boys are going to be slaves.'"

Can we call Rush, and point out to him that is dad was an ignorant douchebag?

Posted by: jkruse on August 17, 2009 at 12:49 PM | PERMALINK

His Dad was right about one thing, Rush IS a slave to his both his delusions and his addictions.

Posted by: c6Logic on August 17, 2009 at 12:50 PM | PERMALINK

lots of folks dont know that ronnie rayguns was the antichrist. they just missed it. but he was. and his curses are just now rolling out...

Posted by: neill on August 17, 2009 at 12:52 PM | PERMALINK

48 years? Christ, the Republicans have had the same bad, nonsensical, destructive ideas since Hoover, and they still haven't learned a damn thing.

And, except for brief periods, neither has America, apparently.

Posted by: rob! on August 17, 2009 at 12:54 PM | PERMALINK

Facts smacts.

Republicans do not need facts. They make up their own.

Posted by: zhak on August 17, 2009 at 12:55 PM | PERMALINK

Maybe Rush could go back and find out what US Grant, Lincoln, or Ben Franklin thought about Health Care Reform. It would be about as important as what Reagan thought.

Posted by: Capt Kirk on August 17, 2009 at 12:55 PM | PERMALINK

Somebody should ask Soros to fund a documentary that uses ONLY direct quotes/footage, demonstrating what progressives have achieved since 1933 and the direct connection between the political affiliations, techniques and even personalities which opposed Social Security, minimum wage, Medicare, etc., and the current right wing.

Part of the documentary -- which should be ABSOLUTELY factual correct -- should demonstrate that America is more economically sound and prosperous under Democrats than Republicans.

Done right, the documentary could be done in 30 minutes of airtime, and broken up into 30 second pre-emptible spots to be aired on commercial tv.

Posted by: theAmericanist on August 17, 2009 at 12:55 PM | PERMALINK

If little things like facts don't matter to these people, why would anyone think context would be important?

Posted by: c u n d gulag on August 17, 2009 at 12:56 PM | PERMALINK

I think the problem is that many of these people, even those who benefit from programs like Medicare and Medicaid, really do believe they are less free than their ancestors were -- without understanding that they are now less "free" to starve, or die from preventable illness, etc. An America full of citizens free to suffer at the hands of unrestricted, unregulated capitalist enterprise is how they define "free", and seems to them better than what they have now.

Posted by: Reginald Perrin on August 17, 2009 at 12:59 PM | PERMALINK

Let's kill Medicare. Either everybody is eligible, regardless of age, or nobody. Let's see where the seniors line up. I'm sick and tired of people who want others to be prevented from having what they already have.
____________________________________________

Posted by: Aris Christofides on August 17, 2009 at 1:00 PM | PERMALINK

Moments like these, you know conservative pundits have no soul, and certainly no respect for the audience they dupe into believing the GOP's inane talking points. THEY KNOW! They know EXACTLY the context Reagan was referencing when he said these words. AND THEY DON'T CARE. They think it's funny that a: the liberal blogosphere knows we know they're full of shiite, and b: their sheep DON'T know the context, and will swallow what they're saying whole, like they always do. This is their idea of win-win - dupe the followers AND piss off the more-educated opposition. I don't know who to feel more sorry for, the people who know better, the people who don't or the poor son of bitch who has to steam clean the orgasm stains off the pundits' chairs when they realize they're getting away with it. Again.

Posted by: slappy magoo on August 17, 2009 at 1:06 PM | PERMALINK

Additionally, as well off as Reagan was, he didn't hesitate to accept his full measure of Social Security benifits. So much for a principled stand against socialism.

Posted by: Winkandanod on August 17, 2009 at 1:08 PM | PERMALINK

When oh when oh when are we going to be free from the far rights version of St. Ronnie the Wonderful. He did more damage to the elderly, poor and disabled than did even Bush II. It was under St Ronnie that the second "gilded age" we are now in started. When is this country going to wake up and use their own heads to do their thinking rather than let those talking heads of Rush and company do it for them. IS THERE ANY HOPE FOR THIS COUNTRY???

Posted by: redrover on August 17, 2009 at 1:11 PM | PERMALINK

"I tell you, I get chills up my back."

That's just the oxycontin kicking in, Rush.

Posted by: Chesire11 on August 17, 2009 at 1:16 PM | PERMALINK

I don't think we've had anything like real freedom in America since the Industrial Revolution. I tell my 11-year-old daughter that, if we can get corporations out of politics, one day maybe her great grandchildren can be free.

Posted by: chrenson on August 17, 2009 at 1:16 PM | PERMALINK

This is really an example of Democratic Party incompetence.

The major media see their role as stenographers, and they see their professional obligation as limited to getting the quotes accurate. That's all.

The only way the American public will ever hear that that the Reagan quote is an anti-Medicare quote is if Democrats say so, repeatedly and consistently, until the media are forced to report it.

Posted by: Joe Buck on August 17, 2009 at 1:18 PM | PERMALINK

I get chills up my back. I feel like I'm listening to my dad. My dad said the same thing to me: 'You boys are going to be slaves.

I get chills up my spine too, the creepy kind. There's so much in there about Limbaugh, Reagan-worship and the conservative movement in general. The fear, the paranoia, but most of all the longing for a big strong Daddy who's always right. Even when, in this case, they're so completely, almost comically wrong. Go back in time to when Daddy Rush II was telling roly-poly, struggling student Rush III that he was "going to be a slave". All the things that so scared Big Daddy have come to pass, and li'l fat Rusty has grown into a morbidly obese caricature of his segregationist forebearers. And he has enough liberty that his servants are instructed to light scented candles exactly ten minutes before the master arrives home.

Posted by: Jim on August 17, 2009 at 1:26 PM | PERMALINK

Wasn't it Jimmy Carter mentioning that Reagan had opposed Medicare that prompted the Gipper to say "there you go again" in the 1980 debate? Reagan lied through his teeth then, and no one cared, least of all the media. This is a losing battle.

Posted by: Hyde on August 17, 2009 at 1:28 PM | PERMALINK

"Facts are stupid things."

Ronald Reagan - 40th president of US (1911 - 2004)

Posted by: MissMudd on August 17, 2009 at 1:29 PM | PERMALINK

Two words: Mao Thought.

We've been governed by hard Leninists for most of the last 30 years.

Posted by: Davis X. Machina on August 17, 2009 at 1:32 PM | PERMALINK

The dems need to learn something right now-- this is no longer a "bipartisan" effort. Not a single republican will be able to vote for health care reform because they've allowed their party to demagogue themselves into a corner. Any moderate republican who votes for it knows they will lose their seat to some rightwinger challenger who will say they voted to kill grandma. So forget the GOP, forget the "moderate" republicans, they are no longer part of this debate now.

Maybe after the dems get back to dc they will collectively realize that they no longer need to pretend that they care about bipartisanship-- because who in their right mind tries to negotiate in good faith with someone who is irrationally accusing you of trying to kill grandmothers?!? Fuck them and their lying, screaming madhatter hordes.

The GOP has essentially stood up and walked away from the negotiating table-- the best part is that there are enough dems still sitting at the table that they can carry on without them. The bright side of this is that the GOP has made it pretty damn easy to ignore them entirely. Now the dems just need to band together against the GOP liars, toughen up and show some leadership and resolve.

Posted by: zoe kentucky on August 17, 2009 at 1:34 PM | PERMALINK

There's nothing more hopeless than trying to get teabaggers to read history for themselves, rather than letting Rush retell it for them. They also think the Depression was caused by tariffs, the New Deal made the Depression worse, Chamberlain ceded large swathes of Europe at Munich, Roosevelt gave away the store at Yalta, and Cronkite caused the US to lose the war in Vietnam.

All preposterous, all articles of faith for wingnuts.

Posted by: kth on August 17, 2009 at 1:38 PM | PERMALINK

can there be anybody who doesn't live in a militia compound who believes the passage of Medicare represented the death knell of that freedom in America?

Dick Armey said so just yesterday that medicare is tyranny. Seriously.

The obvious way for Dems to push back on this is to say that the GOP wants to destroy medicare-- forget death panels for grandma, they want your grandmother to go bankrupt and MOVE IN WITH YOU because she can't afford health care. Can any of us imagine what a premium would be for a 65-year old? a 70-year old without medicare?

Posted by: zoe kentucky on August 17, 2009 at 1:38 PM | PERMALINK

"It doesn't matter if it's true, it matters if Limbaugh and his followers "get chills" from the rhetoric."

Find that suprising? Must have missed reading Bob Altmeyer's book 'The Authoritarians'. Especially the part about how authoritarians deal with obvious contradictions in the most holy of their believe system, ie the bible.

Posted by: SRW1 on August 17, 2009 at 1:41 PM | PERMALINK

Sean Hannity's radio show uses a sound clip from Martina McBride's song, Independence Day. "Let Freedom ring. Let the white dove sing. Let the whole world know that today is the day of reckoning..."

The song is about an abused wife who burns her house down with her husband in it. Heh.

Posted by: Arachnae on August 17, 2009 at 1:47 PM | PERMALINK

One wonders whether Reagan himself took advantage of Medicare's services while suffering from Alzheimer's.

Posted by: Linkmeister on August 17, 2009 at 1:53 PM | PERMALINK

An America full of citizens free to suffer at the hands of unrestricted, unregulated capitalist enterprise is how they define "free", and seems to them better than what they have now.

That's because they all assume that they would be Andrew Carnegie, not one of Carnegie's steelworkers. It's a common delusion among folks who long for Ye Good Old Days that they would naturally be part of the ruling class, particularly among the ones who aren't currently part of the ruling class.

Posted by: Mnemosyne on August 17, 2009 at 2:09 PM | PERMALINK

What if Obama scheduled a live debate and challenged anti-reformers to come and try to defend their lies in front of America?

Call the lies out one by one and force them to either recant or repeat them on national television.

If they refuse to attend, ask them why.

I like the Soros documentary idea, but to get the average American's attention would require some over-hyped Reality TV Smackdown element.

Posted by: Jeff Wenker on August 17, 2009 at 2:26 PM | PERMALINK

Liberals tout Medicare as the perfect government health care program. What they never mention is the small detail that Medicare has an unfunded liability of 36 TRILLION dollars. Don't assume yet that Reagan wasn't correct on the issue. History consists of a somewhat longer span of time than 30 or 40 years.
Posted by: mhr

Medicare in fact, is solvent for the 735,000 years. I pulled that fact from the same source as you pulled yours, mhr. you are right about history being longer than 30 or 40 years, but i have no idea what relevancy that has to this discussion. should we be discussing Medicare during the Roman Empire? Medicare during the rule of Henry IV? Medicare during the Civil War? I know you are a cowardly troll but for once could you explain yourself?

Posted by: mudwall jackson on August 17, 2009 at 2:38 PM | PERMALINK

This is really an example of Democratic Party incompetence.

No no no.

The Democrats are in cahoots with the Repubs to bring out the crazies so they do not have to vote for health care reform.

Just as Republicans will never bring up a bill to overturn Roe v. Wade, the Democrats will never really reform the health care, or else how would they get the base excited?


We are all witnessing a stupid game.

Posted by: gregor on August 17, 2009 at 2:45 PM | PERMALINK

Limbaugh aired portions of the Reagan recording from 1961 and, with Republican-mandated reverence, told listeners, "I tell you, I get chills up my back. I feel like I'm listening to my dad. My dad said the same thing to me: 'You boys are going to be slaves.'"

Must have been good times growing up in the Limbaugh household.

Posted by: Stefan on August 17, 2009 at 2:46 PM | PERMALINK

mhr: Medicare has an unfunded liability of 36 TRILLION dollars.

let's add that to the list of conservative assessements of reality..

saddam had nukes..

obama is a muslim...

this is a mental recession...

greeted as liberators..

iraq will pay for the war...

how'd they turn out?

gop: any suckers left?

Posted by: mr. irony on August 18, 2009 at 6:43 AM | PERMALINK

I'm willing to bet Limbaugh's father said nothing of the sort. Limbaugh makes everything up, including his whole life, every day.

As for wishing the Rethugs would quote Ronnie in context, why would anyone suppose they would do that? Reagan was wrong about everything, including his own personal history, which like Limbaugh he made up everyday. Why would those who use him as the Messiah ever admit that?

Posted by: robert on August 18, 2009 at 11:29 AM | PERMALINK

You're right, the Medicare unfunded liability isn't $36 trillion, it's just shy of $74 trillion (source: www.usdebtclock.org).

Posted by: myth buster on December 20, 2009 at 3:34 PM | PERMALINK

Ronald Reagan...One of my favorite quotes: Approximately 80% of our air pollution stems from hydrocarbons released by vegetation, so let's not go overboard in setting and enforcing tough emission standards from man-made sources.

Posted by: CNA Training on November 17, 2010 at 10:25 AM | PERMALINK

Ronald Reagan...One of my favorite quotes: Freedom prospers when religion is vibrant and the rule of law under God is acknowledged.

Posted by: CNA Classes Online on November 17, 2010 at 11:25 AM | PERMALINK

Ronald Reagan...One of my favorite quotes: Going to college offered me the chance to play football for four more years.

Posted by: CNA Classes Online on November 17, 2010 at 11:30 AM | PERMALINK

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Posted by: limited liability company on January 18, 2011 at 1:40 PM | PERMALINK

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Posted by: www.washingtonmonthly.com on March 24, 2011 at 11:32 AM | PERMALINK
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