Editore"s Note
Tilting at Windmills

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September 14, 2009

GEORGE WILL'S SELECTIVE APPROACH TO POLLS.... In his latest Newsweek column, conservative George Will thinks President Obama is doing wonders for the Republican Party. As proof, he offers this tidbit.

[Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell] of the Mona Lisa smile says Congress will pass something because Obama will sign anything. McConnell notes, however, that never in his 25 Senate years have Republicans polled close to Democrats when the question is: Which party do you trust most to deal with health care? Until now. Last week's polling: Democratic Party, 41; Republican Party, 39 -- a statistical dead heat.

I'm going to assume that Will is relying on Rasmussen data -- Rasmussen tends to offer numbers Republicans want to hear -- to characterize Dems vs. GOP as being in a "dead heat" on health care.

But a more credible look at the data suggests Will needs to broaden his polling horizons. The latest Washington Post poll, which was published after Will's deadline, asked Americans who they trust more to handle health care reform. A 48% plurality sided with President Obama, 36% prefer congressional Republicans.

A CBS News poll taken two weeks ago asked, "Regardless of how you usually vote, who do you think has better ideas about reforming the health care system: Barack Obama, or the Republicans in Congress?" Half (50%) of respondents backed the president, only 23% sided with Republicans.

And for that matter, an NBC News poll taken in mid-August asked, "Do you generally approve or disapprove of the way that Republicans in Congress are handling the issue of health care reform?" A 62% majority said they disapprove of the GOP's handling of the matter.

Will honestly seems to think health care reform is helping the Republican Party thrive. There's ample evidence to the contrary.

Steve Benen 2:45 PM Permalink | Trackbacks | Comments (25)

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Will honestly seems to think health care reform is helping the Republican Party thrive. There's ample evidence to the contrary.

Will doesn't "honestly" anything. And the WaPo editorial board knows it.

Posted by: Gregory on September 14, 2009 at 2:53 PM | PERMALINK

good one, gregory! leaving me only to say "i really, truly hope they are convinced of this."

Posted by: howard on September 14, 2009 at 2:56 PM | PERMALINK

polls polls polls -- shit. the simulation of reality sure dont git much more simulated...

i am more enthralled by george will's desire to give that goddam thug, mcconnell, a "mona lisa smile." what is with that? eewww...

mitch mcconnell only lies when he opens his mona lisa mouth. but he devastates his state of kentucky and the rest of the nation and the planet by his very existence. he is a monster.

Posted by: neill on September 14, 2009 at 2:57 PM | PERMALINK

How is it possible to poll a question like health care reform when one side has presented an array of ideas, and the other side has not presented any?

Watching this "debate" over health care reminds me of the Monty Python routine about purchasing an argument.

Man: Oh look, this isn't an argument!
(pause)
Other Man: Yes it is!
Man: No it isn't!
(pause)
Man: It's just contradiction!
Other Man: No it isn't!

Posted by: Bruce Menin on September 14, 2009 at 3:02 PM | PERMALINK

George Will is nothing but a partisan hack.

A little over a year ago, I wouldn't have said this, but last year, I made myself actually read the WaPo op-ed page every day for several months.

Not only is Will a partisan hack, but quite often, his columns didn't even seem to have a clear point: they were really just random walks with occasional slaps at Dems and libruls and whatnot.

There's plenty to dislike on the WaPo op-ed page, but even the execrable Robert J. Samuelson's columns have a point to them, even if it's a wrong and ridiculous one, relying on bad evidence to boot. Will's columns often failed to meet even that unexacting standard.

Posted by: low-tech cyclist on September 14, 2009 at 3:05 PM | PERMALINK

I want to set the next pundit who uses the term "statistical dead heat" on fire. 41 to 39 is not a statistical dead heat. In fact, it's a nonsensical term. The margin of error isn't quite what people think it is. It means that there's 95% confidence that the answer is within that margin. So yes, there is a chance that more people really do think that the GOP is the better choice. However, it's equally likely that 43% think that the Democrats are the better choice to the 37% who think it's the GOP.

So, basically, there's only a 47.5% chance, assuming no sampling bias or other error, that the true value is closer to being in the GOP's favor. Of course, it is also only at the very edge of the confidence range that there's a tie. In short, it's not a dead heat.

To George Will: Stop being ignorant, and getting paid so much for it, you moron.

Posted by: Sisyphus on September 14, 2009 at 3:08 PM | PERMALINK

I'd be very careful about using the words "Will," "honestly" and "thinks" in the same sentence.

Posted by: John sherman on September 14, 2009 at 3:10 PM | PERMALINK

On This Week, Will was talking about what HCR would cost in SEVENTY FIVE YEARS

Who knows what will happen in SEVENTY FIVE YEARS ??
Man may learn to fly
Certainly HCR will be modified and amended

George Will is a JOKE !!
While Will was criticizing Pres Clinton for the Lewinsky scandal.... Little Georgie was having an ADULTEROUS SEXUAL AFFAIR of his own
Just like Nooot Gingrich

Posted by: MSierra, SF on September 14, 2009 at 3:10 PM | PERMALINK

These polls are better signs of public support than the public option polls. People don't understand the public option, but they do understand that they like the Democrats better on domestic policy. A strong public option won't do anything to change their minds on this.

Posted by: Christopher on September 14, 2009 at 3:10 PM | PERMALINK

George should go back to writing about something he knows about, like climate change. Hmmm. OK, maybe he just shouldn't write anything at all.

(Does he actually get paid? No, really, does he?)

Posted by: josef on September 14, 2009 at 3:12 PM | PERMALINK

Is there a way to poll 'for ugly mindedness'? Maybe someone could take one and we'd see the standings. Others could place wagers on the outcome and those could be securititized, bundled and sold on Wall St. to dimwitted offshore banks and onshore Republican retirement plans (401-Rs).

Posted by: anonyous on September 14, 2009 at 3:16 PM | PERMALINK

I don't think Obama is doing wonders for the Republican party, but he's not doing much for the Democratic party either. I don't trust either party to handle health care reform, but at least the Democrats are trying to do something .

Posted by: qwerty on September 14, 2009 at 3:20 PM | PERMALINK

Sisyphus is right. Invocation of statistical tie theory is always the first clue that the writer has no clue. Unfortunately a lot of progressives let that slip by all too often.

Posted by: Christopher on September 14, 2009 at 3:21 PM | PERMALINK

You guys are hilarious!

All of the polls show this fact-excluding the WAPO which prescreens all of those they question to make sure that most are lefties! keep me laughing you sycophants! And keep pushing crap the public doesn't want. One of these days, you will all be back to obscurity-as in at midterms-and then the general election-when the dumbocrat party is beaten back to where it belongs-you cult-members are the most terrifying people on earth-and are why the lion's share of rich people are leaving this country en masse-soon you will actually have to work, and pay taxes, because all of we rich people will be gone! Charlatans! Morons! And again, thank you for keeping me laughing-between you and Kos, I piss myself daily!
You should be opening for Chris Rock-another left wing kook-job obama monkeyboy!

Posted by: pletch on September 14, 2009 at 3:43 PM | PERMALINK

How is health care reform not helping the Republican party? They have come close to crippling the entire effort. The issue has motivated their base. They have controlled the debate on the issue for most of the last several months. They have appeared strong and aggressive while Obama and the Democrats have looked flummoxed and surprised.

In addition, the mere fact that single payer and socialization were not on the table at any time is a tremendous victory for the Republicans. It is, apparently, impossible for Obama to even consider legislation that would actually solve any problem, health care-related or otherwise. I think the Republicans are doing just fine. The opportunity that Obama had to break them entirely has probably passed by now. That's what happens when one side is trying to win and the other is trying to collaborate.

Posted by: Mark on September 14, 2009 at 3:46 PM | PERMALINK

Let's just all give away our rights. Big Government knows best. Our Lord obama will save us and bless those that don't work, came here illegally, or never made a dime!

Posted by: George on September 14, 2009 at 3:49 PM | PERMALINK

In his Newsweek column below, George Will sounds like a man who has great health care insurance and gets paid a tidy stipend from his health insurance company for saying so.

He also sounds like one of those self-satisfied reactionaries who congratulate themselves on their cleverness as they go about the tedious business of explaining to liberals that its futile to change the world, perverse to even try, and much more likely to jeopardize what we've already got than give us anything better.

Here is Will himself:

"[The President] deplores "scare tactics" but says that unless he gets his way, people will die. He praises temperate discourse but says many of his opponents are liars. He says Medicare is an exemplary program that validates government's prowess at running health systems. But he also says Medicare is unsustainable and going broke, and that he will pay for much of his reforms by eliminating the hundreds of billions of dollars of waste and fraud in this paragon of a program, and in Medicaid. He says Congress will cut Medicare (it will not) by $500 billion—without affecting benefits.

He says the nation's economic health depends on controlling health-care costs. Yet so important is the trial bar in financing the Democratic Party, he says not a syllable in significant and specific support of tort reforms that could save hundreds of billions of dollars by reducing "defensive medicine" intended to protect not patients from illnesses but doctors from lawyers. He has said he will not add a dime to the deficit when bringing 47 million people into government-guaranteed health care. But Wednesday night, 17 million went missing: "There are now more than 30 million American citizens who cannot get coverage." Almost 10 million of the uninsured are not citizens, and most of them are illegal immigrants. Presumably the other 7 million could get insurance but chose not to."

Posted by: Ted Frier on September 14, 2009 at 3:59 PM | PERMALINK

Seems pletch, the troll above, is another wingnut that slept through the last 8 years and is still barely awake. Except, of course, to watch Faux News.

Posted by: Burghman on September 14, 2009 at 4:09 PM | PERMALINK

The discrepancy might arise from the fact that the poll Will uses pits generic Democrats vs. generic Republicans. The polls you cited specifically pit Obama against the Republicans. I trust Obama, but I sure as hell don't trust Max Baucus, Ben Nelson, or Harry Reid.

Posted by: Singularity on September 14, 2009 at 4:29 PM | PERMALINK

"Let's just all give away our rights. Big Government knows best. Our Lord obama will save us and bless those that don't work, came here illegally, or never made a dime!"

Really? First, no one here seems thrilled with Obama selling out on single payer, let alone that he now seems willing to concede any public option. Accusations of lock-step uniformity amongst progressives has always been a source of confusion to me. As for whether or not illegals "don't work," take a look around. We can't afford to completely seal the border, in terms of human resources and the service sector of the economy. However, I will agree that they haven't made a dime, assuming a certain amount of hyperbole there, as they're paid next to nothing.

Of course, given that they pay taxes all the same, I don't see the justification in denying them social services. or perhaps you'd like to explain how well we're all served in the private insurance market, where 30% of an individual's insurance payments go towards administrative costs (including advertising), as opposed to the 4-5% of Medicare's costs being administrative.

Lord, thank you for the free market, where we're all free to be robbed, conned, and fleeced, and protect us from the dangers of government run health care. Patriots, defend your rights to pay a quarter more than you should for health care! And keep your government hands off of our Medicare!

Better Trolls Please.

Posted by: Sisyphus on September 14, 2009 at 4:51 PM | PERMALINK

"...when the dumbocrat party is beaten back to where it belongs-you cult-members are the most terrifying people on earth-and are why the lion's share of rich people are leaving this country en masse-soon you will actually have to work, and pay taxes, because all of we rich people will be gone!-pletch"

Please, the rich aren't taxed here compared to other countries. If you are rich, please do leave. As for paying taxes, most of us are middle class and get taxed more than the rich. I worked for a "Big Four" accounting firm in the tax dept. and my mega millionaires averaged an effective rate of 15-18% with our help. Where I have to pay around 25-28%, since I have no tax breaks. Idiot!

Posted by: Always Hopeful on September 14, 2009 at 8:33 PM | PERMALINK

I'm with neill, "Mona Lisa mouth" sounds a tad erotic. As for his mouth, I always though Mitch McConnell had a mean little mouth that looks even meaner and smaller when he's pinched about the masses getting anything.

As for this debate helping Republicans, it may look like it since the ignorant masses seem to be supporting them and they ARE energized, but in the long haul Republicans are in bed with the devil. They won't be able to make any electoral hay from the fickle haters since they hate just about everything about the very government that Republican party is part of. And the haters are the minority and are chasing away all the black vote, all of the Hispanic vote, moderate Republican votes, and Independent votes. Sounds like a recipe for being a permanent minority.

Posted by: Always Hopeful on September 14, 2009 at 8:41 PM | PERMALINK

Where does the line form for those who believe there is no honest player in all of this? Will is Will, and we all know about that. But Obama doesn't look a whole lot better than Will and the others.

Would I buy a used car from Obama or anyone else in this debate? Nope.

Posted by: Nixon Did It on September 14, 2009 at 10:48 PM | PERMALINK

Hey, George Will is a reThuglican. They make their own reality, remember?

Posted by: Sarah Barracuda on September 15, 2009 at 2:41 AM | PERMALINK

Why is pletch's racist posting still on this thread?

Posted by: Impeach Jay Bybee on September 15, 2009 at 2:44 AM | PERMALINK
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