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Tilting at Windmills

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October 7, 2009

SHEP SMITH LOWERS THE BOOM.... Fox News' Shep Smith has been known to occasionally break party ranks. Despite his employer's and colleagues' efforts, Smith has, among other things, denounced torture and admonished some Fox News viewers for their over-the-top vitriol.

But his interview with Sen. John Barrasso (R-Wyo.) on health care reform yesterday was one for the books. The far-right senator probably expected a friendly exchange on the Republicans' cable news network. What Barrasso received was far different.

Ben Armbruster posted a lengthy transcript for those of you who can't watch clips from your work computers, but I'd encourage folks to watch it at some point. From start to finish, Shep Smith wouldn't tolerate GOP talking points, and offered the kind of spirited defense of a public option few would expect from Fox News.

Early on, Barrasso called the notion of public-private competition a "government takeover of health care." Smith wouldn't hear of it: "It's not a government take over Senator. That's not fair and we both know it. It's not a government takeover because what it would be is a government option if you have insurance now and you like it you can keep it. If you want the government option, a government run, paid for by those who buy it, government run option to try to keep costs down."

Barrasso tried to change the subject, commenting on Medicare budget issues, so Smith focused the discussion. "Over the last 10 years health care costs in American have skyrocketed. Regular folks cannot afford it, so they tax the system by not getting preventive medicine," Smith said. "And we all end up paying for it. As the costs have gone up, the insurance industry's profits, on average, have gone up 350 percent. And it's the insurance companies which have paid and which have contributed to senators and congressmen on both sides of the aisle to the point where now we can't get what all concerned on Capitol Hill all seem to [believe] and more than 60 percent of Americans say they support, a public option."

It's unusual to hear media figures connect industry contributions to policymaking hurdles. It's unheard of on FNC.

Smith added, "What happens for the American people when we come out with legislation now which requires everyone to have health care insurance -- or many more people -- but does not give a public option, therefore millions more people will have to buy insurance from the very corporations that are over charging us and whose profits have gone up 350 percent in the last ten years. It seems like we, the people, are the ones getting the shaft here."

Barrasso, perhaps in shock, responded that "we have not allowed the American people to read the bill." Yeah, that's a persuasive answer to a question about consumers getting screwed.

Smith replied, "Every vote against the public option is a vote for the insurance companies, sir. It is. How can you disagree with that?"

In general, I think it's a mistake for Democratic lawmakers to appear on Fox News. That said, I wouldn't mind watching Shep Smith press Ben Nelson, Mary Landrieu, and other Democratic opponents of a public option. He seems to understand the issue pretty well.

Steve Benen 8:00 AM Permalink | Trackbacks | Comments (27)

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Comments

Shep Smith is not long for Fox. Rupert will not abide this effrontery to the GOP and the wingnuts that run it.

Posted by: bluestatedon on October 7, 2009 at 8:05 AM | PERMALINK

Is this another indicator that the right-wing fortress of cards against HCR is collapsing and falling? I'd like to think so.
But I really don't get how Shep Smith manages to show up for work every day. Surely he could easily get a job somewhere else?

Posted by: hells littlest angel on October 7, 2009 at 8:11 AM | PERMALINK

In all Fairness Shep is there for the Balance
part thingy.
Ruppie M. is a sly old fart.

Posted by: apeman on October 7, 2009 at 8:15 AM | PERMALINK

i'm impressed that mr. smith seems to actually have retrieved his soul when he was on the ground in the katrina aftermath a few years ago. i sincerely hope he holds on to it.

Posted by: neill on October 7, 2009 at 8:17 AM | PERMALINK

What apeman said. It's all a schtick. Timeo Danaos et dona ferentes.

Posted by: Steve LaBonne on October 7, 2009 at 8:37 AM | PERMALINK

Manhandling the Mandate

The question leverages our skepticism about government, lobbists, complex legislation, and heartless corporations. As such, it has the potential to mandate the public option into being:

"What happens for the American people when we come out with legislation now which requires everyone to have health care insurance -- or many more people -- but does not give a public option, therefore millions more people will have to buy insurance from the very corporations that are over charging us and whose profits have gone up 350 percent in the last ten years. It seems like we, the people, are the ones getting the shaft here."

Indeed what happens?

"We will help those that can't afford to pay," should make everyone who is not a health care executive, piss their pants...

Posted by: koreyel on October 7, 2009 at 8:41 AM | PERMALINK

Dems should take some hints from Smith and use the same tactics when talking and debating about this issue. It is about time some good counter debates and discussion came out on this issue. The Repubs were put in there place today - well done Smith.

Posted by: abc55 on October 7, 2009 at 8:42 AM | PERMALINK

Good to see there are at least some reasonable conservatives left in the USA (and I'm not talking about Barrosso).
Or maybe FOX tries to jump on the winning horse...

Posted by: Vokoban on October 7, 2009 at 8:46 AM | PERMALINK

If Republicans truly think their answer to the debate is so fabulous, then why the hell didn't they push it through during the previous 8 years?

Posted by: MissMudd on October 7, 2009 at 8:46 AM | PERMALINK

I bet Shep has a relative who can't get health insurance.

Posted by: Estamm on October 7, 2009 at 8:46 AM | PERMALINK

Sweet Jesus, we have a Faux News talking head that gets it better then the Democratic senior Senator from Montana.

Posted by: Napoleon on October 7, 2009 at 8:54 AM | PERMALINK

Written on a men's room wall:

Shep Smith TIVOs Rachel Maddow. . .

Posted by: DAY on October 7, 2009 at 9:06 AM | PERMALINK

Murdokk, that sneaky Aussie, pretending to be an American. What a cad.

The health insurance industry are paying top dollar to idiots in congress and even they cannot come up with believable lies to cover the fraud. tick tock...

Posted by: bill on October 7, 2009 at 9:07 AM | PERMALINK

That was a sharper examination of healthcare issues than I have ever seen on This Week, Meet the Press, or Face the Nation.

At the very least, he managed to get through the whole interview without once mentioning Newt Gingrich's Twitter feed.

"Liberal media," my @$$.

Posted by: UncommonSense on October 7, 2009 at 9:10 AM | PERMALINK

Awhile back I actually sent Smith an applause e-mail...I never watch FAUX NEWS but appreciate it when folks with stronger stomachs than I have do so and keep us up on his fair minded commentary. I suspect they keep him around to point at and say, "See FAIR AND BALANCES"...I'm wondering whether his program is rated higher than BECK/O'LIELLY/INSANITY??? Betting not as they appeal to the seriously brain damaged viewers...be watching for JOY TIZ and her book OBAMANUTZ as she travels the circuit promoting it...yet another batshit wingnut out there making money off the STUPID!!! And they think Obama puts 'merica down...as if it were necessary!

Posted by: Dancer on October 7, 2009 at 9:23 AM | PERMALINK

Smith may just be there for balance, but this is hardly the first time he's attacked the Fox line. Frankly he's a huge improvement over Alan Colmes, and in some ways I like him better than either Maddow or Olberman. I just wish he had more visibility.

Posted by: AndrewBW on October 7, 2009 at 9:38 AM | PERMALINK

Murdoch is also meddling in the upcoming British elections, he should go back to Australia.

Posted by: JS on October 7, 2009 at 9:48 AM | PERMALINK

From start to finish, Shep Smith wouldn't tolerate GOP talking points, and offered the kind of spirited defense of a public option few would expect from [strike]Fox News[/strike] any member of the so-called "liberal media".

Fixed.

Good on Shep Smith. How embarrassing for the so-called "liberal media" that a Faux News personality is one of the few not to accept verifiable falsehood at face value with nothing more than a sage nod.

Posted by: Gregory on October 7, 2009 at 9:50 AM | PERMALINK

Shep Smith reminds me of Uncle Pat, a bar patron I used to know. Pat was in his 70s and lived a quiet life. He had the distinction of being the only man and only non-prostitute residing at a notorious brothel that was officially a "hotel." About twice a year the cops would make a perfunctory raid on the place. The owners trotted Pat out to show that everything was open and above board, and the cops, who were on the take, quickly moved on.

With Colmes gone, Shep is the Uncle Pat of Fox. Don't be fooled, it's still a whorehouse.

Posted by: angler on October 7, 2009 at 10:03 AM | PERMALINK

Sadly, he's also more than we get from CNN, The Post, MSNBC, etc..

Posted by: Kevin Ray on October 7, 2009 at 10:06 AM | PERMALINK

He (Shep Smith) seems to understand the issue pretty well. - Steve Benen

It's not just a matter of understanding; it's his ability to *present* the issue in a simplified format that everyone -- including the Faux audience -- can understand and, possibly, even remember longer than 5 minutes. And if he's combative with it, the better they'll love him.

His talking points may seem a bit superficial but there's time and place for Proust and this isn't it; in this case, Hemingway has more impact.

Posted by: exlibra on October 7, 2009 at 12:01 PM | PERMALINK

Listen to the end of the interview where Barasso puts the majority of healthcare spending on those who eat too much, don't exercise, and/or smoke. While true in part, that's not the whole picture. Just look at that high school football player with cancer that Olbermann highlighted on Monday. I can't go back and type up his exact comment as I need to leave for work, but do check it out.

Posted by: Me on October 7, 2009 at 12:17 PM | PERMALINK

Fox and CNN should get together and arrange to swap Shep Smith for Lou Dobbs.

Posted by: Stephen Stralka on October 7, 2009 at 1:28 PM | PERMALINK

I guess there is one person at Fox that doesn't want to go to hell. Nice interview.

Posted by: Patrick on October 7, 2009 at 1:31 PM | PERMALINK

What Shep's really showing us is that the only bipartisan aspect of this whole farce is the politicians' desire to protect the insurance companies and keep those looted dollars coming in.

Posted by: Squeaky McCrinkle on October 7, 2009 at 3:46 PM | PERMALINK

Hey, forcing people to buy health insurance they cannot afford or become criminals means a good thing for the US economy. Maybe it will mean more prison jobs when we lose patience and decide to recreate debtor prisons. Or maybe it will ruin them financially so they never will be able to waste their money buying a house. Either way it's good for the private interests that run this country and therefore it's good for the country.

Posted by: John McGrath on October 8, 2009 at 5:33 PM | PERMALINK

Is anyone familiar with the data source Mr. Smith is citing to support the 350% increase in profits over the last 10 years?

Posted by: wtfci on October 8, 2009 at 6:23 PM | PERMALINK
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