Editore"s Note
Tilting at Windmills

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March 25, 2011

RON JOHNSON MANAGES TO GET LITERALLY EVERYTHING WRONG.... In recognition of the first anniversary of the Affordable Care Act, Sen. Ron Johnson (R) of Wisconsin published an ugly screed in the Wall Street Journal. In a piece that was almost impressive in its offensiveness, the rookie senator suggested his adult daughter, born with a heart defect, would have died had the Affordable Care Act been in place at the time.

I can't help but reflect on a medical miracle made possible by the American health-care system. The procedure that saved her, and has given her a chance at a full life, was available because America has a free-market system that has advanced medicine at a phenomenal pace. [...]

The plain truth is that the American system is better at rewarding innovation and responding to consumer needs. But the history of government-led care is there for all to see.

As we discussed the other day, Johnson's argument isn't just wrong, it's ridiculous. Aaron Carroll offered perhaps the most detailed, substantive critique of the piece, and simply tore the senator's garbage op-ed to shreds.

But Igor Volsky discovered an error that's actually rather amusing.

[T]he procedure Johnson's daughter received may not have been developed in the United States but rather in Brazil or France -- nations that now benefit from some form of universal coverage.

According to CAP Senior Fellow (and resident biochemist) Dr. Lesley Russell, it is most likely that the surgery Carey had was first performed and reported in Brazil in 1975, where doctors described their version of the procedure as "the first successful report of total correction of transposition of the great vessels at the arterial level." Alternatively, Johnson's daughter may have had what's known as The LeCompte procedure, which was developed in France in 1981.

In other words, we're left with a case in which Ron Johnson got literally everything wrong, including his premise.

It stood to reason the WSJ would run a piece from a congressional Republican trashing the reform law on Wednesday, but the paper couldn't find someone who at least pretends to know what he/she is talking about?

Steve Benen 10:25 AM Permalink | Trackbacks | Comments (15)

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And couldn't they run the piece by a fact checker? Or did they lay all of them off?

Posted by: gifgrrl on March 25, 2011 at 10:35 AM | PERMALINK

If the poor child had a defect in her heart, Senator Johnson, she inherited from you.

No, that can't be.
Maybe her mother.
Because you, Senator Johnson don't have a heart.

Or a brain, either.

Senator Johnson - making money the old fashioned way - marrying into it!

Posted by: c u n d gulag on March 25, 2011 at 10:36 AM | PERMALINK

The WSJ published precisely what they wanted to publish. It wasn't a mistake. It was purposeful misinformation.

Posted by: T2 on March 25, 2011 at 10:52 AM | PERMALINK

Credit to Think Progress. As usual, they are on top of it.

But I can't help but imagine if there was a liberal Karl Rove in the White House.

First, the liberal-Rove would remember that the best defense is a good offense. Second, he would remember to shoot the messenger. That means, avoiding the merits of the argument and flat-out attacking Johnson and the WSJ.

Accuse Johnson of being a gutless liar who is hiding behind his daughter (Liberal-Rove would say that Johnson was using his daughter as a "political human shield") He would blast out this message and the topic of the weekend political talk shows would be "Should politicians use their family members for political advantage?"

Liberal-Rove would demand that the WSJ immediately print a rebuttal. The rebuttal, of course, would be short on policy and long on attacks on Johnson using his daughter as a political human shield, plus the point about the French medical procedure.

If the WSJ refused to print the rebuttal, Liberal-Rove would go apeshit and there would be lots of talk this weekend about whether giving space to one political party was illegal or unethical.

And from here on out, Jay Carney would refuse to take questions from the WSJ reporter in the WH press corps without making some snide comment about "whether the WSJ wouldn't prefer to just ask Sen. Johnson instead".

Posted by: square1 on March 25, 2011 at 10:55 AM | PERMALINK

It's just an opinion, you know, and opinions don't have to be related in any way to logic, reason, or facts. All they have to be related to is our emotions and the conclusions to which we have jumped. Opinions, even uninformed or stupid ones, are protected by the First Amendment.

Posted by: jpeckjr on March 25, 2011 at 11:09 AM | PERMALINK

A couple of years ago my wife had to have hip replacement surgery, at best a painful operation that usually requires many weeks of painful recuperation. Luckily, she found an orthapedic surgeon who did not use the standard procedure which involves a large incision through the buttock muscles. Instead, he specialized in a replacement procedure down the front side of her hip which enabled him to spread the affected muscle tissue instead of cutting through it. As far as we know this doctor is the only one in a city of over a half million who uses this technique. Four days after surgery my wife walked out of the hospital and did not have to carry a special cushion with her to sit on for the next six weeks. She suffered very little post op pain and was quickly back to normal. Fortunately, she was covered by three separate health insurance plans. This was a good thing because the primary payer, her job provided insurance, denied payment for the second surgeon and special operating table required to do this procedure. These charges were picked up by the secondary payers. The fact that the primary insurance company refused to pay all the costs for this procedure makes it sound like she was getting some sort of new experimental procedure. She wasn't. Doctors in Europe, the land of socialized medicine, have been doing frontal incision hip replacements for a number of years. So much for our cutting edge medical system.
For any of you who are getting to that age where the parts start wearing out, if you find yourslf needing a new hip, shop around until you find a surgeon who replaces them from the front. You'll be glad that you did. Then be prepared to fight your insurance company if they try to deny payment for the best procedure.

Posted by: sparky on March 25, 2011 at 11:14 AM | PERMALINK

We all know that Johnson knew what he was talking about. He and the editors of the WSJ simply don't have a problem with lying.

Posted by: Chris on March 25, 2011 at 11:16 AM | PERMALINK

Where, oh where is our liberal-Rove?

Posted by: gifgrrl on March 25, 2011 at 11:19 AM | PERMALINK

c u n d gulag, how dare you say such about Senator Curler. Why he might start seeing more "sun spots".

Posted by: berttheclock on March 25, 2011 at 11:28 AM | PERMALINK

As Senator Curler, er, Johnson, might say, "Hey, I was just Night Manager at PACUR in charge of packaging medical devices. How was I to know any history of them?". Oh, Oshkosh, by gosh, how could you allow this person to represent Wisconsin?

Once a place of True Solons. Tsk, how the Senate has fallen.

Posted by: berttheclock on March 25, 2011 at 11:33 AM | PERMALINK

And this is the guy who replaced Russ Feingold.

On the Richter Scale of Political Tectonics, that rates a 9.0.

Too bad Wisconsinites can't recall his sorry ass as well.

Posted by: bdop4 on March 25, 2011 at 11:54 AM | PERMALINK

It stood to reason the WSJ would run a piece from a congressional Republican trashing the reform law on Wednesday, but the paper couldn't find someone who at least pretends to know what he/she is talking about?

Which explains why I am no longer a WSJ subscriber -- why pay for propaganda?

Posted by: Ray Waldren on March 25, 2011 at 12:07 PM | PERMALINK

GOP Senator Ron Johnson on health care: "The plain truth is that the American system is better at rewarding innovation and responding to consumer needs. But the history of government-led care is there for all to see."

What a ridiculous statement. The American "system" (does he mean our joke of a health care "system" or our political system?) is good a peddling influence using bagmen like Johnson instead of rewarding real cost-saving innovation. The last thing these corporate health care thugs want is real competition. The one thing they are good at is over-charging consumers and denying needed care. Regarding the reference "government-led health care", Medicare's overhead is only 2% while private health insurers have overhead of around 30%, and bond and stock holders to answer reward. Medicare succeeds despite the fact it must buy goods and services from the most inefficient and expensive health care "system" in the world; a system whose costs rise on average by 8% a year, every year. Johnson is the back end of a horse and a GOP airhead, but I repeat myself.

Posted by: max on March 25, 2011 at 12:57 PM | PERMALINK

Johnson is getting it wrong on purpose. That's the entire point of the exercise. This editorial is a piece of scripted propaganda that is supposed to short-circuit rational policy discussion and fill the air with misinformation (hence, the angle about "Obama is trying to kill my little daughter, but I am fighting his evil plan").

And see? Putting this stuff on the editorial page of a major newspaper ensures that it will be given an instant aura of credibility.

Unless one considers the Wall Street Journal's editorial track record, that is.

Posted by: Bokonon on March 25, 2011 at 2:35 PM | PERMALINK

@Bokonon: I agree with you completely. The War Street Journal editorial/opinion pages are unreadable. The same thing happened to WaPo, in my backyard. Sad. If not for Internet websites like this it would be virtually impossible to read any insightful journalistic commentary on real events. (Also the Onion News Network and Jon Stewart.) We are becoming a modern day Soviet Union when it comes to real news. As Solzhenitsyn said in The Gulag Archipelago, if you knew how to read Pravada and Izvestiya you could figure out what was going on outside the gulag, but our dumbed-down polity isn't as smart as most people in the Soviet gulags 80 years ago.

Posted by: max on March 25, 2011 at 7:15 PM | PERMALINK



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