Americans Overwhelmingly Oppose Pubic Option

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The current sticking point on health insurance reform is the public health insurance option, with a majority of congressional Democrats favoring it, a handful of Blue Dogs wetting themselves over it, and the Republicans hallucinating about it.  What’s being left out of the equation in Washington is how the American people feel about it.

Polling on this issue has been misleading.  After a June poll showed 76% support for a public health insurance option, pollsters simply stopped asking that question.  Instead, they’d ask overly broad questions about the overall reform effort, and the headlines were all about “slipping support.” Nowhere was it considered that the “slipping support” might have had something to do with the regular reports of the death of the public option.

When they finally did ask again, 79% of Americans said they favor a public option.

What hasn’t really changed, and what everyone acknowledges, is that almost everyone opposes the pubic option.  That’s the one where the insurance companies have you by the short ones, able to refuse you coverage for a pre-existing condition, deny your services with their own death panels, retroactively terminate you if you get sick and made a mistake on your application, and pretty much just build their profits into whatever coverage you get, because your life depends on it.

The problem is, the public option is the only real solution to the pubic option.  There’s no way to pass regulations strong enough to ensure that you don’t end up with cheap, junk insurance that’s already putting people in the poor house (Try to remember the last time your auto insurance paid for anything).  The public option will serve as that safety net, and despite even more recent rumblings that it’s been left for dead, the President can, must, and will make sure it passes.

White House, Big Pharma, We Have a Problem

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In June, I wrote a story that raised big questions about the value of the government’s $80 billion deal with Big Pharma, and wondered if the deal came with the trade-off of killing legislation that would enable the government to negotiate directly with pharmaceutical compannies for lower prices.  Such a trade-off would be indefensible.

That week, I took extraordinary steps to determine if this was the case.  I spoke personally with a White House Deputy Press Secretary twice, followed by multiple emails.  I also spoke, personally, to the press official for the Senate Finance Committee, followed by multiple emails.  There was no doubt as to what I was asking.  I never got a response from either of them.

That Thursday, I asked Gibbs about it at a daily briefing:

Q Thank you, Robert. I have two quick ones on health care. The first one, in the speeches about the $80 billion deal with the pharmaceutical companies, I haven’t heard anything about negotiating price — Medicare negotiating price with the pharmaceutical industry. I wanted to know if that was one of the tradeoffs for getting this $80 billion was that we’re not going to pursue that now.

MR. GIBBS: Well, look, again, the structure of part of that agreement was to use a portion of that $80 billion to pay up to — for the pharmaceutical industry to pay up to 50 percent of the cost for a name brand drug for a senior that falls between the point at which Medicare Part D stops providing help, and when catastrophic coverage — I think it is $6,500, a little bit more than $6,500 — level kicks in. So filling in that — what’s commonly known as — ironically, in health care — the doughnut hole, about — that up to 50 percent of the name brand — the price for that name brand drug would be paid for, and I think that provides a hefty discount that will bear appreciable benefits for seniors all over the country.

Q Has there been an agreement not to pursue a Medicare –

MR. GIBBS: I don’t know the answer.

Q I’m talking about S. 330.

MR. GIBBS: What was that?

Q Senate bill 330?

MR. GIBBS: You’re 330 bills ahead of me on that. (Laughter.) I will check on it.

Of course, now, the New York Times reports that the White House confirms that the deal did include an agreement to kill price negotiation laws:

In response, the industry successfully demanded that the White House explicitly acknowledge for the first time that it had committed to protect drug makers from bearing further costs in the overhaul. The Obama administration had never spelled out the details of the agreement….A deputy White House chief of staff, Jim Messina, confirmed Mr. Tauzin’s account of the deal in an e-mail message on Wednesday night.

“The president encouraged this approach,” Mr. Messina wrote. “He wanted to bring all the parties to the table to discuss health insurance reform.”

This is deeply disturbing on many levels.  If Gibbs didn’t know about this provision after the deal was made, then it stands to reason that the President didn’t know, either.  With the Senate Finance Committe stonewalling me about it, one could conclude that they kept the President in the dark about it until it was already a fait accompli.

The other possibility is that Robert Gibbs was left in the dark, a frightening prospect for a White House reporter, and for any American.

Beneath it all is the fact that the government dealt away our right to negotiate lower drug prices (just like any other large customer), and they did it for peanuts.  This is a disgrace.

I emailed Gibbs and his deputy for an explanation, and am awaiting a reply.

Update: Jake Tapper asked Gibbs about the discrepancy at today’s White House Press Briefing.

TAPPER:  Can I just ask a quick follow up?  In June you were asked about the deal and whether or not the deal with PhRMA implied that the White House signed off on no other legislation, such as allowing Medicare to renegotiate with PhRMA.  And you said you didn’t know the answer to that. Was it because you personally didn’t know or because the Senate Finance Committee hadn’t informed the White House of that aspect of the deal?

GIBBS:  You’re asking me to recall why I didn’t remember something in June.  I — I — that I don’t know the answer to. Obviously, the agreement that we have is — is in the confines of health insurance reform that’s being worked on right now.

Keith Olbermann’s Heroic Healthcare Special Comment

Countdown’s Keith Olbermann returned in style last night, “firing” Richard Wolffe, breaking his Billo truce, and delivering a fiery Special Comment.  Watch the video first, if you haven’t seen it yet, and then I’ll tell you what I thought.


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Fox News’ Chris Wallace Gently Pwns GOP Rep Mike Pence

The Republicans are in deep trouble if this is the best they can do.  Chris Wallace completely destroys Mike Pence with the airiest of follow-up questions on the stimulus and the cash for clunkers program.  Pence thinks he sees a light at the end of the tunnel with some “America’s starting to trust us” happy talk, but Wallace drops some devastating poll numbers on him.

The President’s approval rating is slipping from its previous highs, as many right wing blogs have noted.  However, it also appears that, despite Mike Pence’s delusions, the country isn’t ready, after 7 months, to toss the keys back to the guys who drove us into a ditch for 8 years.

Bonus fun: Pence on Healthcare

Public Option the True Test of President Obama’s Game

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This has seemed like a bad week for healthcare reform.  Congressional Blue Dogs are doing their damnedest to kill the public option, and the White House seeming to backtrack on their support of it.  While expressing strong support for it, Gibbs has consistently refused to draw a line in the sand on the public option, and this week, inched back a little.

If this were any other politician, I’d be throwing my hands up in disgust, because this is how these backslides start.  The obvious interpretation is that the White House is innoculating itself from the public option’s defeat.

In Barack Obama’s case, though, this isn’t so obvious.  I’ve spoken before about his unique political MO, likening it to the “rope-a-dope.”  In this case, I hope, he’s being more of a chess player.  Since I’m more of a Gnip-Gnop player, I haven’t got it all figured out yet.

It is important to note that my confidence in the President, to this point, is based on past performance, not magical thinking.  He’s a progressive in triangulator’s clothing.  I’ve been sure he was blowing it before, only to be proven wrong.

This time may be different, however.  He was right to determine that momentum was key to passing strong reform.  Already, this week, one poll is being used deceptively to claim support for a public option is slipping.  The spineless sellout Blue Dogs think they’re in the driver’s seat.  Opponents of the public option continue to pound the public with lies.  Now, it seems like the White House is sounding the retreat.

If Barack Obama is the chess player I think he is, he’s got a plan to rescue the public option from the Blue Dogs.  If I’m right, it will involve Rahm Emanuel and some blunt conversations about mid-term elections.

I don’t think that Barack Obama is a bad enough politician to take the disastrous hit of no public option when he’s got airtight majorities in both houses of Congress.  On the other hand, he likes for it to look like the other guy’s idea.

Either way, I hope the President knows that defying his base, and 76% of Americans, is not an option.  Time to use that powder.

Birthers Endorse Chuck Norris For President

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With all of the recent noise surrounding the “Birther” movement, I pitched a conspiracy theory roundup to my editors at Asylum.  As I was researching the article, I came across this hilarous Chuck Norris Fact:  The Birthers endorse Chuck for President.

There’s a link on the official Birther homepage to the Chuck Norris 2012 page, where you’ll find the answers to the obvious question:

Why Chuck Norris? Do you need to ask?

Actually, I would have said, “Chuck Norris for President? WTF?” I digress.

Our country needs leadership and Chuck is the one to give it to us! He has a strong moral and professional background and is a leader in everything he does. He will uphold the Constitution and protect all of our rights!

Unless you’re gay.

He is respected by our troops and has proven himself financially responsible.

He has already proven that he has a sence of humor!
If I am elected president – Chuck Norris (06/11/2007)
If I Am Elected Vice President – Chuck Norris (05/20/2008)
– And don’t forget Chuck Norris Facts

While you are at it, check out The Birthers, Dedicated to the rebirth of our Constitutional Republic.

The strange thing, though, is that the Birther-run Chuck Norris 2012 doesn’t feature any proof at all that Norris is a natural-born US citizen.  What gives?  What’s the difference between Chuck Norris and Barack Obama?  No, it couldn’t be that Norris is white and Obama isn’t.  Why is that the first thing you people always think of?

No, there’s no other conclusion to be drawn.  The entire “Birther” movement was created as a smokescreen to cover up Norris” own Kenyan birth.  Chuckers, unite!  Demand proof that this isn’t true!

NSFW: Pornish Antacid Ad is a Hoax, Banned Sprite Ad Not a Sprite Ad

When we got a too-good-to-check email that’s been circulating about a South African Gaviscon commercial, we jugaviscon2st had to ruin the fun by checking:

It illustrates what can go wrong when someone who is ESL (English as a second language) writes the punch line for the advertisement.

The email features screen shots of a heartburn-addled hottie ingesting milky-white liquid firemen, with the tagline “It’s like a Fireman came in your mouth!”

This wouldn’t be the first time that an ad campaign got lost in translation, but the email rumor suffers from some obvious flaws.  First of all, English is the most widely-used of South Africa’s 11 official languages, so it’s not likely that a South African company would hire someone who didn’t speak it well.

Second, and more importantly, if the screenshots are for real, why not just send a link to the video?

Here’s the actual ad.  With thick, white, sentient liquid as its star, that punchline isn’t such a stretch.
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So, 13 Minutes of Teabagging is OK, But 1 Blowjob…

This is the clip that everyone’s buzzing about.  Tee-frakkin’-hee, Marcy Wheeler said “blowjob” on cable.  Look, I get censoring language on the networks, but I pay for cable so I can hear the cursing!  And blowjob isn’t even cursing.

Yeah, Shuster feels faint about the blow-j after this cocky tour de force:

What I found more interesting was my old pal, Matt Lewis, conceding that Bush got away with politicizing the DOJ, in order to argue that correcting that was also politicizing the DOJ.  Nicely done, Matt.  They never saw it coming.  Get it? Coming?

CNN’s Don Lemon Stars in ‘Comically Awkward Moment Theatre’

I have a weird sense of humor, so while others might smile at this, I spit my drink.  Check out this clip, and keep your eye on Don Lemon the whole time.

When the reporter says “no,” it looks like the Invisible Man picked Lemon up and threw him back in his chair.  Then, Lemon patters his way out of the segment like a guy caught looking when he wasn’t supposed to.  “Yeah, uh, the stairs…G8…blurgh…”

Classic.

Update: In an uncomfortable coincidence, Moe Lane posted this exact video, and we tweeted about it within the same minute.

Washington Post Publisher’s Apology Doesn’t Wash

Update: This is a piece I wrote for Mediaite that got pushed out by other news.  The WaPo ombudsman is as unimpressed as I am by Weymouth’s explanation.

The hot, steaming mess that is the Washington Post Salon-gate scandal just keeps getting hotter and more messified.  Katharine Weymouth, the publisher who was to host the chummy, “non-confrontational” soirees with Post reporters and Obama administration officials, has issued an apology:

I want to apologize for a planned new venture that went off track and for any cause we may have given you to doubt our independence and integrity. A flier distributed last week suggested that we were selling access to power brokers in Washington through dinners that were to take place at my home. The flier was not approved by me or newsroom editors, and it did not accurately reflect what we had in mind. But let me be clear: The flier was not the only problem (emphasis mine). Our mistake was to suggest that we would hold and participate in an off-the-record dinner with journalists and power brokers paid for by a sponsor. We will not organize such events. As publisher it is my job to ensure that we adhere to standards that are consistent with our integrity as a news organization. Last week, I let you, and the organization, down.

That’s a pretty good start, but then, Weymouth goes on to explain that the way she had planned out the events would have been just ginchy.  So what happened?

When the flier promoting our first planned event to potential sponsors was released, it overstepped all these lines. Neither I nor anyone in our news department would have approved any event such as the flier described.

We have canceled the planned dinner. While I do believe there is a legitimate way to hold such events, to the extent that we hold events in the future, large or small, we will review the guidelines for them with The Post’s top editors and make sure those guidelines are strictly followed.

That sounds a lot, to me, like “Yeah, the problem was the fliers.”

The Post’s ombudsman, Andrew Alexander, doesn’t seem to be buying what Weymouth is selling:

Post spokeswoman Kris Coratti issued a statement describing the flier as a “draft.”

The “draft” is a single-page solicitation, printed in full color on glossy paper, which was distributed to potential underwriters for a gathering on health care. It reads: “Underwrite and participate in this intimate and exclusive Washington Post Salon, an off-the-record dinner and discussion at the home of CEO and Publisher Katharine Weymouth” on July 21.

Oh, it was a draft.  Kinda like those photocopied sheets they distribute in every office in America for the football pool, or something.  Just a sketchy, hastily prepared spitball-y deal, right?  Not so much.

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Alexander goes on to quote Charles Pelton, whose office produced the flier, taking a curiously high-handed attitude:

“There’s no intention to influence or peddle,” Pelton said this morning. “There’s no intention to have a Lincoln Bedroom situation,” referring to charges that President Clinton used invitations to stay at the White House as a way of luring political backing.

Do you really want to bring up bedroom hijinks here, Chuck?

The one positive, as I have noted, is that the Washington Post’s own Howard Kurtz did a good job in reporting on his own paper’s scandal.  Still, although it’s pretty clear to me that Kurtz got all he could out of Weymouth, some may question whether he really held his boss’s boss’s feet to the fire.

It also has the side-effect of undercutting Post reporters’ ability to point out other journalists’ potential conflicts of interests.  For example, when this story broke, I was immediately put in mind of Dana Milbank’s lecture of HuffPo’s Nico Pitney on Kurtz’s own “Reliable Sources.”  That splinter in Pitney’s eye is looking positively microscopic, now.

Kurtz, ironically enough, raised questions about such conflicts in reporting on the launch of this site.  In responding to criticism about his consulting business, Mediaite founder Dan Abrams was blunt:

Says Abrams: “It does seem I’m being held to a higher standard than anyone else in the history of the consulting world. That’s okay. . . . What some of the purists say is that if you’re engaged in journalism at all, you should not be able to work with business, ever.”

By that standard of purity, it would be tough to argue for the continued existence of the Post, at least under the stewardship of Katharine Weymouth.