Organizing for America, the increasingly combative political operation of the White House, today unveiled a new web video targeting Republican National Committee (RNC) Chairman Michael Steele, charging the Republican Party chief with “siding with Washington elites and insurance companies and playing political games to kill reform.”
The latest installment in OfA’s “call ‘em out” campaign—a call to arms of sorts for complacent allies of President Barack Obama to debunk Republican myths about heath care reform—accuses Steele of scare-mongering and orchestrating a misinformation campaign against the President’s efforts on health care.
“Michael Steele is willing to lie and play political games in order to kill reform that would help Americans of every political party — so we’re calling him out,” reads an email from OfA Executive Director Jen O’Malley announcing the video.
The Democrats’ new web campaign, however, is as blatantly wrong as it is overtly hostile.
Opening with a recent segment from White House-scorned FOX News on health care reform’s “obligation to older Americans,” Steele said, “Just look at the situation with our veterans when you have a manual out there telling our veterans, you know, stuff like are you really a value to your community. You know, encouraging them to commit suicide.” Promptly followed by a blaring, rubber-stamped chyron reading “FALSE,” OfA cites as Politifact.com as cover for their claim.
At issue is a Department of Veteran Affairs-funded pamphlet—dubbed the “death book” by the Wall Street Journal—which presented various advanced care scenarios to aging veterans, callously prompting readers to then decide if their life would be “not worth living.” Democratic strategists correctly note the “Your Life, Your Choices” document was first published in 1997 and promoted by the VA throughout President George W. Bush’s two terms in office. What they fail to mention, conveniently, is that the “manual” was suspended after a review by Bush administration officials – and only later revived in 2009 by the new Democratic administration.
Despite OfA’s protestations, the Obama administration published a directive on July 2nd, 2009, emphatically stating that “primary care practitioners are responsible for giving patients pertinent educational materials, e.g. refer patients to the ‘Your Life, Your Choices’ module.” If patients request more information from doctors, the directive continues, they should “be directed to the exercises in ‘Your Life, Your Choices’” – i.e., initiating end-of-life counseling.
Furthermore, the belief expressed by Steele and other prominent Republicans that elderly Americans and aging veterans would be vulnerable under the Democrats’ health care proposal is one grounded in the realities of the marketplace, not a smoke-filled room in the Republican Capitol Hill Club. A study from Georgetown University’s Center for Clinical Bioethics, in fact, legitimized the fear of government-encouraged suicide as a means of cost-cutting when it found staggering “links between cost-cutting pressure on physicians and their willingness to prescribe lethal drugs to patients.”
Again with their self-indulgent “FALSE” rubber stamp, the DNC cried foul on another Steele claim: that Obama’s health care reforms could result in “119 million Americans being dumped out of their private coverage into a cheaper government-run health care program.” But the Lewin Group, a non-partisan health care policy research firm, estimated that of the 171.6 million people who currently have private employer or non-group coverage, 119.1 million would be forced to move to the public plan. Politifact.com, OfA’s fact-checker-of-choice, finds no error with the Lewin Group’s model, but ultimately disagrees because it is “unlikely” that Congress would move forward with a Medicare-style public option.
Politifact’s review came in May, where it was unlikely that progressive Democrats would have bucked the President on health care if their demands for the public option were not met. Flash-forward to October, where House Speaker Nancy Pelosi says she will “move forward with the more liberal version of a health reform bill that would peg government-run coverage to Medicare,” and Steele’s claim looks far more valid than the DNC, OfA and White House are willing to admit.
Citing Senator Max Baucus’ recent declaration that his version of the legislation would “actually reduce the federal deficit in the tenth year by several billion dollars” by way of debunking Steele’s claim that Obama’s reforms would increase the deficit, OfA once again gleefully says “FALSE.” Independent reviews of Baucus’ bill, however, reveal something quite different from the sentiment expressed today by the White House – namely, a parlous game with Congressional Democrats concealing hundreds of billions in costs to appear deficit neutral. Unlike their Democratic colleagues in the lower chamber who at least accurately portrayed the fiscal reality of the $245 billion “doc fix,” Senate Democrats patch an ever-expanding problem by naively assuming doctors would accept a 25% cut in Medicare disbursements for the unforeseeable future.
OfA’s latest assault comes on the heels of similar attacks on Republican Governor Tim Pawlenty and Representative Michelle Bachman. The strategy adopted by the White House, as many Republicans on Capitol Hill see it, is to unrelentingly ‘call out’ and dish ‘reality checks’ to their Republican critics until such a point where all ambivalent Americans succumb and submit as a means to end the White House’s seemingly un-ending fact-checking crusade. But if the White House’s political operation is so keen on fact checking their critics, many of whom are, in fact, on the money in their criticism, they would do well to avoid deceptive and duplicitous web videos.