The Republican attack on health insurance often includes doom and gloom propaganda that the Affordable Care Act—also known as “Obamacare”—is “collapsing” or is “destructive” or is “imploding” or is “a nightmare” or is “a disaster” or is “a truly broken system“ or is “in a death spiral.”
It’s a self-fulfilling prophesy from a party that is undermining how the United States cares for people who are hurt or sick. They’ll improve things, Republicans say, by spending less money on fewer people and by cutting taxes on the rich.
Among those tired of this doubletalk is Neera Tanden, the president of the Center for American Progress, who talked back to anchor Chris Wallace on Fox News Sunday and said the system is not collapsing.
“This is false,” Tanden told Wallace. “It’s fake news from you guys.”
Wallace was taken aback.
“W-w-wait, wait,” Wallace said. “Fake? Fake? Fake news? First of all, I, I—”
Tanden cut him off.
“Let me just finish,” she said. “The Affordable Care Act is stable . . . ”
Wallace’s feisty panel included Karl Rove, a former top aide to President George W. Bush; Dr. Ezekiel Emanuel, an architect of the current health care system; and Rachel Campos-Duffy, a Latina Republican and reality television star.
All hold strong opinions, often spoken at the same time Sunday in loud voices. Wallace at times seemed like a linesman in a hockey game breaking up a fight.
“Man, that was intense,” he said after their first exchange of opinions. In the second segment, later in the show, Wallace said “Wow, this panel! I need a chair and whip like a lion-tamer.”
Hand me the remote . . .
STATE OF THE UNION: All Those Medicaid Moochers
Amateur President Donald Trump often calls CNN “fake news” and the “Clinton News Network.” So what was host Jake Tapper doing Sunday with all those right-wingers?
They included Tom Price, the Secretary of Health and Human Services; Sen. Tom Cotton, Republican of Arkansas; Representative Marsha Blackburn, Republican of Tennessee; and Jim DeMint, the president of the Heritage Foundation.
Blackburn’s primary mission seemed to be to interrupt Bakari Sellers, a liberal on the pundit panel. Sellers tried to discuss Trump’s “wiretapping” claim against President Obama, which seems to have no basis in fact.
“The President of the United States lied to the American public,” Sellers said. “And, even more troubling than that, we found out that not only does he get his news from Fox—but he actually gets his foreign intelligence from Fox.”
Blackburn interrupted with a common Republican dodge about the House and Senate inquiries.
“Let’s let the intelligence committees do their work,” she said.
Cotton, defending proposed slashes to the Medicaid budget, implied that poor people on this program are moochers.
“Medicaid is a welfare program,” Cotton said. “It’s not designed for able-bodied adults.”
THIS WEEK: “One Little Tweet”
In that Trump spends many expensive weekends at his millionaire’s club “Mar-a-Lago” in Florida, host George Stephanopoulos spoke on remote hookup to there with Trump buddy Christopher Ruddy, the chief executive officer of right-wing news site Newsmax.
The host asked about Trump’s strange accusations against Obama.
“What is it going to take for him to retract and apologize?” he asked Ruddy, who responded with “The press is always harping on this . . . We’re always focused on one little tweet.”
To that, Stephanopoulos added “One little tweet that accused his predecessor of a felony.”
On a video clip, the host showed Rep. Tom Cole, Republican of Oklahoma, saying “President Obama is owed an apology in that regard. Because if he didn’t do it, we shouldn’t be reckless in accusations that he did.”
Another Republican congressman, Will Hurd of Texas, said “It never hurts to say you’re sorry.”
As for Monday’s scheduled testimony of FBI director James Comey before the House intelligence committee, Hurd suggested viewers should not get their hopes up.
“Some folks will probably be frustrated on Monday on not hearing certain answers because there may be an active investigation going on,” he said. “A criminal investigation.”
Stephanopoulos picked up the theme when talking to Dr. Price, who has been criticized for capitalizing on a stock deal in the medical field that was not available to just anybody.
“Have you or your lawyers gotten any indication that you are the subject or target of an investigation?” he asked Price.
“No, have, have, n-n, know nothing about that whatsoever,” Price said.
Another topic, with foreign correspondent Terry Moran, was about the comments regarding spying from Trump and his mouthpieces last week that left both England and Germany angry.
“Bewilderment and fury,” Moran said. “It was a surreal thing to cover.” He referred to “this adolescence out of Washington” and said foreign diplomats have told him “we can’t deal with this guy. The White House, at this point, is a laughing stock in the capitals of Europe.”
Panelist Roland Martin said watching clips of angry citizens at Republican town halls reminded him of the words of Malcolm X.
“You’ve been had, you’ve been took, you’ve been hoodwinked, bamboozled, led astray, run amuck,” Martin said. “To watch these white, working-class voters upset and mad . . . Now, they all love the Affordable Care Act.”
FACE THE NATION: With Friends Like Ted Cruz . . .
Texas Sen. Ted Cruz was the last Republican candidate standing against Trump, who called him “Lyin’ Ted.”
Cruz isn’t a big supporter. Host John Dickerson on CBS mentioned that Trump’s wire-tapping accusation against Obama had as much validity as Trump’s suggestion during the primary season that Cruz’s father helped Lee Harvey Oswald kill President Kennedy in 1963.
“Can people trust this president?” Dickerson asked Cruz.
Instead of saying, oh, something like “Yes,” Cruz gave a long answer that began with “Well, listen, I don’t know what basis the president has for these allegations . . .”
Regarding the proposed Trumpcare bill, Cruz said Republicans better not vote for something that increases insurance premiums.
“People will be ready to tar and feather us in the streets,” Cruz said. “And quite rightly.”
Cruz didn’t seem impressed by the three-step plan the GOP is pushing to “repeal and replace Obamacare.”
“That ain’t gonna happen,” Cruz said, referring to the third “bucket” of the plan as “the suckers’ bucket.”
Just as harsh was Rep. Nancy Pelosi of California, the leader of the House Democrats, who called the Republican health care proposal “a terrible bill.” She also criticized her counterpart, Paul Ryan of Wisconsin.
“Twenty-four million people kicked off health insurance, which the Speaker called an act of mercy,” Pelosi said. “An act of mercy.”
A lighter moment on Dickerson’s show was a series of video highlights of a 36-hour car trip by Hurd and a fellow Texas Congressman, Beto O’Rourke, a Democrat. They drove together from Texas to Washington last week because the weather messed up travel by air.
They were seen singing along to songs on the stereo, grabbing fast food at drive-in windows and talking politics, including this comment about Trump’s notion of building a wall on the border with Mexico.
“Building a wall from sea to shining sea,” Hurd said, “is the most expensive and least effective way to do border security.”
When the agenda turned back to tough-guy talk, Dickerson spoke with Mick Mulvaney, the White House budget director, who explained why universal health care is a bad idea.
“The only way to get truly universal care is to throw people in jail if they don’t have it,” he said. “And we’re not going to do that.”
On the pundit panel, Jeffrey Goldberg of The Atlantic said Trump might have been wiser to push his infrastructure project before his health care plan.
“Put as many white, male, high school-educated Americans to work as quickly as possible,” Goldberg said. “When the history of this is written, I’m not sure that this is going to be seen as a genius political move.”
Goldberg also spoke of the Trump administration’s readiness to react to something serious.
“On matters of life and death,” he said, “I’m not confident yet that these guys can handle a crisis,” he said.
FOX NEWS SUNDAY: Which “Unhinged Regime?”
Ryan was the guest of anchor Wallace, who mentioned that—under the Republican plan—a 64-year-old person making $26,500 per year would see his or her insurance bill rise from $1,700 per year under Obamacare to $14,600 per year under Trumpcare.
“Your plan makes it unaffordable,” Wallace told Ryan.
Ryan replied that older people “experience higher health-care costs.”
When Wallace said the Trump budget plan might eliminate “Meals on Wheels” for elderly and handicapped people, Ryan said “This is the beginning of a long process.”
And when Wallace mentioned that Trump and his wiretap allegations “swept the Brits into it, swept the Germans into it,” Ryan replied: “I’m not really focused on these things.”
Another Republican interviewed was Devin Nunes of California, the chair of the House Intelligence Committee, who said “This is an unhinged regime. You have 20 million people in extreme poverty. Something may have to be done.”
(He was speaking of North Korea.)
MEET THE PRESS: Ready! Fire! Aim!
Of all the Sunday hosts, Chuck Todd of NBC gave the harshest analysis of the Trump administration, particularly the words of Press Secretary Sean Spicer, who suggested England helped Obama in surveillance of the new president.
“The administration’s policy of ‘Ready, Fire, Aim!’ caused an international incident this week when the White House peddled a claim that Britain’s spy agency worked with President Obama to spy on Trump,” Todd said. “The president’s credibility issues are growing just as he’s struggling to sell his agenda to Congress.”
RELIABLE SOURCES: The Paranoid Style
On CNN, host Brian Stelter noted that Trump has given seven sit-down interviews so far and five of them have been with Fox.
“Trump watches Fox,” Stelter said. “He tweets about Fox. He uses Fox graphics to advertise his agenda. He hires Fox talking heads. He promotes Fox as fair while he denigrates its rivals as fake. All of this amounts to a Fox News presidency . . . a presidency shaped by Fox News.”
David Folkenflik of National Public Radio noted that Trump consults Fox god-figure Rupert Murdoch the way prime ministers do in Australia and England.
“He now has this entrée into a White House that seems to feed off cable news and Fox in particular,” Folkenflik said.
And Trump’s particular favorite on Fox is his main fluffer, Sean Hannity, who was criticized by Bret Stephens, the deputy editorial page editor of The Wall Street Journal.
Hannity, Stephens said, practices “the paranoid style in American politics . . . It’s a lunatic phenomenon . . . Someone who doesn’t call himself a journalist purveying views that are often mistaken as journalism by many of his viewers.”
MEDIA BUZZ: Ratings and False Narratives
On Fox News Channel, Howard Kurtz’s first story was about how Rachel Maddow of MSNBC broke a story last Tuesday about Trump’s taxes in 2005 after someone mailed two sheets of that return to journalist David Cay Johnston.
Spicer told Kurtz he didn’t approve.
“NBC should be extremely ashamed about how they handled this,” Spicer said. “And it just shows, again, the lengths to which they’ll go to get ratings and to promote false narratives.”
Then, on the topic of Trump’s bizarre accusations against Obama, they turned their aim to another competitor outside Trump’s sanctuary network.
KURTZ: “CNN’s Jake Tapper said that you cannot defend the indefensible and that you are arguing that the Earth is flat.”
SPICER: “Well, if you look at some of the stuff that is perpetuated there, I don’t need to respond to Jake. He’s looking to get whatever attention he can at this point.”