Wednesday, October 29, 2003

"Note"-worthy Scrutiny 

I know I'm supposed to be impressed by ABC's The Note, of which Josh Marshall and other bloggers are avowed fans, but I'm not. In fact, every time I read it I get the feeling I'm reading the syllabus for the next Daily Howler or issue of MWO. Today, for example, The Note announces "the seeming end of Howard Dean's amazing run to the front of the pack without getting anything like the normal level of scrutiny a leading candidate normally gets on issues as diverse as affirmative action, the death penalty, the assault weapons ban, tax cuts, the Social Security retirement age, veterans' benefits, the legitimacy of using old "votes and quotes" to attack an opponent, ethanol, matching funds, the war in Iraq, American troops in Iraq, NAFTA, Yucca Mountain, baseball, and others." (emphasis added)

If you're like me, you're now doing a Jon Stewart, rubbing your eyes while exclaiming, "Waaaa?" We all remember the "normal level of scrutiny" Bush got over his economic policies throughout the entire 2000 campaign for example; see The Great Unraveling for a reminder. And we also remember how the press would have gotten to Gore's policies but were thwarted by his refusal to stop wearing unapproved clothes, or saying things he didn't actually, you know, utter, thereby sucking all the oxygen out of the room for discussion of anything else.

So given this preening invocation by The Note of a hitherto unknown normative standard of professional political journalism, I assumed what it really signaled was more press clowning, and when the Note pointed as evidence of this new scrutiny to three "anti-Dean" pieces in The Boston Globe, where John Kerry's Jewishness is an obsessive topic of concern, my suspicions were all but confirmed. And indeed, the first piece exceeded even my soft bigotry of low expectations. Under the headline, Rivals Continue to Pick Apart Dean's Record, the Globe lede informs readers that,

Howard Dean has cited his support for a 1997 federal law curbing Medicare costs in an effort to fend off attacks from his rivals for the Democratic presidential nomination, but correspondence obtained under the Freedom of Information Act shows that Dean, as governor of Vermont in 2000, complained to federal officials about a significant provision of the cost-containment law signed by Bill Clinton.

Now, right off, the attacks alluded to were precisely because of his support for that law, making it odd for the Globe to switch the polarity of the issue--unless, of course the point is simply to screw Dean. Which is pretty much what the piece sets out to do.

What, exactly, is the story behind Dean's letter to Clinton, according to the article? Does it really attack "cost containment", as the lede coyly implies?

Not hardly. The reader who slogs through the article, without assuming that it documents what it purports to, will learn:

1) That the provision in question dealt with a loophole under existing Medicare law that set reimbursement fees for inpatient but not outpatient treatment, leading hospitals to shift more and more of its costs to the unregulated, outpatient side.

2) The provision tried to address this problem by setting a nationwide fee schedule for outpatient services as well.

3) Although hospitals in most states charged more for outpatient services than the fee schedule proposed under the provision, Vermont was an exception. Apparently the proposed fee schedule would be mandatory and not simply a ceiling (the article is too busy misdirecting readers to make this clear), so the end result would be that Vermont seniors would pay more on their copayments than before. As governor of Vermont, Dean found this objectionable.

So. A federal law designed to cut Medicare costs would have had the perverse effect in at least one state of increasing Medicare costs and patient copayments. By raising objections to this, Dean demonstrated that he was inconsistent on curbing Medicare costs.

You know, I think this qualifies as the "normal level of scrutiny" after all.

Someone else can read the other two Globe pieces. I don't have time for this horseshit.

corrente SBL - New Location
~ Since April 2010 ~

~ Since 2003 ~

The Washington Chestnut
~ current ~

Subscribe to
Posts [Atom]


copyright 2003-2010

    This page is powered by Blogger. Isn't yours?