Blatantly Partisan Purposes

March 19th, 2010 · No Comments · Uncategorized

By Arthur Alpert

Wrong again!

I believed the Albuquerque Journal’s political campaign against health care reform – in its “news” pages as well as Op Eds and editorials – could not become more blatant.

Silly me.

Here’s the big headline on the front page Thursday, March 18:

“Premiums Likely to Go Higher”.

Over that is a rubric in red identifying the piece as a “Health Care Fact Check”.

The sub-head reads, “But Tax Credits Would Help Millions Pay Insurance Cost”.

The story by Ricardo Alonso-Zaldivar of the Associated Press’s Washington Bureau opens this way: “Buyers, beware: President Barack Obama says his health care overhaul will lower premiums by double digits, but check the fine print.”

Despite that lead, the story is not as biased against health reform as you would expect from AP Washington (where reporters routinely editorialize) and from the Journal (whose editors routinely use AP’s corrupted product for partisan purposes).

It says, basically, that the reform may slow the rise of premiums but is unlikely to reverse that trend.

Hmm. Slowing the rise of premiums would be bad? As for lowering them in the short-term, does anybody know how to do that except by wiping out the health insurance industry?

(Later Thursday, the non-partisan Congressional Budget Office said the health legislation would reduce deficits by $138 billion in the first 10 years, thanks to reductions in the growth of Medicare spending, new fees and tax increases. That might mean lower premiums long-term.)

In sum, the Journal pulled off a neat trick Thursday – adorning page one with a headline about rising premiums, intimating that the reform should be blamed and that the President is selling us a bill of goods.

How neat the trick is better understood when you turn to the last page of the first section and find – gosh! – a hard news story on the health bill. It gained ”fresh traction” backed by a Democrat who prefers universal, single-payer insurance and a national organization of Roman Catholic nuns.

Must have been happenstance that the editors put a negative headline over a “Fact Check” on page one and relegated the positive hard news to A10.

Coincidence also must explain why the Journal editorial on health reform Wednesday tracked the talking points of a national party.

I rarely draw your attention to Journal editorials. After all, the publisher has every right to state his views there. And the newspaper publishes many (usually local) editorials that are well researched and argued.

But editorials aren’t exempt from standards of decency and accuracy.

So it’s worth noting that Wednesday’s Journal editorial says, near the top, 68 percent of Americans don’t think the plan coming up for a vote is the right plan.

How ugly is that? Let me count the ways.

First, it’s cherry picking; other surveys show three-quarters of Americans want this plan or something close. And majorities approve various elements within the larger scheme.

Secondly, the Journal is brandishing polls after a year of extraordinary bumbling by White House advocates of reform; after we, the people, watched the Congress make sausage and after opponents lied about reform, then lied some more. Death panels, anyone?

That anybody still supports this reform is astonishing.

Finally, the Journal makes this argument – that most Americans don’t want the reform – after running its own, unrelenting, tawdry campaign against it in the news pages! (Win Quigley’s fair reporting and opining were exceptions to the rule.)

This degree of cynicism is such that I would disbelieve it if I hadn’t been eyeballing the evidence daily.

The editorial, incidentally, doesn’t improve. It says the Senate plan, “essentially raids Medicare, when that program itself needs propping up, to fund Medicaid.”

A newspaper opposed to Medicare (except when fellow partisans add a costly benefit without paying for it) now pretends to defend Medicare.

But that ploy comes straight from the playbook of Senate minority leader Mitch McConnell. Please read the editorial and show me where it does not follow his lead.

Failing that, take my word that the remainder maintains its initial ethical standard.

The editorial ends:

“Doing it without a roll call vote is obscene.”

Obscenity is, of course, in the eye of the beholder. I might apply the term to a management that wields its newspaper for partisan purposes – and pretends otherwise.

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