Health care is the top issue, and GOP candidates campaign on the ‘Big Lie’

Polling shows that health care is the top priority for Americans, and that Democrats are winning among the segment of the electorate most worried about health care.

POLITICO reported this week about how Republican candidates are actually running ads saying that they support the pre-existing conditions provisions of the Affordable Care Act aka “Obamacare” even after every Republican incumbent in Congress has voted multiple times over a period of several years to repeal Obamacare and voted for House Speaker Paul Ryan’s plan to convert Medicare into a private system with vouchers (coupon care). They are running away from their Obamacare repeal votes by simply lying about it (looking at you Martha McSally). ‘Just ridiculous lies’: Dems incensed over misleading GOP ads on Medicare for All.

The super PAC affiliated with House Speaker Paul Ryan is also accusing Democratic candidates of supporting Bernie Sanders’ $32 billion “Medicare for All“ plan, even if they have taken no position on his proposal or support other options.

The effort to tie swing-district candidates to a single-payer concept — which Democrats are deeply divided on — illustrates the GOP’s major disadvantage on health care after failing last year to pass unpopular Obamacare repeal bills.

“When it comes to core issues that voters are looking at, obviously Democrats have an advantage on health care,” said Republican strategist Ford O’Connell. “So now you’re watching the Republicans sort of move the goalposts.”

The Washington Post similarly reports GOP candidates try to blunt Democrats’ preexisting conditions attacks:

Endangered Republican candidates are fighting back against the narrative being advanced by Democrats that they are the villains in the battle over who would better manage the nation’s health-care system and protect those Americans with preexisting conditions.

They are doing so by releasing personal campaign ads in which they share their own health stories such as a child’s illness like leukemia — and by suddenly introducing bills in Congress to require that people with prior coverage don’t lose access to affordable health care.

It’s a significant twist in the way candidates are talking about health care on the campaign trail less than a month before voters head to the polls.

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Republicans have found themselves on the defensive when it comes to an issue they used to champion — eliminating President Obama’s signature domestic achievement. An intra-party feud over doing so resulted in legislation that couldn’t get through the Senate last summer, as Democrats and grassroots advocates built a case that the GOP effort to repeal and replace Obamacare would leave millions without coverage and weaken preexisting condition protections.

The Democrats’ argument was bolstered when the Trump administration announced it would not defend the ACA against a lawsuit brought by 20 GOP-led states claiming Obamacare should be struck down in its entirety because Republicans removed a key piece of it. If successful, Democrats warned, even the popular provisions of the ACA, like preexisting condition protections, would be eliminated.

The Trump administration has also steadily chipped away at some of Obamacare’s key components — the GOP Congress eliminated the individual mandate penalty last year; and the administration is allowing some states to require Medicaid recipients to work, as well as permitting people to buy skimpier heath plans.

* * *

Republicans almost unanimously opposed a plan forced to the Senate floor by Democrats on Wednesday to stop the administration from expanding short-term insurance plans, which offer far fewer benefits and aren’t required to cover people with preexisting conditions. Sen. Susan Collins (Maine) was the only Republican to side with Democrats.

“What just happened in the Senate revealed Republicans’ dishonesty regarding what it takes to protect against discrimination based on health status,” said Judy Feder, a professor of public policy at Georgetown University and former Clinton administration official. “I would argue they are disingenuous or ignorant of what it takes to get decent health coverage regardless of health status.”

As Paul Waldman of the Washington Post observes, The GOP has successfully liberated itself from shame:

[A]s we approach the election that is less than a month away, significant portions of the Republican Party have taken their own dishonesty to a new level.

I don’t mean that candidates and parties haven’t lied about their opponents before, because they have. What’s different now is a level of brazenness, of shamelessness in lying that is absolutely, well, Trumpian.

Pathological liar Donald Trump joined the coordinated GOP attack on Wednesday, railing against Democrats in a USA Today op-ed for plotting a socialist-style government takeover of health care.

The Washington Post’s fact checker Bill Kessler Fact-checked President Trump’s USA Today op-ed on ‘Medicare-for-All’ and concluded “almost every sentence contained a misleading statement or a falsehood. Many of these are claims we have already debunked.”

USA Today, the parent company of The Arizona Republic, clearly has no journalistic ethical standards for publishing opinions. As Joan McCarter of Daily Kos said, USA Today had one job after publishing Trump’s lies—owning up to it. It failed:

USA Today had one job on Thursday, after giving its op-ed page Wednesday over to the occupier of the Oval Office. The one job was to acknowledge that it was a pack of lies. USA Today failed.

As the Washington Post’s fact-checker Glenn Kessler wrote “almost every sentence contained a misleading statement or a falsehood. Many of these are claims we have already debunked.” The paper acknowledged in series of tweets that it had created a massive controversy by printing Trump’s disinformation, but insisted Trump’s “op-ed was treated like other column submissions; we check factual assertions [clearly they did not] while allowing authors wide leeway to express their opinions,” and that “Readers are invited to submit opposing viewpoints and provide additional context.”

McCarter follows up, USA Today digs itself even deeper hole after publishing Trump’s Medicare for All lies:

The problem was that every assertion fact in what they published was a lie.

Which makes the next defense ridiculous. “Trump’s original op-ed was fact-checked and edited by USA TODAY and then sent back for review and revision.” It’s hard to imagine what the rough draft looked like when the published version was such bullshit. But the point is, some very basic assertions made by Trump were false. As the extremely lengthy fact-check USA Today finally decided to do—after the fact!—demonstrates.

McCarter concludes, “The paper failed in its responsibility to its readers. Period. It published a hyperbolic partisan screed that presented absolutely no factual information without a word to the reader about the falsehoods they knew were included in it. That’s the one thing that they are refusing to acknowledge in all of this, and the one thing they need to do.”

Note: The New York Times today finally fact checks Trump’s USA Today op-ed. Trump Falsely Claims That ‘Medicare for All’ Would Turn the U.S. Into Venezuela.

As Greg Sargent of the Washington Post says, Memo to the media: Stop spreading Trump’s fake news: “By broadcasting forth Trump’s lies in tweets and headlines — while declining to inform readers that they are just that, and while burying the truth deep within accompanying articles — the organizations that Trump regularly derides as ‘fake news’ are themselves spreading a species of fake news. That is, fake news authored by Trump himself.”

Paul Krugman writes today, Goodbye, Political Spin, Hello Blatant Lies:

Republicans no longer bother with deceptive presentations of facts. Instead, they just flat-out lie.

What do they lie about? Lots of things, from crowd sizes to immigrant crime, from steel plants to the Supreme Court. But right now the most intense, coordinated effort at deception involves health care — an issue where Republicans are lying nonstop about both their own position and that of Democrats.

The true Republican position on health care has been clear and consistent for decades: The party hates, just hates, the idea of government action to make essential health care available to all citizens, regardless of income or medical history.

This hatred very much includes hatred of Medicare. Way back in 1961, Ronald Reagan warned that enacting Medicare would destroy American freedom. Maybe it’s just me, but I don’t think that happened. Newt Gingrich shut down the government in an attempt to force Bill Clinton to slash Medicare funding. Paul Ryan proposed ending Medicare as we know it and replacing it with inadequate vouchers to be applied to the purchase of private insurance.

And the hatred obviously extends to the Affordable Care Act. Republicans don’t just hate the subsidies that help people buy insurance; they also hate the regulations that prevent insurers from discriminating against people with pre-existing conditions. Indeed, 20 Republican state attorneys general filed a lawsuit trying to eliminate protection for pre-existing conditions, and the Trump administration has declined to oppose the suit, in effect endorsing it.

So if you’re a voter who cares about health care, it shouldn’t be hard to figure out where the parties stand. If you believe that Medicare is a bad thing and the government shouldn’t protect people with pre-existing conditions, vote Republican. If you want to defend Medicare and ensure coverage even for those who have health problems, vote Democrat.

But Republicans have a problem here: The policies they hate, and Democrats love, are extremely popular. Medicare has overwhelming support. So does protection for pre-existing conditions, which is even supported by a large majority of Republicans.

Now, you might imagine that Republicans would respond to the manifest unpopularity of their health care position by, you know, actually changing their position. But that would be hopelessly old-fashioned. As I said, what they’ve chosen to do instead is lie, insisting that black is white and up is down.

Thus Josh Hawley, as Missouri’s attorney general, is part of that lawsuit against Obamacare’s regulation of insurers; but in his campaign for the Senate, he’s posing as a defender of Americans with pre-existing conditions. Dean Heller, running for re-election to the Senate in Nevada, voted for a bill that would have destroyed Obamacare, including all protection for pre-existing conditions; but he’s misrepresenting himself just like Hawley is.

And they aren’t just lying about their own position. They’re also lying about their opponents’. Incredibly, Republicans have spent the years since passage of the A.C.A. accusing Democrats of wanting to destroy Medicare.

* * *

Why do Republicans think they can get away with such blatant lies? Partly it’s because they expect their Fox-watching followers to believe anything they’re told.

But it’s also because they can still count on enablers in the mainstream news media. After all, why did USA Today approve this piece? Letting Trump express his opinion is one thing; giving him a platform for blatant lies is another.

So will the G.O.P.’s Big Lie on health care work? We’ll find out in a few weeks.

Keep this in mind when Martha McSally and Kyrsten Sinema debate on Monday,  October 15 at 6:00 p.m., and note whether the media sponsors Arizona PBS, in partnership with The Arizona Republic and, allow Martha McSally to lie like USA Today did for Donald Trump. Hold them accountable.

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