Blog on the Run: Reloaded

Wednesday, September 30, 2009 6:15 am

Health-care whoroscope

Betsy McCaughey appears in the news/cable arena a fair bit, typically as a health-care “expert.” Her qualification for this gig consists primarily of the fact that she published a piece called “No Exit” in The New Republic in 1994 that was a takendown of the Clinton healthcare-reform plan. Only here’s the thing: “No Exit”? Both wrong and the spawn of cigarette maker Philip Morris:

For the archenemies of Obamacare, however, [GOP pollster Frank] Luntz’s anti-Washington script didn’t go nearly far enough. To amp up the panic, they decided to spin the “takeover” fear to its most extreme conclusion: Washington bureaucrats plan to institute “death panels” that would deny life-sustaining care to the elderly. That portion of the script was drafted by Betsy McCaughey, the former lieutenant governor of New York, who insists that her expertise as a constitutional historian enables her to decipher the 1,017 pages of legalese that comprise the House health care bill.

McCaughey first unveiled her “findings” on July 16th, during an appearance on the radio show of former GOP presidential candidate Fred Thompson. “I have just finished reading the House bill,” McCaughey declared. “I hope that people listening will protect their parents from what’s intended under this bill.” Citing page 425 of HR 3200 — a section that outlines the same kind of optional, end-of-life counseling that Republicans have voted for in the past — McCaughey uncorked a terrifying lie. “Congress,” she said, “would make it mandatory — absolutely require that every five years, people in Medicare have a required counseling session that will tell them how to end their life sooner.” The Obama plan, she added, is financed by “shortening your mother or father’s life.”

McCaughey has run this con before. During the debate over Clinton’s health care overhaul in the early 1990s, McCaughey — then an academic at the right-wing Manhattan Institute — wrote an article for The New Republic called “No Exit,” in which she claimed that Hillarycare would prevent even wealthy Americans from “going outside the system to purchase basic health coverage you think is better.” Even though the bill plainly stated that “nothing in this Act” would prohibit consumers from purchasing additional care, McCaughey’s claim was echoed endlessly in the press, with each repetition pounding a stake further into the heart of the reform effort.

McCaughey’s lies were later debunked in a 1995 post-mortem in The Atlantic, and The New Republic recanted the piece in 2006. But what has not been reported until now is that McCaughey’s writing was influenced by Philip Morris, the world’s largest tobacco company, as part of a secret campaign to scuttle Clinton’s health care reform. (The measure would have been funded by a huge increase in tobacco taxes.) In an internal company memo from March 1994, the tobacco giant detailed its strategy to derail Hillarycare through an alliance with conservative think tanks, front groups and media outlets. Integral to the company’s strategy, the memo observed, was an effort to “work on the development of favorable pieces” with “friendly contacts in the media.” The memo, prepared by a Philip Morris executive, mentions only one author by name:

“Worked off-the-record with Manhattan and writer Betsy McCaughey as part of the input to the three-part exposé in The New Republic on what the Clinton plan means to you. The first part detailed specifics of the plan.”

This is the kind of “expert” who gets given a platform to discuss the key issues of our time. So talk to me again about the liberal media.

UPDATE: Yet another example of how McCaughey’s lying — and there’s really no other word for it — contaminates public discourse. Can we please let the people who know what they’re talking about and aren’t corporate shills have a turn discussing key issues now? Thank you.

1 Comment

  1. […] Obama not to mess with their Medicare. I’m sorry it gives whores like Alex Castellanos and Betsy McCaughey a forum instead of consigning them to the obscurity they so richly deserve. I’m sorry it […]

    Pingback by All apologies « Blog on the Run: Reloaded — Friday, October 2, 2009 12:05 am @ 12:05 am

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