Lies And the Lying Liars Who Tell Them

LIES AND THE LYING LIARS WHO TELL THEM…. Over the weekend, Roll Call ran an online item, explaining, “With the Senate preparing to vote Saturday on whether to consider a $848 billion health care overhaul bill, national Democrats on Friday launched a rapid response system aimed at blunting each GOP criticism of the bill.”

I have to say, the DNC’s rapid-response fact-checking was pretty damn impressive. I lost count of how many alerts hit my inbox during the debate, but just about every time a Republican senator would make an appearance — on the Senate floor or on one of the cable networks — another alert went out, pointing to his/her demonstrable falsehoods. Late yesterday, the DNC posted the entire package of fact-checking items, which serves as a timeline of sorts, chronicling each bogus claim as it was made.

But let’s not miss the forest for the trees here. Looking over the rapid-response list, the efficiency of the DNC operation is impressive, but the key takeaway is more important: Good lord, Republicans sure do lie a lot about health care.

I mean, GOP lawmakers weren’t even close to the truth. Watching the debate as it unfolded, one got the sense that reform’s opponents either know literally nothing about the issue at hand, prefer almost pathological levels of dishonesty, or perhaps both.

Over the weekend, Josh Marshall noted in passing that the congressional GOP lied quite a bit during the 1994 reform debate, but Republicans are now “upping their game … lying even more shamelessly than in round 1.”

I’m reminded of Ruth Marcus’ reaction to the House debate a few weeks ago, when she marveled at the “appalling amount of misinformation being peddled” by Republicans.

I don’t mean the usual hyperbole about “a children-bankrupting, health-care-rationing, freedom-crushing, $1 trillion government takeover of our health-care system,” as Texas Republican Jeb Hensarling put it. Or the tired canards about taxpayer-funded abortion or insurance subsidies for illegal immigrants. Or the extraneous claims about alleged Democratic excesses….

I mean the flood of sheer factual misstatements about the health-care bill…. You have to wonder: Are the Republican arguments against the bill so weak that they have to resort to these misrepresentations and distortions?

Their Senate colleagues were just as offensive, shamelessly pretending as if reality had no meaning whatsoever.

John McCain, for example, said in a written statement that the reform bill would add “more than a trillion dollars to our country’s deficit,” would put medical decisions “in the hands of government bureaucrats,” and amount to a “government takeover of our health care system.” He’s obviously lying. None of this is even remotely true.

But McCain and his cohorts have a strong incentive to be as blatantly dishonest as they can be. For one thing, it keeps the rabid GOP base worked up. For another, it might confuse the American mainstream, who won’t know who’s telling the truth and who isn’t.

Ordinarily, the media would help sort this out. So much for that idea: “The media is basically letting all opponents of health care say whatever the hell they want about health care reform with little pushback. I don’t know why I continue to be surprised when this happens, but I do…”

Without political consequences for dishonesty, this is only going to get worse.