Kristol’s selective editing

KRISTOL’S SELECTIVE EDITING…. The Weekly Standard‘s Bill Kristol mocked a quote from House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, from a speech she delivered last weekend to a group of artists. Here’s how Kristol reported it:

“We see [health care reform as] a bill that says to someone, if you want to be creative and be a musician or whatever, you can leave your work, focus on your talent, your skill, your passion, your aspirations because you will have health care. You won’t have to be job-locked.”

Kristol used this to make an obtuse point about Marxism.

But people, of course, don’t speak in brackets. Jon Chait, who has noticed Kristol distorting Pelosi quotes before, had the good sense to check the original to see how the Weekly Standard editor changed the wording. What did Pelosi actually say?

“We see it as an entrepreneurial bill — a bill that says to someone, if you want to be creative…”

This is a pretty significant difference. Kristol’s version, which deliberately edited out the notion of the entrepreneurialism in the Affordable Care Act, makes it seem as if Pelosi is talking about Americans leaving the workforce to become bohemians.

But that badly misses the point, and through creative editing, Kristol is misleading his readers. Pelosi’s point is an important one — the existing health care system makes it extremely difficult for many Americans to start small businesses. They can’t give up the health coverage from one job, and can’t afford the premiums if they start their own enterprise.

This isn’t just limited to those who want to be artists. Americans who have an idea for a tech start-up, or a pizza parlor, or a blog are all in the same boat — they want to take a chance on a new idea, but frequently find that they can’t because of the broken health care system.

The Affordable Care Act changes this, and encourages the American entrepreneurial spirit. If Kristol disagrees, he can make his case. But creative editing is unprofessional and dishonest.

Chait added:

Democrats are not, of course, proposing to provide some kind of welfare dole to individuals who wish to create art rather than work. Musician and artist, Kristol may be interested to learn, are actual job categories. And Pelosi was speaking to musicians and artists, so her emphasis on that category of self-employed businessperson is perfectly sensible.

Of course, one reason Kristol made this line the centerpiece of a Standard editorial is that artists and musicians are a prime example of the class of people who are Not Real Americans. Kristol never loses an opportunity to employ the classic trope of communist propaganda, embraced by neoconservatives on their journey from far left to far right, of painting liberals as coastal cosmopolitans, intellectuals, and other untrustworthy categories.