One of the biggest allies the opponents of health care reform have had during the entire debate has been the news media. And not because the news media has taken sides ( other than Fox News) but because they are incompetent and have no principles for what they do.
While it’s true that Obama and the Democrats did themselves no favors, especially Obama by making mistake after mistake, being incredibly weak, indecisive, leaving much to be desired in terms of leadership and communicating, cable news did little to do what they are supposed to do — inform their viewers.
The media is always drawn more to the negative than the positive and because of that have been an unwitting allies of the Republicans and conservatives opposing reform and for a variety of reasons.
First , as just mentioned, the media is more drawn to the negative than the positive and Republican and conservative opposition was by its nature negative. There were not two competing approaches to report on, only the Democrats trying to sell theirs and the Republicans inventing negatives to oppose it, very often baiting the news media with incendiary statements. And the news media bit.
It was not lost on conservative town hall organizers that the footage making the news were the yellers and screamers and town hall crazies with Hitler posters and swastikas. All the media attention on those people helped amplify their voices all out of proportion to how representative they were throughout the country. And the fact that we havent seen any more protests from these people proves how contrived, calculated and organized they were from the beginning, products of Republican organizers.
Only in the last few days have we seen proclamations in the news media of, “health care reform isn’t dead”, or “the public option isn’t dead”, or ” the public option makes a comeback” when in fact the public option was never dead and never needed to make a comeback and the same for reform in general.
The only people who ever declared health care reform or the public option dead was the news media itself and it’s an example of how the media continues to get everything wrong but are so enamored with their own opinions,most of which are completely worthless, that they think because they say it that it must be true.The they begin to believe their own distortions.
The House both through Nancy Pelosi and individual members, have said all along and emphatically that they will not pass a bill that doesn’t have a public option and they have never wavered from that position. But to watch CNN or Andrea Mitchell on Msnbc one would think there was only one branch of congress — the senate — where the public option, while having substantial support, was not included in the Finance bill even though the three Democrats who voted against it made it clear it had their support. And the fact that the amendment wasn’t included in the final bill means nothing with regards to what a final outcome will be.
Following the vote, which included Olympia Snowe’s vote, CNN pointed out that there were five health care bills coming from both the House andwhc senate — five — and that the Baucus bill was the only one of the five that didn’t include the public option.
Incredibly, Brianna Keiler who covers congress for CNN, concluded from this that the Baucus bill, because it didn’t have the public option had the best chance of passing both the House and senate. It is this kind of unnecessary and unasked for opinion given by journalists,and an opinion that will probably prove to be wrong, that does harm by using the airwaves to try and shape the debate.
Keiler’s conclusion (and there is nothing in Kieler’s track record to show that her prognosis when it comes to such things has proved to be correct), not only make no sense based on known facts and statements, it has the potential of throwing the discussion in the coming days off the tracks.
Following the televised senate committee vote, it was Rich Sanchez’ turn on CNN. He opened his show by making the comment that “it appears ( italics mine) that the senate finance committee has passed the Baucus bill”. In Sanchez’ world of journalism there is obviously no reality, only that which appears to be true. We don’t know if Sanchez is still trying to confirm that what happened in front of everyone’s eyes actually happened.
Sanchez’ reporting got worse. He had senator Bill Nelson on and asked him to tell the audience all his reasons why he is opposing the public option, going to vote against the public option and why he thinks it’s a mistake and doesn’t belong in the final bill.
Sanchez obviously wasnt paying attention the last few weeks and Nelson replied that he was for the public option, fully supported it and was going to vote for it which immediately made Sanchez switch gears and point out all the benefits of the public option and then asked Nelson why Republicans were opposing it.
Ed Henry has been the exception at CNN answering honestly when asked if Obama was going to be more hands on now with health care. Henry said that is what White House aides were telling him but he pointed out that “we’ve heard that before” and it didn’t happen, citing Obama’s constant reversals on the public option.
Politicians need the news media. They love getting their faces on television. It’s called exposure. But journalists love to inject themselves into the debate by asking questions that have more to do with their own opinions than the facts and making them feel they are part of the process instead of just reporting it.
In the health care debate it’s probably time for journalists to take their cue from the Hippocratic Oath before they do any reporting and take seriously the admonition, first do no harm.