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AUGUST 28, 2009 9:19AM

Michael Steele Vs. Michael Steele

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It's hard to figure out where the Republican Party stands on health care reform.  Just ask Chairman Michael Steele, who seems as vexed as you, me and everybody else. 

Just take these side-by-side excerpts form Steele's oped piece in the Washington Post and his follow-up interview on NPR.  Below are portions comparing and contrasting Michael Steele with, well, himself: 

On "Government Run Health Care"

WP: 

" While Republicans believe that reforms are necessary, President Obama's plan for a government-run health-care system is the wrong prescription."

NPR:

INSKEEP: Here's another thing that I'm trying to figure out: Within a couple of paragraphs of writing we need to protect Medicare, you write that you oppose President Obama's, quote, plan for a government-run health care system.

Mr. STEELE: Mm-hmm.

INSKEEP: Now you're a veteran public policy official. You're aware that Medicare is a government-run health care program.

 

On Cuts to Medicare

WP:

" First, we need to protect Medicare and not cut it in the name of "health-insurance reform." As the president frequently, and correctly, points out, Medicare will go deep into the red in less than a decade. But he and congressional Democrats are planning to raid, not aid, Medicare by cutting $500 billion from the program to fund his health-care experiment. "

 NPR:

INSKEEP: So you would be in favor of certain Medicare cuts?

Mr. STEELE: Absolutely....

 

On the Patient-Doctor Relationship

WP:

"Furthermore, under the Democrats' plan, senior citizens will pay a steeper price and will have their treatment options reduced or rationed."

Later:  "...we need to prohibit government from getting between seniors and their doctors. The government-run health-care experiment that Obama and the Democrats propose will give seniors less power to control their own medical decisions and create government boards that would decide what treatments would or would not be funded. Republicans oppose any new government entity overruling a doctor's decision about how to treat his or her patient."

"Simply put, we believe that health-care reform must be centered on patients, not government. "

NPR:

INSKEEP: ...When a private insurance company pays now, what is your impression of who decides what that private insurance company is going to cover? Is that purely between the doctor and the patient now?

Mr. STEELE: Sometimes it is, and sometimes it isn't. It depends on the type of treatment and the medicines that are at stake. And I've had this same experience my own self where I - you know, I've needed a certain type of, you know, medication and it, you know - the insurance company is like, well, you can have it, but we'll only pay for this amount or this portion. I don't like that any more than I like the government doing it.

My point is, you know, if the government's going to do, it's going to do it 10 times worse and it's going to be more pronounced than the private insurers. And I don't - I think that's a feature we can fix right now. And sure, there are issues in the insurance market that we can regulate a little bit better and that we can control better to maximize the benefits to the consumers. That's something that, yeah, we can rightly reform and fix. If the...

INSKEEP: Wait a minute, wait, wait. You would trust the government to look into that?

Mr. STEELE: No. I'm talking about the - I'm talking about private - I'm talking about...

INSKEEP: Who is...

Mr. STEELE: ...citizens. I'm talking about...

INSKEEP: You said that's something that should be looked into. Who is it that should look into that?

Mr. STEELE: I'm talking about those who - well, who regulates the insurance markets?

INSKEEP: That would be the government, I believe.

 

On Scare Tactics:

WP: 

...we need to outlaw any effort to ration health care based on age. Obama has promoted a program of "comparative effectiveness research" that he claims will be used only to study competing medical treatments. But this program could actually lead to government boards rationing treatments based on age.

Later

...we need to prevent government from dictating the terms of end-of-life care. Many of the most significant costs of care come in the last six months of a patient's life, and every American household must consider how to treat their loved ones. Obama's government-run health "reform" would pay for seniors' meetings with a doctor to discuss end-of-life care. While nonthreatening at first, something that is quite normal for a family to do becomes troublesome when the government gets involved.

NPR:

NSKEEP: ...Do you find it challenging to get into this complicated debate and explain things to people in a way that it's honest to the facts and still very clear and doesn't just kind of scare people with soundbites?

Mr. STEELE: That's a good point, then. Well no. Look, no one's trying to scare people with soundbites. I mean, you know, I've not done that....

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Dr. P, I listened to the NPR interview yesterday and I was just gobsmacked by what was coming out of Steele's mouth. Thanks so much for this side by side. It's amazing this guy is the Republican's spokesperson, you'd think they'd implode like a black hole yet their generating fear among the populace seems to be their biggest success.

What a country.
bbd,
in a word, Vexed....
Those that oppose affordable health insurance for all are plain selfish and inhumane IMO. Any health care system that profits from excluding millions of people from participation is appalling. While I certainly do not agree on all the tactics proposed to fix the problem, I do feel action is needed immediately. Many millions of people are out of work and are exhausting their life's savings to maintain medical coverage. When their money runs out, the health insurance companies will lose more customers. With the awaiting loss of millions of customers, the health insurance companies will raise premiums on those that still have health insurance. This is a perpetual cycle that will consume our present health care system and leave many more millions of people and businesses unable to pay to maintain the profit margins the health insurance companies now enjoy.
Inskeep was having a battle of wits against an unarmed opponent.
Insurance companies offer a service of sorts. I don't know what it's like in the States but up here in Canada, automobile insurance is mandatory, so to an extent insurance compnaies have a 'closed shop' in terms of the rates they charge. If you do have an accident, your rates will go up because the insurance company is in business to show a profit. I know a lot of folks who would rather pay for damages in a fender bender than issue a claim through their insurance. That's the choice before you as an automobile operator in Ontario. I would suggest that the insurance companies that insurance your health care needs also operate in the same fashion in the U.S. They are in business to turn a profit for their shareholders. It shouldn't require a great deal of native intelligence to conclude that there is something nasty within the first equation relating to you and your car, but that when confronted with the second one, regarding your health, something that is absolutely wrong is going on. The upshot of private, for profit health insurance is that of putting a definite price on your life. If, as in the case of Terry Schiavo, people were screaming that life is priceless, they cannot now have it the other way, by supporting the price tag and its finite care for life. I wish you all well in the States, and hope you will all get out in the public to show your President that he must not cave in at this pivotal point in time. If you lose this fight now, you will probably not live long enough to get another chance for the fundamental change that is required.
I heard this interview yesterday; had to listen to it again, to be sure I was really hearing what he was saying.
Incredible.
That the right's fear-mongering and mendacity are actually driving the debate over health care reform to the degree that they currently are, is mind-boggling and frankly quite frightening.
Thanks for posting this.
The fact that Inskeep, who's not the brightest bulb in the box, could make Steele look this bad should be very revealing to many people. The dishonesty and moral bankruptcy of the Republicans is so transparent. How sad that their tactics seem to be working. Hard not to be depressed about where we are as a country.

Thanks for posting.
JohnP, you're absolutely right. To use a baseball metaphor, Inskeep is the journeyman pitcher with a fastball in the high-70s. Not going to hurt you, most of the time, but he's not a huge asset. To extend the metaphor, Steele looked like someone who was expecting an underhand pitch and couldn't handle even a 70 mph fastball.
I was not gobsmacked by Steele's inability to coherently answer pretty straightforward questions so much as his blaming Inskeep for the rhetorical knots Steele himself was tying himself up in.
Nice job. Sometimes just a playback is enough to expose these guys. Now if we can just convince the professional media to do this...
"Mr. STEELE: That's a good point, then. Well no. Look, no one's trying to scare people with soundbites. I mean, you know, I've not done that...."

This statement is typical of Steele's overall style of propaganda propped up with bully tactics. No sound bite scares?- cell phone video is probably Steele/Grassley et al's overall worst enemy. Don't forget the vast majority of young people watch these clips on youtube and the daily show while laughing their tails off.

The Future is NOT Mr. Steele's
Haha, bbd - with Steele, the Repubs HAVE a black hole. (Sorry) (Apologies...) And it's imploding. (Excuse...leaving now...)
lulandphoebe,
thanks--I saw your piece yesterday mentioning that. I will take a look....
On the question of why wingnut messages get so much traction, the problem is media coverage. Before most news organizations had to make a profit, decisions about whether to run a story were decided on the question "Do people need to know this?" Now the question is, "How many people will watch this?" You may have noticed that cable news may be short on meaningful content but it is a lot more entertaining than Walter Cronkite was. Real news organizations like NPR have a much smaller audience than Rush.

People who think cable news and radio talk shows deliver news are utterly naive. Unfortunately, their ignorance keeps the meaningful, factual conversation from taking place.

It's a democracy. We get the government we deserve.
Steve Inskeep is a light weight???? Do you listen to NPR much? Steve Inskeep is one of the best interviewers in the business. Micheal Steele has no clue and never will.
great overview - I appreciate it because I would have never have had the time to put it together.
Kenneth, I agree with a lot of what you are saying, but there's one thing that needs to stop. Know what the margins are for health insurance companies?

Their net margins are four percent.

Not too impressive.

Now, when you talk about saving four percent of trillions of dollars, you're talking some serious coin. But a four percent margin is not big. In fact, one person here suggested that we regulate health insurance companies as utilities. If we did that, we'd probably double their margins.
Yeah, Gravey, Steve Inskeep is a lightweight and an awful interviewer. Sorry. Been listening daily for over 20 years. His interviews generally go nowhere because he doesn't grasp the interesting aspects of what his subject said so there's no follow-up. Steele got off easy IMHO - could have been a lot worse. Night and day difference from Bob Edwards. Inskeep is emblamatic of the decline of NPR. I stopped giving them money 6 years ago because their reporting has become so shallow. NPR is still better than most, but they have fallen off terribly. Cheers.
Good job posting this. I was considering for a while doing a post about the "nuanced" episode within this interview that I see Gabriel Gregg brought up here.

It was very revealing that Steele had such a problem with Inskeep trying to put the best face on Steele's talk. Yes, either Steele doesn't understand what the word "nuanced" means (Inskeep at one point says - maybe the problem we're having here is that we're hung up on the word "nuanced." Let me use the word "complicated.") or he can't afford within the GOP universe to be seen as being anything other than absolutist. Steele says at one point "I'm not trying to be nuanced."

In either case, the GOP looks very bad. It's indicative of the GOP's stance that they do not want to look nuanced (or complicated). The world to them is black and white, right or wrong, them or us. As Bush put it: "You're either with us or you're with the terrorists."

Incidentally, I was struck by the fact that Inskeep was quite combative with Steele, in a way that has not been typical of US reporters in recent years. He wouldn't just let Steele's double-talk go.