Sunday, June 07, 2009

Bill Moyers Talks to Jay Rosen and Brooke Gladstone about Health Care Reform

BILL MOYERS: I want to ask you about the health care debate. The swiftboating of health care reform has begun, right?

BROOKE GLADSTONE: The fact that is that what has widely been regarded as a swiftboat event began, and was by some of the people who did the Kerry swiftboating, and by some of the people who sunk, many years earlier, the Clinton plan. And all the fact checked organizations have gotten on board, not to mention a profoundly aggressive campaign by the Obama administration itself, which likes using the word 'swiftboat' all over the place, to short hand that, you know, you can't believe anything these people say.

And in a way, it's an effort to undercut any debate about the health care proposal. But at least it does place a spotlight on the outright lies.

BILL MOYERS: One of the subjects not in the debate over health care reform is single-payer. And contrary to what many people think about it being a far left proposal, the polls show that it has substantial support among a large swath of the American people. Many of whom would not call themselves far left.

But Senator Baucus said, its not in the discussion because we've gone too far now to go back and consider single-payer. There it seems to me is a very good example of how a legitimate idea gets delegitimated in the debate between the powers that be.

JAY ROSEN: I think it's a classic example of the real religion of the Washington press, which is savviness. And from a problem-solving point of view, we would certainly want to consider single-payer, because it's an important option in a debate. But from a savvy point of view, the inside players know that single-payer is never going to be the answer. And they're already factoring that into their political calculations about what's likely to result.

Which in a way cuts off the debate that we need to have. And so, the inside players in Washington are able to kind of contain the debate by anticipating the outcome, and then talking about the things that are most likely within that set of assumptions. And this is a normal process in Washington that goes on all the time. And it's one of the ways that journalists shape the terms of debate.

BROOKE GLADSTONE: You make an important point when you talk about the fact that Baucus himself said it's off the table. The fact is that reporters most often take their cues on almost any subject from national security to domestic legislation from the debate on Capitol Hill. If they are constraining their own debate, reporters who go outside and report on these other issues are seen as outliers. Are seen as activists pushing the discussion in one direction or another.

So, then you have to raise the question, "Why isn't it being raised on Capitol Hill?" Which is the question you raised. And I honestly think that our Democratic Party is suffering under the same paranoid concerns that the press are. That this putatively liberal party may be too liberal.

BILL MOYERS: Let me show you a clip from a commercial that's being run by groups that are opposed to a public option in the health care debate. And then I have a question for you.

RICK SCOTT: Before Congress rushes into overall health care, listen to those who already have government run health care.

FEMALE VOICE:In Britain, Katie Brickell. Denied the Pap test that could have saved her from cervical cancer. Kate Spall. Her mother suffered on a wait list as her renal cancer became terminal. Angela French. Cost cutting keeps her waiting for the medication she needs to stay alive.

RICK SCOTT: For those tragic stories and more at Tell Congress to listen, too.

BILL MOYERS: is sponsored by Richard Scott, who had to leave his company. The largest health care chain in the world, Columbia/HCA. After the company was caught ripping off the feds and state governments for hundreds of millions dollars in bogus Medicare and Medicaid payments. He waltzed away with a $10 million severance deal. And $300 million worth of stock. And here he is telling us that his way of health reform is the way the public should go. Now, how does the public get the facts about an ad like that. And a guy like Rick Scott?

BROOKE GLADSTONE: How did you get the facts? The fact is that I've seen Scott being identified, more or less, as you did, in every single story about this campaign. You know, I think that there is now a willingness, as there wasn't even during the Kerry swiftboating earlier on, and certainly not during the sinking of the Clinton health care plan, to acknowledge the source of these ads. I think that all of us, as news consumers, as the American people, are becoming more and more aware that just because you see it on TV doesn't mean that it's true.

JAY ROSEN: I agree with Brooke in this sense.


JAY ROSEN: I think that an ad like that is assuming that the receiver of it is an isolated person, who hearing these scary tales of government-run health care will therefore pick up the phone and pressure Congress. And the way the ad imagines the viewer is in social isolation. Where no other messages will get through. And I think that is what's changing. Is that people are not isolated anymore. They're not sitting on the end of their television sets and receiving messages from the center only.

And in a way you could see these kinds of campaigns where you raise money from rich people to scare less educated people. Or low information voters, as they call them in the political trade. As a sign of weakness. The rhetoric might be more furious, the ads might be more outrageous. But it's because this kind of communication is actually weaker and it's working less.

BILL MOYERS: This is going to be a long, hot summer. We've got so many issues on the front burners. Afghanistan, health care, Supreme Court nominations, and who knows what else is coming? What will you be looking for this summer, as the news cycle unfolds?

JAY ROSEN: Well, I'm looking for a press that recognizes that the world has changed. And that the political class in Washington created a lot of these huge problems, and doesn't necessarily have the answers to them. And that the way of doing politics that has sufficed in the capitol for so long, of you take your polls, you raise your money, you run the ads, you scare people, you win the controversy of the day, you win the news cycle. That that system itself is failing. And those who participate in it are, month by month, losing credibility.

And I don't think that the press has realized that they are a part of that system that is failing. And that they, too, need a new approach. Let's take David Gregory, for example, the host of "Meet the Press." He hasn't quite realized yet that he's got to go outside the political class. To bring in new thinkers, new ideas, different parts of the political spectrum.

BROOKE GLADSTONE: What are you talking about? He's twittering.

JAY ROSEN: He's twittering, but he's not listening. And twitter doesn't update you. It's just a trendy thing.

BILL MOYERS: No. You get Newt Gingrich twittering, right? About racism.

JAY ROSEN: I mean, the political class in this country has failed. And if we have a talk show system that is nothing but the same old players, then that system is going to fail.

Read More at the Source: Bill Moyers Journal . Transcripts | PBS

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