Is Politico trying to set a record for false equivalence?

Blog ››› ››› JAMISON FOSER

Politico's Carrie Budoff Brown comes through with an absolute classic of the "both sides are equally guilty" genre.

Under the header "Both sides push health debate myths," Brown writes: "Ahead of next week's White House summit on health care, both parties are pressing story lines on how the reform debate has played out that aren't as tidy or truthful as Democrats and Republicans would like voters to believe."

"Myth No. 1," according to Brown, is the claim that "Republicans were sidelined in Congress." As Brown notes:

Until September, two of the Senate's most conservative members and moderate Sen. Olympia Snowe (R-Maine) helped pull the bill further and further away from the liberal Democratic ideal. Snowe and Republican Sens. Chuck Grassley of Iowa and Mike Enzi of Wyoming spent 63 hours negotiating with Finance Committee Chairman Max Baucus and two other moderate Democrats, Sens. Kent Conrad of North Dakota and Jeff Bingaman of New Mexico.

Hatch himself participated in the talks until July.

That's "Hatch" as in Orrin Hatch, who Brown quotes complaining that Republicans "weren't even involved in this process." And Brown writes "If anyone was sidelined at this stage of the health care reform debate, it was progressives."

Brown's "Myth No. 3" is the claim that "The bills include minimal GOP-backed ideas." She explains:

the pillars of the Senate bill resemble proposals that have been embraced by the GOP, most notably in a proposal offered last year by former Senate Majority Leaders Bob Dole (R-Kan.) and Howard Baker (R-Tenn.) and by Republicans during the 1993-94 health care reform debate. Major elements are also remarkably similar to a plan put forward by Sen. Judd Gregg (R-N.H.).


the Senate bill allows families and businesses to purchase insurance across state lines, a favorite policy proposal of the right. ... Republicans say states should decide how they want to do reform. But the Senate bill already goes a step in that direction.

So, according to Brown, Republicans are wrong when they say they were ignored, because Republican Senators Grasley and Snowe and Enzi and Hatch were involved in Senate negotiations, while progressives were "sidelined." And Republicans are wrong to say their ideas were ignored, because "the pillars" of the Senate bill resemble GOP proposals.

Now take a look at what Brown calls "Myth No. 2": the claim that President "Obama was fully committed to bipartisanship all along." This, Brown writes, is false because "the White House decided not to get hung up on winning Republican votes. ... Obama shifted the rhetoric slightly. He would seek out Republican ideas - and if votes followed, great. If not, no sweat."

Remember, Brown just told us a few paragraphs earlier that "two of the Senate's most conservative members and moderate Sen. Olympia Snowe (R-Maine)" spent 63 hours negotiating with Democrats, and that "invited the Gang of Six into the Oval Office for updates and defended the bipartisan talks at a particularly critical juncture. During an August visit to Montana, Obama embraced Baucus's strategy - at a time when most congressional Democrats were furious about it." So it's a little odd to see Brown now claim the White House didn't care about Republican votes.

But the bigger problem is that she argues that Obama sought out Republican ideas -- indeed, those ideas, according to Brown, are reflected in the "pillars of the Senate bill" -- but he wasn't committed to being bipartisan because he wasn't hung up on "winning Republican votes." What? What does she think Obama should have done beyond incorporating Republican ideas into the bill and encouraging the "Gang of Six"?

Taken as a whole, Brown's article suggests Democrats and Republicans have been equally misleading about the level of bipartisanship: Republicans because, despite their claims, they were involved in the negotiations and their ideas were incorporated into the Senate bill; Democrats because, although they invited Republicans to negotiations and incorporated their ideas into the Senate bill, they didn't get "hung up on winning Republican votes."

Brown blames the Democrats for the Republicans' refusal to support legislation they helped craft and that included their ideas. It's a complete perversion of what bipartisanship means, and the most glaring false equivalence you'll see in a long, long time.

Posted In
Health Care
The Politico
Carrie Budoff Brown
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