Soledad O’Brien Soldiers On for Obama

by Patrick Brennan

Yesterday on the homepage, I had a piece about Soledad O’Brien’s breathtakingly partisan and inaccurate defenses of President Obama under the guise of “fact checking,” and how it was emblematic of a larger culture of agenda-pushing by the media. As if you needed any more evidence that O’Brien, a news host at an ostensibly unbiased news network, is hopelessly partisan, she’s at it again.

I’ll go through some of the specifics below, but she continues to parrot two main arguments as if they’re facts: That a reduction in expected growth of government spending on something does not constitute a “cut,” and that the federal government spending less on Medicare is not even a “cut” in the expected budgets, we can just call it beneficent “savings.” As Rich Lowry pointed out to me yesterday, conservatives have been making the former argument for years, great to hear Democrats have finally signed on (and, no less, because O’Brien believes it’s a fact without which our public discourse is hopelessly poisoned). And of course, if all cuts in government spending are merely “savings,” why aren’t we doing it more often?

As Mediaite explains, yesterday O’Brien attempted to defend herself after her encounter with John Sununu via a further “fact check,“ since, “when it comes to the facts, we like to hold all our guests accountable.” She apparently likes to let herself run free with the “facts,” however, since she continues to embarrass herself by claiming on the basis of facts that the president’s health-care reform law does not cut Medicare funding. She relies on a semantic dispute to put forth her essential claim: “that same CBO report says keeping Obamacare would not mean a $700 billion decrease in Medicare funding. The cost of Medicare would continue to rise, just not as rapidly.” As I explained in my piece, reducing the rate of expected Medicare growth is indeed a “cut,” as anyone familiar with budgetary math can tell you, especially when a program’s costs have good reasons to rise (new expensive medical technology, an aging population). To find out the truth, O’Brien could also read the story in today’s Washington Post by their health-care reporter, Sarah Kliff; just the headline, in fact, would suffice: “Romney’s right: Obamacare cuts Medicare by $716 billion.”

O’Brien also again proffers the tired defense that there would be no reductions in benefits, only cuts in payments to providers and insurance companies, and leaps to Obama’s defense, complaining that “the Romney campaign argues that this will ultimately lead to reduced access to health care.” Inconveniently for O’Brien, the “Romney campaign argument” has been the position of the Medicare actuaries for years (and is virtually a truism among health-care economists). In the face of that authoritative argument, O’Brien cites’s argument that the slate of benefits paid for by Medicare would not change: This is indeed a fact, but an irrelevant one. But don’t worry what the Medicare actuaries say; O’Brien has a better authority, noting that Obamacare has been endorsed by AARP, the “senior-citizen advocacy group which generally opposes any policies which would negatively affect seniors.”

She then sparred this morning against Tim Pawlenty, and repeated the same series of arguments which I debunked in my piece yesterday (such as the suggestion that trade groups’ endorsement of Obamacare means that physicians will accept patients at much-reduced rates; that’s an argument, not a fact, and a really bad one at that).

She does trot out one new argument-as-fact, though: In attempting to fact-check the new Romney ad about Medicare cuts, she laments, “the next thing it says in that ad, ‘money you paid for guaranteed health care,’ but isn’t that just specifically not true? I mean, it’s not money anybody’s paid yet; it’s future spending which still goes up.” Pawlenty responded with basically fair Romney-campaign talking points to counter her basically unfair Obama-campaign ones, but there’s a much simpler response: Has Soledad O’Brien never heard of a Medicare Trust Fund? She went to Harvard — surely she knows what a trust fund is: a pot of money set aside for a future purpose. In this case, it’s a very big pot and the future purpose is very expensive; Americans have paid to guarantee their future Medicare benefits, and Obamacare will redirect some of that money to spend on subsidies to help Americans above the poverty line buy health insurance.

O’Brien’s crusade, surely not her last, is worth watching:

The Corner

The one and only.