Now they even have Kevin Drum!

FRIDAY, OCTOBER 4, 2013

The most obvious question on earth: Everybody makes mistakes. For example, we made a mistake in 2002, though we try not to dwell or obsess on it.

That said, we thought Kevin Drum got something wrong yesterday. He was annoyed with CNN’s Dana Bash for asking Harry Reid the most obvious question on earth.

Republicans had proposed passing a small CR to fund cancer treatments for children, which have been suspended in the government shutdown. Working from an account by Dave Weigel, Drum posted this version of the exchange in which Bash posed her question to Reid:
WEIGEL (10/3/13): CNN's Dana Bash asked Senate Democratic leaders if they'd back the new piecemeal bill.

"What right do they have to pick and choose what parts of government can be funded?" asked Reid.

"But if you can help one child with cancer, why wouldn't you?" asked Bash.
“Ugh. It's irksome that reporters like Bash are so eager to play gotcha with obvious Republican talking points,” Drum said.

We’re puzzled by that reaction, which was widely trumpeted in comments.

(Please note: We aren’t talking about what Reid said in reply to this question. Drum, and commenters, criticized Bash for asking the question at all.)

We’re puzzled by Drum’s criticism of Bash. That seems like the world’s most obvious question, given the fact that the GOP had advanced the piecemeal proposal.

Why wouldn’t a journalist ask that question once the proposal had been advanced? Beyond that, who won’t Democrats go along with these piecemeal CRs?

As the tribal lines hardened, commenters struggled to assert that this was an absurd idea. But it isn’t an absurd idea. Bash’s question made perfect sense, and we haven’t yet heard a good answer:

Why shouldn’t you fund the cancer treatments, if that is the only thing the GOP lets you do?

This is a time of tribal stress. Drum’s commenters tried to stay in line with the Democratic position, which said that all the funding should be done in one bill.

Ideally, we agree with that! But if the GOP will only do this, why wouldn’t you sign that CR?

Commenters seemed to fear that the GOP would score a political win that way. We have no idea why that would be the case. Each time Obama signed one of those tiny CRs, it would provide a high-profile opportunity to note the sheer absurdity of what the GOP is doing.

Politically, it would be a great gig for Dems. Everyone would be able to see how silly the spectacle was.

In this case, it would also get some kids treated for cancer! As an American journalist once memorably asked, “But if you can help one child with cancer, why wouldn't you do that?”

69 comments:

  1. Oh, dear. We've been told many times here that this blog isn't about politics, but media, and therefore Somerby's ignorance of, and indifference to, policy issues is irrelevant.

    But here we have Somerby, with his vast legislative experience, proclaiming that it's good for the Democrats to fund government one piece at a time, exactly as Republicans decree, with no thought to what this might mean to future funding disputes, or what it's implications might be -- for example, what happens when Republicans have funded all their "priorities" and are perfectly content to see the rest of it drowned in the bathtub?

    So, because Bob agrees with the underlying assumption of the question, that question isn't at all tendentious.

    In other words, as long as journalism promotes policies Bob agrees with, it can't be faulted for failing utterly to do its job.

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    1. That last paragraph betrays some faulty logic.

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    2. Anonymous Coward, the underlying assumption of the question exists. This isn'y some gotcha hypothetical, but an actual question of life and death.

      Is it a game, being played by the Republicans, choosing to save some lives, but ignoring other funding which will also save lives? Absolutely. And the Senate Democratic leaders should have been prepared with just that answer.

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    3. JoshSN:

      Leave now.

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  2. Why wouldn't you do whatever the republicans will allow you to do?

    Bob,
    I may be dumb, but I ain't stupid.

    LG

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  3. The Democrats should have an answer prepared for that. The standard response to any general shutdown, is to shift the focus from the general to specific. This risk is increased by the way when advocates of a broad solution cite specific issues.

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    1. How well did Democrats answer when you disaggregate?

      Delete
  4. Bob,
    For you to pretend that republicans are honorable is laughable. They HATE democrats. They have HATED democrats since FDR. They even hate Lincoln and TR.
    They hated HST; They hated JFK; They hated LBJ, They hated Clinton & Gore.
    And especially Obama. I wonder why.
    Your advice is: Give in to their hatred. Don't hate them back. They can be converted to goodness and light,
    No shit!
    Tell me when.
    My attitude toward republicans: Go fuck yourselves.
    I hate you too.

    LG

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    1. You seem to have read more in what Bob said than is there. Where and when did he advise to "Give in to their hatred"?

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    2. I assume you are new to this blog.
      Bob has relentlessly excoriated "liberals" & "progressives" to be nice to racist assholes.

      Not me.

      LG

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    3. LG,

      Could we ask you to just go away? Your imputation of this hatred, I think you are poisoned by recent decades. Things were far better decades ago.

      For example, DemocracyCorps analyzed the motivations of Republicans, and finds anti-Obama/Pelosi/CongressionalDems to be a strong force, but hardly the only force in the GOP. So, you are, even worse at looking at all time through the current lens, imputing the motivations of some Republicans to all of them.

      http://www.democracycorps.com/Republican-Party-Project/mapping-the-republican-brain/

      Delete
    4. Josh,
      I am not going away.
      I know the truth hurts.
      Racist bastards are my enemies.
      Every time.

      LG

      Delete
  5. Let your kids eat dessert before vegetables.Pass what the GOP thinks are just the important functions of government, Why wouldn't you do those things? In the first case, because your kids need to eat vegetables even if they have not yet acquired a taste for them. In the second case because there are many more important functions and departments of government than the ones the GOP thinks are popular.
    Like children, they do not get to pick and chose.

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    1. Funding a life & death program is hardly desert, it is certainly protein. Killing kids as part of a principled stand to support the ACA is still killing kids.

      Life & Death comes first.

      And, the Constitution _does_ give them the power to pick and choose, so, you got that part actually wrong.

      Delete
  6. To start finding funding piece by piece buys into the false GOP notion that it should decide what parts of government are "legitimate."

    It's a long slippery slope, explained poorly by Reid, but true nonetheless.

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  7. Perhaps everybody should look at the facts.
    The NIH is not sending sick kids out into the street to die a horrible death.
    They simply are not initiating NEW CLINICAL TRIALS on NEW Patients.

    There may only be a slight delay, which would be much shorter than the normal bureaucratic delays associated with experimental drug therapies.

    "As long as the government is shut down, the National Institutes of Health will turn away roughly 200 patients each week from its clinical research center, including children with cancer.

    That's according to Francis Collins, director of the National Institutes of Health. He laid out the situation for the Wall Street Journal:
    At the National Institutes of Health, nearly three-quarters of the staff was furloughed. One result: director Francis Collins said about 200 patients who otherwise would be admitted to the NIH Clinical Center into clinical trials each week will be turned away. This includes about 30 children, most of them cancer patients, he said.

    Here's some broader context: Individuals typically enroll in trials at the NIH Clinical Center "only when standard medical treatments have failed, and other treatment options are not available. As a result, they have no other alternatives." It's a place where patients undergo experimental therapies and researchers study rare diseases. The center typically sees 10,000 new patients each year.
    The Clinical Center won't simply close its doors during the shutdown. It will still keep 2,564 staff on hand for patient care and maintain about 90 percent of its normal load, according to an agency memo. Existing patients will still get treated as usual.
    But the rules of the shutdown mean that the Clinical Center "would not be accepting new patients or initiating new clinical protocols during a hiatus," the memo said.
    So, as a result of the budget impasse, there will be a certain number of patients who have exhausted all their options, were hoping to undergo treatment at the NIH Clinical Center, and won't get admitted — at least until the shutdown is resolved."

    http://www.washingtonpost.com/blogs/wonkblog/wp/2013/10/01/the-shutdown-could-prevent-kids-with-cancer-from-getting-treatment/


    Maybe we should ask, "Why wouldn't you let an American kid get an experimental drug, but risk hundreds of thousands of other children worldwide to possibly starve to death or be sold into slavery if the economy collapses?"

    There is no guarantee the experimental drugs would save lives, just as there is no certainty the economy would collapse.

    Bash's question is NOT "fair and balanced", it's as emotionally loaded as a question can get.

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    1. "As long as the government is shut down, the National Institutes of Health will turn away roughly 200 patients each week from its clinical research center, including children with cancer."

      Bad phrasing, which reinforces Drum's point. It should say that clinical trials are postponed, not that "kids are turned away". Of course we don't know how many kids might actually be helped by the treatments (certainly not all of them).

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    2. Less than a year ago I entered an experimental program to save my life. It wasn't in my home town. I was lucky, because I had a sister, and a friend, in town, whom I could stay with.

      It's only weeks, probably, but let's not pretend it's always as simple as showing up at the door with a smile on.

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    3. First of all, thanks for the explanation because, as it were, I was puzzling over this assertion that cancer treatment had been cut off for some children. Now, this puts the whole thing into perspective. So, did Bash explain the situation before launching into her loaded query? I am guessing no, she didn't. I think one would be correct to get irritated with such a question. And I am not going to even touch on the irony of the republicans pleading for the socialized medicine to save the children.

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  8. Unbelievable.

    Hatred is the singularly animating force of all politics now.

    Everything is servile to that.

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    1. You may be right Cecelia. Thanks to belief in BOB, however, I am learning to love jounalists like Dana B instead of hate them any more.

      But I would put money on stupidity too. As an animating force. Which means you can't be totally right about the singularity of hate. In my opinion. So I made a mistake in Line 1. I won't dwell on it.

      And what about money? Can we agree it's out of the picture (animated or still) as a motivator for the moment? Or off the table as the politicians like to say?

      Tomorrow: We'll take up the irksome R-factor motivating people in whom we spy a glimmer of humanity.

      KZ

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    2. CeceliaMC:

      You ought to know, being a major flamethrower and name-caller. Or is your hypocrisy preventing you from seeing that?

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    3. Anon4:41, I'm sorry. Forgive me.

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    4. Insightful analysis. New and innovative thinking.

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    5. Do you follow the political scientists at VoteView.com, CeceliaMc?

      They use a mathematical formula and analyze all the votes in Congress and their result is that this is the most divided time in living memory (early 1920s was close) and probably the most divided time since Reconstruction.

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  9. OMB

    We agree with BOB. It is irksome that someone would call a reporter's question irksome. Especially when the writer, in this case Drum, doesn't post a 10 part series demonstrating why the question is irksome.

    We also agree with BOB that the important point is to DISAPPEAR
    that Drum's post was about Reid's piss poor answer, and his critique
    of Bash was her phrasing the question in a form of Republican talking points which he quickly dismissed as "but them's the breaks. That stuff happens." That main part of Drum's post was just stupid, like suggesting it mattered how Dukakis answered the "What if you little Kitty was raped" question from Bernie Shaw.

    Finally, BOB indicates he reads Drum's comments. Obviously Drum does too, but unlike BOB, he responds to them in his text. We find that irksome. Especially in times of tribal stress and societal paralysis.

    That's our narrative and we are sticking to it. We made a mistake back in '02 as well. All of our analysts on Planet Doom were purged. Poor little bastards hardly knew what hit 'em much less had time to dwell or obsess about it. We put up a plaque for them on our palatial grounds.

    Zarkon (King of Doom, TCc)

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    1. King of Douche, I'm sure you meant to type.

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    2. Zarkon, oh mighty King!

      It must warm even the cockles of your ruthless and hardened heart to see the GOP so suddenly concerned with sick kids.

      Delete
    3. It pleases us to know your GOP will fund the NIH death panels who determine which children get experimented upon and which do not. Zarkon fears, but does not know for sure (does anybody) that far more children with cancer are turned away than are given permission to get governmentally funded experiements performed on them.

      Zarkon wonders if the American jounalist asking the question knows if any of these children are harmed in the experiments? If this is the case, then Harry Reid is a life saver.

      What warms the Zarkon's cockles was the thoroughness with which JoshSN touched so many human hearts and swayed so many minds during his momentary but intellectually stimulating passage through the thread. Zarkon's cockles, however, are not found in his circulatory muscles. It is for this reason that we took the initiative in our court to create the douche.

      KZ

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  10. "There is nothing wrong with passing a continuing resolution to fund cancer treatment for kids; and if that's the only thing the Republicans are willing to fund, we should fund it. And if it comes to a vote we'll vote for it -- funding the NIH is important.

    "But our government isn't shut down now because anyone disagrees about helping children with cancer, Dana, it's shut down because a minority of Congress have decided to throw a childish tantrum and refuse to allow a simple up or down vote on the budget -- That's the real problem with the GOP that we've got to get Mr. Boehner to address."

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    1. Anonymous Coward, both sides are preventing votes to continue funding the government. A single vote in either chamber could end it, today.

      Delete
    2. Josh the Troll:

      U.S. Representative Dennis Ross, a Florida Republican, said he’d support a broad spending deal that didn’t include changes to the health-care law, becoming the first Tea Party-backed House lawmaker to publicly back off the fight that’s shut down the government for four days.
      Ross, ranked among the House’s most conservative members by both the Club for Growth and the American Conservative Union, said he’s shifted his position because the shutdown hasn’t resulted in changes to the Affordable Care Act, which started Oct. 1, the same day government funding ran out. The shutdown also could hurt the party, he said.

      “We’ve lost the CR battle,” Ross, referring to the continuing resolution to authorize government spending, said in an interview. “We need to move on and take whatever we can find in the debt limit.”

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    3. I just read the Bloomberg article. Strangely, as of 5pm last night, Rep. Dennis Ross was still tweeting to the Senate that he wants them to pass the House version of the CR. So, I'm skeptical how deeply rooted is his reversal.

      https://twitter.com/RepDennisRoss/status/386233796871593984

      Delete
  11. "The Republicans want us to fund doing experimental treatments for kids with cancer but want to block any other funding until we repeal the law insuring all the other kids and adults who need cancer treatment.

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    1. Nice idea.

      "The Republicans want us to fund doing experimental treatments for kids with cancer, but want to block the law insuring millions of other kids and adults could get cancer treatment if they need it."

      Delete
  12. Two short and correct responses to the Bash question (use as appropriate):
    (1) Have you never seen Sophie's Choice?
    (2) Who do they mean us to kill instead?
    (spinozista)

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  13. I laughed at the joke about Bob's mistake from 2002. Bob is a really funny guy, cheers

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    1. Me too. '02 was a good year.

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  14. "Why shouldn’t you fund the cancer treatments, if that is the only thing the GOP lets you do?" -- bob somerby, gop operative

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    1. heil howler, but the argument for the ACA is that it's vital to get every American insured. That no matter how much conservatives may argue about unintended consequences, etc, that it will always be unacceptable for any American to suffer the consequence of not being insured.

      Any other position has been viewed as tantamount to not caring if people die.

      How easily that stand has been jettisoned here.

      Delete
    2. OMG, Cecelia. Jettisoned. That's what the fight is all about. Health care. Good lordy, I didn't think even you could be that gullible or stupid.

      Instead of swallowing all the crap Fox News feeds you whole, try using your head for a change. You do know what your head is. It's that lump three feet above your ass.

      Delete
    3. Anon. @ 10:44

      I challenge your math.

      In an earlier thread it was established by one of Cecelia's teammates on the BOB Cheer squad (Lindy I recall) that your average human can be fit into a 12" x 12" cube for purposes of rock concert attendance approximation. I am not sure if that requires one's head to be three feet above, three feet below, or stuck up one's ass.

      In the Hispanic community however, they make family decisions about whether kids need to answer stinking questions about rock concert attendance.
      Harry Reid was re-elected thanks to the Hispanic vote. He don't need to answer no stinking stupid questions either.

      Your blogosphere is refreshing. May you and your planetary brethern enjoy peace, less fiber in your diet, more rigor in your math and enough lube to get out of your cubicles in case you don't.

      KZ

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    4. KZ, what the fuck are you talking about?

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    5. OMG. I thought you were the other anonymous.

      KZ

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    6. ceceliamc, regarding making an exception for the funding of the cancer treatments. in germany there is an old adage "ordnung muss sein", there must be order . . . it should not be negotiable.

      any discrete action which *in isolation* may be socially beneficial, but which weakens good order is on balance negative. [except rarely when the current order is generally deemed detrimental to society overall.]

      to somewhat alter voltaires “Le mieux est l'ennemi du bien”: the pursuit of the better can become the enemy of the good.

      Delete
    7. CeceliaMc,

      No, the argument for the ACA is that it's important to get most Americans access to health insurance. The previous plan was not sustainable; the current plan may be better. In any case, it's the law. We're not dealing with the opinions of conservatives. No real conservative would consider the current hostage-taking proper legislative conduct. No matter how much teahadists and other Republicans cowed by teahadists may argue about unintended consequences, the fact is that no one knows all the consequences. Mostly because the full provisions of the law haven't taken effect. Taking the position that we must defund the law now because of dire predictions based on ignorance is tantamount to irrationality.

      If the law has unfortunate unintended consequences, then our representatives can fix those when they happen. If the law has nothing but unfortunate unintended consequences, then our reps can repeal it.

      Delete
    8. "Journalists can only cover stories when they can get them, which involves communication."

      Delete
    9. deadrat, I'm not arguing the wisdom of the shutdown.

      Any time I have argued for entitlement reform, the other side has waived away all my objections to the status quo with the argument that at bottom their positions met the needs of people and that mine limited that number, or helped them not at all.

      "Do you want people to go without because you're concerned with so-and-so..." has been the final answer.

      Yet here, in this matter, that bottom line has disappeared.

      Delete
    10. Anon10:44pm, you need to get an argument or get better insults.

      As it stands, you ain't getting it done.

      Delete
    11. KZ, finally an area you know whereof you speak.

      Lube.

      Delete
    12. heil howler, generally such discrete and isolated actions are called "mercy".

      Delete
  15. Dropping by here occasionally still, I've decided that Bob is most like Ted Cruz, a narcissistic bomb-thrower.

    If you read this post carefully, Bob could just be saying, "Damn, why aren't liberal pols and pundits better prepared to answer questions which they should have anticipated and should therefore be able to hit out of the park?" It's hardly news, btw, that Dems, esp. Harry Reid, are bad at messaging, even the respectable kind of messaging. But no harm in pointing that out again, if done clearly.

    If we go by this post, Bob may even understand how disastrous it would be (for the republic) for the dems to agree to fund isolated CR lines. I don't think he actually says anything clearly to the contrary. Yet he seems careful to withhold actively communicating that understanding, so it's also possible to interpret him as suggesting that the dems should in fact be so agreeing.

    So, where does Bob stand?

    Bob has positioned himself such that he isn't sharing insights with others so much as he's standing apart from, and superior to, everyone else, stirring up trouble among all the inferior "tribes." It's all about him. (The worst sort of teaching, btw.)

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    1. "So, where does Bob stand," you ask.

      BOB says so clearly three paragraphs from the end.
      "We have no idea..." says BOB.

      However, we do know from previous work BOB suggest it would be OK for Harry, if he gets the CR passed, and one of the experiments works, to claim he "took the inititive to create a cancer cure." Politically it would be a great gig for Dems.

      KZ

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    2. mch, yes it is "...all about him". good to bear this in mind whenever reading this thing.

      Delete
    3. Ted Cruz is a member of Congress who is seeking to disrupt the functions of government. Bob is a independent journalist.

      It is sufficient for an independent journalist to say, like a stern parent "Stop doing that!"

      Some of what the Democrats are doing is wrong. My sister is a huge Obama supporter, but her initial reaction to learning why the Democrats weren't supporting these mini-funding bills was "Well, I'm not sure how I feel about that, but..."

      Politically the Democrat's arguments against mini-funding make sense, practically, they don't.

      Bob has never cared for the political aims or aspirations of either party.

      Delete
    4. " It's all about him. "

      Yeah, he should get his own damn blog!

      Oh, wait...

      Delete
    5. JoshSN, "Bob has never cared for the political aims or aspirations of either party." Really? So Bob's foundational narrative for this blog, that journalists' total lack of professionalism played a decisive role in Al Gore's not being elected president, and that Al Gore would have been a far better president than George Bush, is not to be confused with Bob's caring about the political aims or aspirations of either party?

      Of course some of what the Democrats are doing is wrong. How could that not be true of any group? But refusing to fall for the Republicans' incremental CR ploy is the right thing for them to do, since this is just another hostage-taking ploy by a small group of Republicans in the House and their so-called "leadership."

      Pass a clean CR (which, for a limited time, would restore ALL existing programs at levels set out in the last budget) and THEN have proper negotiations about a new budget. This would be the practical thing to do (and it's the way Congress is designed to work when it hasn't passed a new budget by the Oct. 1 deadline), and this is all the Democrats (and many Republicans, if few of them on the public record) are asking for.

      The Tea Party-types don't want to do this because they don't have the power to stop enactment of the ACA (even whose funding they have few opportunities to affect), and they just cannot accept that they lost that political battle. So, instead of compromising with a Democratic-controlled Senate, a Democratic president, and Democrats in the House to produce a budget, and even though the budget presented them by the Senate has more cuts than Paul Ryan proposed and continues the arbitrary cuts of sequestration, a small group of Republicans in the House has engineered what amounts to a rebellion against governance. Harry Reid and President Obama are right to refuse to negotiate about a clean CR with these rebels.

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    6. "But refusing to fall for the Republicans' incremental CR ploy is the right thing for them to do, since this is just another hostage-taking ploy[.]"

      The needle on _your_ speculator is hitting "absolute certainty," but others are more circumspect.

      Following Jon Haidt, the moral guidepost that liberals and conservatives share is "do no harm." Voting against things that will prevent harm is liable to influence those who aren't blinded by partisan interests.

      Delete
    7. You treat the patient before you, but you do so in a context of complex regimens that all the doctors and nurses and others work hard to practice and that are designed to address the needs of EVERY patient who may come before you. As a matter of policy, then, "Do no harm" requires you to think beyond simply the patient before you at the moment (especially if she just could use a few stitches -- think WWII vets wanting to visit the WWII Memorial, for instance).
      Boy, that "do no harm" can be misused.

      Delete
  16. i do hereby declare by the power invested in me by my vaguely scary monicker that any commenter who asks another commenter to go away shall him or herself go away. failure to obey this now hard commenter law shall result in uncontrollable self loathing or the heartbreak of psoriasis or both.

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    1. So, you just Godwin'd yourself!

      Of course, we *know* you're NEVER going to go away lowercasedouchebag!

      Delete
  17. This comment has been removed by the author.

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  18. Actually Dash's whole interview was obnoxious and unprofessional and reeked of everything his despised in crap journalism when Tim Russart pulled it on Al Gore. Her comment alone "O.K., so you are calling Boehner a wimp" would have gotten her fired in a sane world.
    As Paster Bob used to protest, and how he has shown us in a few rather sordid occasions, "I'm not that liberal." Events sometimes paint him into a bit of a corner, as they did when he told us Romney's 48 per cent comment was not that bad and kind of true, and they have done it this week. All The Paster can do with the truth of what the poor little Tea Party has done is blather about "times of tribal tension." Can we talk? Bob doesn't care much about struggling Americans or people with no heath care. The Paster can only showboat about school kids. Your Church is smelly this week, Pastor Bob.

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    1. Bear in mind it's also only showboating about the school kids. TDH has never shown any support for any progressive journalism or policy on school kids.

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    2. At this point, I don't know about the school kids, but he has a fairly Republican record of telling the 47 percent to stuff it.

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  19. You don't fund one item at a time. The Democrats (believe it or not, finally) are doing the right thing.

    You want to save kids with cancer? Have a clean CR brought up for a vote on the floor and stop pretending it's appropriate to negotiate with terrorists.

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