MEDICARE MUDDLE: Gingrich advances that poisonous charge!


Matthews rolls over and dies: Last evening, on MSNBC, Newt Gingrich was echoing Big Ed Schultz.

On Monday night, Big Ed noted a troubling fact. According to a new Washington Post/ABC poll, voters trust Romney more than Obama on the handling of Medicare.

For obvious reasons, Schultz was troubled by that result. A bit of background:

All over MSNBC, the hapless collection of children and hacks chortled when Romney selected Paul Ryan. The selection doomed Romney, we liberals were told, due to Ryan’s Medicare policies.

All the children laughed and partied, helping us liberals get even dumber. But uh-oh!

Last night, responding to Chris Matthews, Gingrich cited that same poll:
GINGRICH (8/29/12): I thought it was fascinating today that a new poll came out, and by 45 to 42, the country now trusts Governor Romney more than President Obama on Medicare. Now, Romney has had a huge advantage on the economy. This is the first time I have seen him start to pull away on Medicare.
In fact, the poll came out a few days ago. But Newt had the numbers right.

Does that poll signal an actual trend? If so, will the trend last? At this point, there’s no way to know. But if you wonder why the public might be buying the Romney line, you need look no farther than last night’s session with Gingrich.

Darling Rachel and Race Hero Chris conducted the discussion with Newt. To see the way our heroes fail, let’s review the pitiful first exchange between Matthews and Gingrich.

The session started with a doomed question from Maddow. Effortlessly, Gingrich batted her question away.

He then cited Barack Obama’s now-famous Medicare theft:
MADDOW (8/29/12): I wonder how you’re thinking about Paul Ryan tonight, because you were interesting in the past. You said he was engaging in “right-wing social engineering” with regard to his budget policy. Have you adjusted your own thinking on that sense?

GINGRICH: No, what happened was Paul Ryan reached out, worked with Democrat Ron Wyden of Oregon, created I think a much better version of his Medicare reform, which does allow people under 55 to stay in traditional Medicare if they want to.

It’s the only bipartisan program for Medicare reform that we have seen. I think it’s a very defensible proposal. I think it met every single concern I had. And it creates an environment where—

Remember, first of all, if you’re over 55, nothing is done except they return the $716 billion that Barack Obama has taken out of Medicare. If you’re under 55, you have a series of choices that are really pretty close to the kind of health benefit plan that the Congress gives itself. And you can take a range of choices there that enable you to stay in the traditional system or to go to a variety of other choices.

I think it’s a very responsible system that puts power back in the hands of the individual and doesn’t center power in Washington.
Maddow’s question was easy to answer. Anybody would have known what Gingrich was going to say.

Gingrich gave the predictable answer, praising the Ryan-Wyden proposal. And sure enough: After batting Maddow’s question away, he cited the big sack of money Obama has stolen from Medicare.

That talking-point lies at the heart of the Romney Medicare message. Obama has stolen $716 billion from the Medicare trust fund! He’s using the money to pay for Obamacare! He’s stealing the money from seniors to pay for other people’s coverage!

Romney will return the money Obama has stolen from seniors!

Those charges are the heart and soul of Romney’s Medicare message. If voters are swinging Romney’s way, those charges are likely responsible.

Obama stole $716 billion from the Medicare trust fund! Gingrich recited the Romney campaign’s central charge.

Here’s how Matthews responded:
MATTHEWS (continuing directly): I’ll let that go, that claim about the president basically skimming 700 billion out. But here’s a weird problem, you know, in politics or in war: I think it’s what starts wars, when both sides think they can win on a front. Every Democrat I know, starting with like Steve Israel, head of the Democratic Campaign Committee, who has to get Democrats elected to the House, they’re thrilled that Ryan’s out there as the leader of your party on the issue of the budget and cutting spending and Medicare/Medicaid, all that stuff.

Yet the other side, your side seems to be ready to make the fight as well. How can both sides be right?
Good God. “I’ll let that go, that claim about the president basically skimming 700 billion!”

Exactly! Why would you challenge that?

So spoke the dumbest known human. In his response to Matthews’ question, Gingrich cited that new poll about the Medicare issue. He said the Democrats aren’t right about the politics of this fight.

He cited Ryan and Ryan’s mother, the mom who loves Medicare.

Matthews simply “let that go,” the claim about the sack of money Obama is stealing from Medicare! He never returned to that poisonous claim; neither did Maddow, whose doomed question started this mess. But before the interview session was done, Gingrich made an interesting statement:
GINGRICH: I helped lead Medicare reform in 1996. We trained our members for a year. We went back home. We knew how to explain it.

The result was Medicare wasn’t a big problem for us. It was solved.
Was Medicare a big problem for Republicans in the 1996 elections? We have no idea. But Gingrich was recalling the way the GOP fought, for two solid years, to shape the Medicare discussion during that earlier era.

“We trained our members for a year,” Gingrich said. “We knew how to explain it,” In fact, the GOP’s “explanation” during that era was grossly misleading, as is Romney's charge about that stolen money.

But Republicans did know how to advance their claims in 1996. And not only that! As Maraniss and Weisskopf reported, they hounded and harried the mainstream press corps about the correct and proper way to frame the Medicare discourse.

The GOP fought the press corps hard—and they massively won! In 1996, the press corps didn’t know how to respond to the party’s blatant deceptions about Medicare. Rather plainly, neither did Race Hero Matthews as he performed last night.

Did Obams steal $716 billion from the Medicare trust fund? Last night, Matthews and Maddow seemed to have no idea how to address this poisonous charge. Gingrich ate Maddow’s question for lunch. Matthews became his dessert.

Nothing will turn on last night’s discussion, a fleeting exchange on liberal TV. But especially in that comment by Matthews, you see the deep incompetence of the corporate-picked multimillionaires who pretend to advance your interests.

“I’ll let that go, that claim about the president basically skimming 700 billion out!” The truth is, this big bag of fail doesn’t know how to address that charge. There’s no sign that Maddow does either.

A few hours later, Maddow asked Ezra Klein to give us “the actual skinny on this much-spun fact.” Did Obama steal $716 billion? Did he spend the seniors’ money on all those other people?

Is Romney’s central charge accurate? Haplessly, Matthews rolled over and died. In our next post, we we’ll show you what Ezra Klein said.


  1. I'm trying to figure out how the GOP "massively won" in 1996.

    1. President Dole has some questions about that too.

    2. This might be of help?

    3. David in TajikistanAugust 31, 2012 at 2:51 AM

      On MEDICARE. Are are you incapable of reading and comprehending?*

      *A rhetorical and ironic question, since your comment already provides the answer.

  2. Does it not occur to you that Matthews may have been slapped down hard by the "suits" for his evisceration of Reince Priebus a couple days ago?

    Talk about tribal warfare, your unceasing war against Matthews is a perfect example of it.

  3. Unceasing war against Matthews??? Are you serious? Where in the hell have you been for the last 15 years? Matthews has been destroying progressive interests for a mighty long time. The fact he is still on the air and relevant speaks volumes about the total intellectual vacancy of the "liberal elite" and many posters. It does not make it ok because he now says mean things about republicans.

  4. Mathews' advocacy has always been ham-handed, but I think his current posturing as anti-racist hero is especially crude. This constant search for dog whistles to prove yet again that republicans are racist will change minds only to the extent it alienates those who don't think of the phrase "Chicago politics" as racial and find the suggestion ludicrous. Matthews and those like him can rub out a little moral orgasm with the confirmation that yes, indeed, they are morally superior. But it changes no minds, except for those it changes the wrong way.

  5. Rachel Maddow's presence on anything these days sickens me to my stomach. She's held up as a brilliant liberal hero but she's got about as much smarts as a door hinge, perhaps even less.

    Why not just take the $millions they're giving her and throw it into the air and let the random people who catch it do her job? They couldn't do much worse, and they probably wouldn't be as childish on sexuality issues, another huge disappointment when it comes to her nonsensical takes on such things.