Saving Private Gregory!


When Gregory caves, that’s news: Since it was Sunday, it was Meet the Press.

Since Mitt Romney was the guest, he offered a slippery groaner. He seemed to say that he would retain the part of Obamacare which ensures coverage for people with pre-existing conditions.

This makes no real sense, of course—and, within a matter of hours, the Romney campaign began walking the statement back. But even before that walk-back occurred, Kevin Drum noted the absurdity of what Romney had said.

Drum was first to the scene of the crime. But just like that, Drum broke our hearts:
DRUM (9/9/12): Under normal circumstances, I'd write a long post about how ridiculous this is. If you guarantee that people with preexisting conditions can get coverage, people will game the system by getting coverage only when they get sick. To avoid that, you have to create a stable risk pool for insurers by mandating that everyone maintain coverage all the time. And if you have a mandate, then you need to subsidize poor people, which in turn means you have to have a funding source for the subsidies. More here.

Like I said, that's what I'd do under normal circumstances. But host David Gregory didn't bother asking Romney about any of these pesky details, and I guess I can hardly blame him since Romney wouldn't have answered.
Drum was right about Gregory’s failure to challenge Romney’s statements. But then, Drum said he can’t exactly blame Gregory for that!

The analysts started to cry.

Maybe Drum was just being flip. But challenging Romney on such an obvious point is the most basic part of Gregory’s job.

It’s hardly a shock that Gregory didn’t do this. Gregory, a genial mega-insider, is extremely soft.

But there’s no point airing a program like Meet the Press if Gregory is going to let his guests make such misleading statements. This brings us back to something Bill Turque should have reported in the Washington Post.

On Monday morning, Turque reported Romney’s Meet the Press session. Quite correctly, he flagged the problem with what Romney said:
TURQUE (9/10/12): Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney says that while he intends to dismantle the Obama administration's health-care law if elected, he will retain several key provisions, including coverage for preexisting conditions.

In an interview aired Sunday on NBC's _blank"Meet the Press," Romney said his health-care overhaul will also allow families to cover adult children with their policies through age 26 and include access to coverage for unemployed people seeking insurance. Both are part of the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act, signed into law by Obama in 2010.

"I'm not getting rid of all health-care reform," Romney said. "Of course there are a number of things that I like in health-care reform that I'm going to put in place."

Romney's promises are not altogether new. But, delivered in a major network interview at the outset of the fall campaign, they had the ring of an explicit appeal to a general-election audience, especially moderate independent voters leery of wrenching changes in their health care.

The Obama campaign disputed some of Romney's assurances. It said that his plan would cover preexisting conditions only for the continuously insured, excluding those who have never had private coverage or who have lost it because of unemployment. People in such circumstances have been protected under federal law since 1996.

"When Romney was governor of Massachusetts, he really did have a comprehensive plan to make sure people with pre-existing conditions could get coverage, which is why his Massachusetts health reform law formed the basis for Obamacare," Obama campaign spokeswoman Liz Smith said in a statement. "But now, he has pledged to repeal the national law modeled on his successful efforts, and has offered an inadequate plan in its place."

Independent health-care analysts have said that Romney's promise to retain coverage for those with preexisting conditions would be difficult to keep without enforcing the individual mandate, which the GOP opposes.
In our view, Turque didn’t flag this problem sharply enough, or early enough in his report. But over at the New York Times, non-excitable boy Michael Barbaro simply reported what Romney said. In his typically silly report, he didn’t note the obvious problems with Romney’s pledges at all. (See THE DAILY HOWLER, 9/10/12.)

Turque did much better than Barbaro—but we think he omitted one player. Gregory’s failure to challenge Romney’s statements was also part of the story.

Romney made some improbable statements; Gregory chose not to notice. Gregory’s failure to challenge Romney should have been in Turque’s report.

David Gregory is a multimillionaire major TV news star. It’s his job to challenge such statements.

When journalists refuse to function, that’s news. Gregory’s failure to challenge Romney should have been in Turque’s report.

Assignment: Rewrite Turque's report, remembering to cite Private Gregory


  1. Bob claims that it "makes no real sense" to ensure coverage for people with pre-existing conditions without having a mandate forcing people to buy insurance. In fact, a number of states have "Take all comers" laws. These laws force insurance companies to accept people regardless of pre-existing conditions.

    1. Yep, they sure do. For auto insurance. Accompanied by a mandate that all drivers purchase insurance.

    2. Apparently, Maryland has such a law for health insurance. One certainly is "a number of states."

      Maryland also have many other complementary regulations, making the comparison to the federal PP/ACA and its mandate far from straightforward.

      These additional regulations, of course, just like a mandate, make a mockery of "free market" nostrums and it is unclear why they should be preferable to an outright mandate.

    3. I neglected to post my reply (below) as a proper forum reply.

      Not assuming my comment about the Obamacare pre-existing condition program is authoritative, but might be relevant.

      David: Thanks for the "good faith" reply. My tone was just a shade confrontational, and I wish it would not have been, though very mild compared some I've read on this forum.

      Anonymous September 11, 2012 1:21 PM (below): Thanks for looking out for me :-)
      I do lurk (never posting til now) on this forum a fair amount and finally decided to post. I do often disagree (silently up until now) with David (in Cal), so I understand your response, but between us we did get a response I'd classify as good faith :-)

  2. "Everyone knows that black fourth-graders now score higher in math than white fourth-graders did when Bill Clinton took office."
    Hmmmmm. Is it the same test? Are the students from identical socio-economic backgrounds? If the test has been changed and/or given to different blocks of students the results are of little comparative value....

    1. If you have read previous posts by Bob, then you know that the NAEP is carefully written so that each time it is administered, it is no easier or harder than the previous tests. It is not a "high stakes" test so there is little incentive to cheat (that is not to say that cheating isn't possible, but that there is nothing to gain by doing so). The entire purpose of the test is to measure (over time) how students perform in the US, and to compare how different groups of students (i.e. by socioeconomic status, race, etc) perform. Why not go to the NAEP website and education yourself?

    2. Also, I think you posted this to the wrong blog post...

  3. Quote:
    "In fact, a number of states have "Take all comers" laws. These laws force insurance companies to accept people regardless of pre-existing conditions."

    As far as I can tell after a few minutes research, no insurance companies are forced to take anyone. The states or federal government provide and the federal government subsidizes, for all states, insurance for those uninsured with pre-existing conditions.

    This has been in place since 2010. Is this what you are referring to?

    Either way, this is what's now popularly known as Obamacare.

    If there are other laws, please reference them, or at least name the states.
    Maybe these laws made sense before 2010? If so, I'd like to know how they worked and what outcomes they produced, so please at least name a state.

    1. Glen,

      DinC will not be answering your question in good faith (if at all). You don't need to bother to check back here later.

    2. You may be right, Glen. I may have been confusing the controversy over "take all comers" with the one over "community rating."

  4. DinC,

    Just because a state passes a law doesn't mean that law automatically "makes sense."

    I live in Arizona; I see it every day.

  5. Willard Romney is not a policy wonk. The most disturbing thing about Romney is that he just wants to be president. He has so little respect for his constituents that he believes he can say whatever he wants and get away with it. How anyone could want this egotist to be the top public servant is beyond understanding.

    Like many businesspeople he has little concern with ideology, because people with good sense do not waste time on such a trivial matter. Profit is king not public service and a nation's welfare.

    When Mr. Prince, the CEO of Blackwater, was asked how he determined which side of a conflict he would sell his services to, his response was, "We do not get involved in the internal affairs of a client state."

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