Nancy Pelosi, evoking Al Kelly!


What would Wittgenstein do: Back in the 1930s, a vaudeville comedian named Al Kelly emerged as a master of double-talk.

We recall seeing Kelly on the Ed Sullivan show in the early 1960s. He would pretend to discuss some serious topic, but he would produce pure incoherence.

We thought of Kelly last Sunday morning as we watched Nancy Pelosi on Meet the Press. The horror began when David Gregory asked her about a statement she once made about the ACA:
GREGORY (11/17/13): The president has been apologetic. He has been accountable for saying something that was not the case. You were speaker of the House. You, in many ways, were seen as an architect and a key ally on this. And this is what you said back in June of 2009 on MSNBC. Watch.

PELOSI (videotape): What we are talking about is affordable, quality, accessible health care for all Americans. It's about choice. If you like what you have and you want to keep it, you have the choice to do that.

GREGORY: Are you accountable for saying something that turned out not to be correct?
Gregory’s question was clear and direct. We don’t want to prejudge the appropriate answer.

We don’t want to prejudge the answer. But here’s what Pelosi said to this, Gregory’s first attempt:
PELOSI (continuing directly): Well, it's not that it's not correct. It's that if you want to keep it— And it's important for the insurance company to say to people, “This is what your plan does; it doesn't prevent you from being discriminated against on the basis of pre-existing conditions; it doesn't—it's lifetime limits, annual limits and the rest of that.”
Did that collection of words make sense? Already, visions of Kelly had started to conquer our mind.

Gregory wasn’t satisfied with Pelosi’s response. Like a host playing straight man for Kelly, he decided to try it again:
GREGORY (continuing directly): There's a bottom line to this, which I think people understand and the president has acknowledged, which is, if there are not— The government is deciding there have to be minimum standards that are minimum requirements in any health care plan. So if you have something and you like it and it doesn't meet what the government says you have to have, you cannot keep it. And that's not what you said here.

PELOSI: If you had your plan before the enactment of the law in 2010, if you had your plan before— There is nothing in the law that says you have to— But you know, again, we can go back and forth in this. What–
At this point, Gregory broke in. This exchange ensued:
GREGORY (continuing directly): But this is an important— because the grandfathering has changed. And the bottom line is, the president acknowledged—it doesn't seem like you're acknowledging—that saying to people back in 2009, “Hey, this is going to be easy. If you like what you have, you can keep it. This is all about choice—”

PELOSI: And you could. You could if you had your plan until the enactment of the law in 2000 (sic) —any pre— Grandfathering is for those before 2000 (sic). But let me say this, and I commend the president. He's gracious, and he's taking responsibility. But that doesn't mean that there was anything in the law that said if you like what you had before 2010, you couldn't keep it. But I think it's really important to make that point. He took responsibility for the big picture, and that's important for him to do because that's what people see. But this is nothing— But you said earlier, if you— if the law says that you must— you can't— the law doesn't say that.

But again, neither here nor there. How do we go forward?
Gregory wasn’t willing to quit without making one last attempt. Here’s what happened:
GREGORY (continuing directly): But the bottom line is, people are getting policies that are canceled, and that was not the representation that was made. And it was also foreseeable. That was part of the debate that this would actually happen.

PELOSI: Well, now, I would agree with you for the policy since 2010, but not for the 2000 before (sic). But the president has also said that the insurance companies—and many of them have been very responsible, and some not so. The insurance company has to say to you, “You're not getting the exemption, pre-existing conditions; you will have lifetime limits; you will have annual limits.” And by the way, you have to tell people that they can go to the exchange, the marketplace, where they may qualify for a subsidy or they may just get a better price.
To watch the tape, click here. We’ve edited the transcript as fairly as we can.

Wittgenstein thought a great deal of “philosophical” discourse was, in effect, a form of doubletalk. In their “surface grammar,” philosophical statements sound like familiar, everyday statements which do in fact make sense.

Watching Pelosi, our thoughts went lower. We thought of Kelly, confusing us rubes on the Ed Sullivan show.

Brother Kelly explains: In this clip from 1956, “NBC chief engineer Pelman” tells Ernie Kovacs how the network will cover the political conventions.

Will NBC use a coaxial cable? Starting around 7:40, “Pelman” explains.

We’re not saying you’ll think this is funny. We’re saying it sounds like Pelosi.


  1. It's sad and amusing that Nancy Pelosi is incoherent. Harry Reid isn't much better. But, the really serious problem is that these two jerks were in charge of writing the ACA. No wonder it's an incomprehensible mess. I don't think the ACA will be repealed, but IMHO that's our only hope if we want to save health care in America.

    1. Most big laws seem like an incomprehensible mess, unless you're the people who wrote them.

      Also it's pretty sad that your idea of "saving" health care in America means making sure people with pre-existing conditions can't get insurance.

      Even with every [minor] flaw in the law, and the way the website has been implemented - it is STILL a massive improvement over the way things were.

    2. What's sad but unamusing, DAinCA, is that an ignoramus like you feels confident in calling the ACA an "incomprehensible mess." Let's face it. You don't know the first thing about the ACA and have simply accepted right-wing talking points as fact. You've made a wild charge: the President granted waivers for substandard insurance policies in 2013 in violation of the law, contrary to equal protection, and solely for political ends. I've repeatedly asked you to back up your claims, and I'm going to keep asking. Here they are again:

      1. Have you found the provision in the ACA that allows HHS to grant these waivers?
      2. Have you got evidence that Obama overruled the HHS to grant waivers for political reasons?
      3. How is it that the federal government is bound by equal protection when the 14th Amendment applies to the states?
      4. Assuming equal protection applies for these waivers, what level of scrutiny makes the waivers a violation?

      Don't you think you should be able to answer these questions before you pontificate again?

    3. deadrat, you don't need to be an insurance expert like me to know that Obamacare is FUBAR.

      -- It was supposed to provide universal insurance coverage. Instead it has provided millions of new uninsured.

      -- It was supposed to save the average family $2,500 per year. Instead, there have been large price increases.

      -- It was supposed to allow people to keep their insurance if they liked it, period. Instead, the majority cannot cannot keep their insurance.

      -- It was supposed to allow one to keep his doctor. But WaPo reports "Insurers restricting choice of doctors and hospitals to keep costs down...and...many of the plans exclude top-rated hospitals."

    4. DAinCA,

      It's possible that the ACA is fatally flawed, but whatever it fails to do hasn't happened yet for the simple reason that its main provisions don't take effect until 2014. You've apparently read some more right-wing screeds and have parroted them without engaging your brain. For instance, there are 48M uninsured in this country right now. Do you know how many of them will be able to get health insurance? An estimated 2-4M people were slated to lose substandard insurance policies that they could replace on the exchanges. Apparently, they'll be able to keep those next year. So how many people will actually be left uninsured?

      But before we address this new bunch of received wisdom, how about we finish our conversation about your claim that Obama illegally granted waivers for companies' substandard policies in 2013 for political reasons? Here are the questions I'm seeking the answers to:

      1. Have you found the provision in the ACA that allows HHS to grant these waivers?
      2. Have you got evidence that Obama overruled the HHS to grant waivers for political reasons?
      3. How is it that the federal government is bound by equal protection when the 14th Amendment applies to the states?
      4. Assuming equal protection applies for these waivers, what level of scrutiny makes the waivers a violation?

      I'm guessing you think I'm in favor of the ACA. For what it's worth, and that's not much, I'm not, so I'm not that interested in turning this conversation into a debate on its merits. The theme of this blog is "Don't Make Shit Up," whether its about misunderstood test scores or the interiority of others. In keeping with that, I'd like you to answer my four questions about some shit you just made up.

      What's so hard about this? I promise it will be good for you, and perhaps it will make you feel so good that you'll start to check things out for yourself. And then my time spent here will all be worth it.

      So go ahead. 1, 2, 3 4. Should be a snap for someone who's oh so sure of himself. What's the holdup?

    5. "Apparently, they'll be able to keep those next year."

      No, not just because Obama said so,state insurance commisions and the insurance companys themselves all have a say in this. To offer once again what was cancelled is not as simple as just doing so, or Obama saying that they can go ahead and do it.

  2. You mean politicians actually use double talk? Gee whilikers, Mr. Somerby! I'll never believe another one as long as I live, nosirree!

    1. Haha hahaha ha!

      No, but seriously: Pelosi sounds like a buffoon.

      It is (or it should be!) an embarrassment, if you're a "liberal" -- a hoot if you're a "conservative."

  3. It galls me that David Gregory and the rest of the media don't think that they bear any responsibility for accurately informing the people.

    It's a great irony that the majority of the media are for the ACA, but they couldn't read and investigate policy and the planned implementation of it.

    They'd rather talk about some gaff, some racial "dog whistle", someone with gravy on their tie...anything but what's consequential.

    Had they done their jobs they might have held the Administration's feet to the fire and prevented the FUBAR of a rollout.

    Where were you, David? NBC News can't hire enough educated staffers to read the policy and start asking questions?

    Shame on you! Shame on all of you from network to cable to print!

  4. The voice/soul of reasonable discourse: David Gregory.
    True Dat.
    We will use him when useful. We will not use him when not.
    J-O-B Bob. J-O-B.
    Life without music? I can't cope.

    No comment.


  5. Pelosi's comments were terrible mush. But in fairness to her, so are David Gregory's, all the time.

    The Sunday talk shows are so awful in general it almost seems pointless to criticize them.

  6. Nancy Pelosi should be ashamed at being so unprepared, so incoherent after all the time she has had to learn and think through the problems. After all, she even has a staff. Does she even care about being in Congress and representing people any more?


  7. Bone-gnawer is scraping the bottom of librul-hatred again. This is routine poltician doubletalk/prevarication (liek Baby Bush pointedly refusing to condemn the swift-boaters even when asked repeatedly).

    Shame on the imbeciles saying "Amen" to bone-gnawer.

    Slow news day - where is ZIMMERMAN ??????????????????

    1. Ban this troll, so we can have a decent discussion section. No person should ever be allowed to make such monstrous comments. No other blogger would tolerate this sort of crazed troll.

    2. Anon.@ 10:08

      Please link to any post with reference the time in the comments section that would allow us to assess a comment you have made which you would define as adding to "decent discussion."

      I think "crazed troll" better defines your repetitive drivel.

  8. Bob, These posts are critically important and wonderfully constructed. I am continually pleased at how much I learn.

  9. Bob, I beg you to ban this crazed troll. I realize now that it is likely a single troll who is ruining the comment section. Please, I beg you to ban this troll.

  10. I read the remarkable post over again, and am even more amazed at how enlightening it is. Thanks, thanks, thanks.

  11. I like the ACA. It likely does not regulate health care as much as needed to provide as good care as other countries for around the same amount, but it has given me better insurance for less than the amount I was previously paying.

    I think Obama was accurate when he said that if you liked your current plan then you can keep it because the people that are being dropped have junk plans, and surely they don't like them. I had a junk plan, I did not like it. I was dropped and I was fine because I signed up through the exchange for a plan that offered better coverage for less money.

    I think the people that will be the least happy will be the people that did not have health insurance to save money, but then again the penalty to continue not having insurance is low compared to the cost of getting insurance for at least several years. I know I could pay the penalty at least through 2020, and still pay less than my health insurance costs.