This is excellent: I always am looking for the most extreme example of any kind of misconduct, lie, rhetorical fallacy or rationalization, so I have something to measure all others against. Jamelle Bouie, the resident Obama flack at Slate, just delivered a dandy for my future scale of infamy for Rationalization #22 on the Ethics Alarms list, the Bottom of the Barrel, the favorite excuse of the shameless, the ethics-challenged and the desperate sociopath, “It’s not the worst thing,” or “The Comparative Virtue Excuse.”
It’s a deft turn, and a welcome one: so much attention is being lathered on the prisoner exchange fiasco that the parade of other Obama Administration-created ethics train wrecks are being ignored for the nonce…and perhaps that was the objective. The late Mike Kelly, the sharpest conservative political analyst the Washington Post has ever featured on its pages, half-seriously suggested that seeding so-called scandal fatigue was a conscious strategy of the ethically corrupt Clinton White House, and Obama has taken this to levels then unimagined. Among other, the Obamacare Ethics Train Wreck barrels on at an impressive clip. Yesterday, for example, it was revealed that yet another flaw in the enrollment process has left 2,000,000 Americans who think they have insurance at risk of finding themselves uncovered.
To unconscionable fake-journalists like Bouie, however (a real journalist is one who follows the facts to where they lead; a fake one cherry-picks the facts that take him where he wants to go), it doesn’t matter: the Affordable Care Act, he tells his gullible or retching readers…
“…looks like a success. Between the state exchanges, healthcare.gov, and the Medicaid expansion, an estimated 17.2 million people have received health insurance under the law. In turn, according to Gallup, the percentage of Americans without health insurance has dipped to 13.4 percent, down 3.7 percentage points from where it was at the end of last year.”
This species of argument, which has become the standard practice for the Obama Is A Great President Despite All Evidence To The Contrary League, is one of two things, and two things only: proof of mental deficiency, or conclusive evidence of dishonesty. Either one, I would argue, should disqualify someone from writing commentary in Slate, or for that matter, Weekly Reader.
Naturally, if one defines success only by one narrow short-term objective and ignores all unfulfilled objectives, costs and negative consequences, it is possible to pronounce almost any policy or project a “success.” If you are an idiot, a child, or intellectually lazy to a crippling degree, this is enough. Assuming Bouie himself doesn’t really believe this argument—and, who knows? He might—then he is only presenting it to confuse and persuade the slowest and most ignorant members of the voting public, admittedly a swing group critical to the success of both parties. There was never any question, even in the minds of the ACA’s most fervent opponents, that it would result in more uninsured Americans getting insurance. Even the complete bungling of the management of the new system couldn’t make that aspect of it fail. Success, however, for Obamacare must also be determined—by the objective, the analytical and the honest, which excludes Bouie— on the basis of the damage it does, long and short term, and, of course, its costs. Will it cause jobs to be eliminated? Will it cause doctors to limit their practices? Will it raise premiums? Will it require grotesque increases in taxes? Will it contribute to higher health care costs, or lower? Will it support itself? Many key provisions of the law have been waived or delayed, so some of these questions will be impossible to answer until the whole law, not just the parts Democrats aren’t afraid to try until after the mid-term elections, is operating.
By some very clear benchmarks, the law is already a failure. After all, the President said that one key factor in the law would be that no one would be forced to change plans or doctors. Well, that objective was a failure, in addition to being a scam. Bouie can’t fairly ignore that while pronouncing the ACA a success, any more than he can fairly ignore the other damage that we already know the law, and the manner in which it was passed, have inflicted on the nation. The increase in insured Americans won’t constitute a success if the law also increases the deficit and the debt, causes insurers to raise rates or leave the market, raises the costs of health care and increases taxes to excessive levels, all while creating toxic partisanship, requiring both the President and the Senate to violate established traditions and limits of government, and undermining the public’s trust in democracy. Some of this has already occurred, some may occur yet.
Obamacare is a success by the same logic that the Iraq War was a success, as long as the objective is defined as ridding the world of Saddam and his sons. The Russian Revolution was a success too, if the only goal that matters was toppling the Czar. Heck, even Custer’s Last Stand was a success, if the objective was to have fewer Indians alive after it than before it. Such is the definition of “success” that Obamacare defenders are trying to establish.
Fast and Furious was successful in getting guns into the hands of Mexican thugs too. Was it ever.
But obviously this is a mighty thin reed, and so Slate’s cheerleader for the law produced his epic refutation of that which nobody needed to refute. Mocking the rhetorical excesses of GOP and conservative critics who have foolishly compared the ACA to such unrelated and irrelevant events, conditions and disasters as 9-11, slavery, and the Holocaust, Bouie engages in the exercise of showing how absurd such comparisons are, a shooting fish in a barrel indulgence that serves the dual purpose of making a lousy law look better by comparing it to things that are unequivocally worse. Yes, the Affordable Care Act isn’t worse than war, the Dred Scott decision, slavery, and the murder of 6 million Jews; it isn’t evil either. The laziest form of advocacy of all is to defend a proposition against the most illogical and misbegotten arguments against it, and Bouie proves a master at this, as well as devoting an entire essay to some of the many, many things that are worse than the ACA.
None of which demonstrates in any way that Obamacare is a success, or that it won’t prove to be a miserable failure.
But I guess I’ve read worse articles…