ANNOUNCER: This is a special edition of THE RACHEL MADDOW SHOW, “To
Health in a Handbasket.”
HOST, THE RACEHL MADDOW SHOW: Good evening.
It appears that we are closer than we have ever been as a country to
significant, comprehensive health reform. Barring a massive cascade of
Democratic fail, this is the end of the endgame. The end of the endgame of
a whole game that began not with President Obama or President Clinton or
even President Johnson, but with Harry Truman. President Truman declared
adequate medical care and adequate protection from the economic fears of
sickness were rights of citizenship and he declared that back in 1945.
Tonight, we will try to put the importance of this endgame in
perspective by documenting the lengths and the depths to which opponents of
health reform have gone to stop it this year.
The initial plan from the Obama administration, of course, was that
health reform would be on track to final passage by the end of the summer
last year. That was the plan. Until the Senate Finance Committee set
about working up its version of a proposed bill.
The subsequent gabbing and wrestling and dithering and bickering and
delaying opened a very dangerous door. It gave the opposition time to
build up their movement against reform during Congress‘s August recess.
What they did with that time was relatively easy to see. They
expressed open, blind, omnidirectional hostility to every idea remotely
associated with fixing America‘s dysfunctional health system, even ideas
that had been around for generations, even Republican ideas. The “fear
health reform-palooza” took the form of bus tours and rallies and angry,
organized, screaming crowds at congressional town hall meetings.
Who exactly was fomenting and directing and organizing all that
hostility was less than clear at times. We were supposed to think the
anti-health reform movement was a grassroots groundswell of ordinary
Americans fed up with the government trying to fix things.
We here at THE RACHEL MADDOW SHOW looked into it and found something
quite different actually. This was our report from August 11th.
MADDOW: Since the political fight over health care has taken the
recent turns that it has taken, it has seemed at times that while there was
a fight going on about health care reform, there was not actually a debate
going on. That sense started in the third week of July when Roy Blunt, the
top Republican in the House for health care policy, announced that the
Republicans would not be introducing any health care policy.
That sense was furthered when strategy memos for right-wing
protesters attending town hall meetings about health care gave specific
instructions for how those protesters could interrupt those meetings, how
they could try to rattle the members of Congress leaving those meetings,
how they could shout out and then sit down to derail the meeting, to try to
get it off course, not to get a specific point across or try to be
persuasive in a debate.
That sense that this was a fight but not a debate was furthered
still when Democratic Congressman Brad Miller who decided not to have town
hall meetings after getting death threats decided instead to offer his
constituents the chance to meet with him one-on-one, to meet with their
member of Congress one-on-one so they could tell him their views on health
care policy and so they could hear his.
Quite an opportunity, right, if you care about health care policy?
Yes. Except the resounding response from his constituents opposed to
health care reform was “No, we don‘t actually want one-on-one meetings with
our member of Congress. We prefer a town hall meeting.” The better to get
on the YouTube yelling, like other like-minded people. Who cares about
policy? Who cares about health care really?
It‘s felt for weeks now like the conservative reaction to the
prospect of health care reform has not been seen by conservatives as an
opportunity to debate what to do about health care in the U.S., there is
one side wanting to talk about that, but the other side, the conservative
side, just wants the whole discussion to not happen at all. It‘s not a
fight over how to fix the American health care system. It‘s people who
want to fix the health care system versus people who don‘t even want this
conversation to happen, and who want to make sure that nothing happens to
the current health care system.
Today, we have confirmation that what it has seemed like is exactly
what it is. Greg Sargent at the Web site the Plum Line uncovered details
of a conference call that was held last week among some of the organizers
of the town hall disruptions. And according to someone who is on that
call, the explicit goal of the disruptions, as stated by the protest
organizers is, quote, “not to find a solution to the health care crisis.”
The moderator of the conference call—again, this is a conference
call of the organizers of the town hall protests, the moderator of the
call, said, quote, “The goal is not compromise, and any bill coming out
this year would be a failure for us.”
Yet another organizer put it even more bluntly, saying, quote, “We
have an opportunity to realistically kill Obama‘s agenda.”
That conference call was brought to you by a group called the Tea
Party Patriots. The Tea Party Patriots—it sounds like a pretty
grassroots organization, right? Probably made up of just normal folks
looking for a way to organize.
Well, if you tootle on over to the Tea Party Patriots‘ Web site, you
will see that the group bills itself as the, quote, “official grassroots
American movement.” It‘s official. They say so.
Scroll down to the bottom of the Tea Party Patriots‘ Web site and
you‘ll see their list of partners, official grassroots partners no doubt.
Among them an organization that‘s been popping up over and over and over
again in connection to these town hall disruptions, it‘s a group called
FreedomWorks. FreedomWorks has acknowledged that it is a national
copartner of the Tea Party Patriots. In fact, when the Tea Party Patriots
organized a trip to Washington, D.C. last month, it was FreedomWorks that
provided them with prepared packets of information and who briefed them on
a typical Capitol Hill visit.
Last week, FreedomWorks came out with an August recess action kit,
directing people to town hall events and arming them with questions to ask.
Recently, FreedomWorks officials have been going on the TV machine to brag
about in their words blowing up town hall events and calling on those who
attend them to be, quote, “aggressive.”
FreedomWorks is a Washington, D.C.-based advocacy group that is
chaired by the former Republican House Majority Leader Dick Armey. In
addition to being the head of FreedomWorks, Mr. Armey is a senior policy
adviser at a Washington, D.C.-based lobbying firm called DLA Piper.
Among DLA Piper‘s clients and former clients who just might be
interested in what happens with health care reform: Pharmaceutical-maker
Bristol-Myers Squibb, who paid DLA Piper through the end of 2008; medical
device supplier SleepMed Incorporated, who also ended their arrangement
with Piper just last year; health care provider Metropolitan Health
Networks; and the pharmaceutical firm Medicines Company.
Now, we mentioned Medicines Company on this program last week, and
while they do acknowledge paying Dick Armey‘s legal firm for lobbying, they
told us explicitly that the type of activities that FreedomWorks is engaged
in now with the shutting down of the debate over health care, by shutting
downtown hall meetings about health care, this group, the Medicines
Company, says that that is not at all what they were paying for.
The question is why are DLA Piper‘s clients relevant? There appears
to be some pretty good evidence that when you pay Dick Armey‘s lobbying
firm DLA Piper, you get what Dick Armey‘s grassroots organization
Take the American Council of Life Insurers, for example. According
to government records, they hired DLA Piper in February of 2007. Within
six months, they paid the lobbying firm $100,000.
What else happened in that six months? You guessed it. Dick
Armey‘s group FreedomWorks, grassroots, remember, began lobbying Congress
to deregulate the life insurance industry.
You know, that just all happened to happen within the same six
months. And, of course, perhaps it is just mere coincidence that
FreedomWorks happened to have a new found ideological purist grassroots
commitment to life insurance deregulation at the same time the American
Council of Life Insurers hired Dick Armey‘s lobbying firm—it could just
be a coincidence. Could be, right?
Want one more? In 2006, DLA Piper began lobbying for the Senado de
Republica, the Mexican Senate. The purpose of the lobbying: quote,
“enhancing U.S./Mexico relations.” Coincidentally, around the same time,
FreedomWorks began promoting itself as, quote, “one of the few conservative
organizations willing to aggressively promote meaningful immigration
reform.” Another cowinkydink. It‘s very grassroots.
In 2004, when President George W. Bush was trying to privatize
Social Security, a FreedomWorks employee was introduced at a White House
economic conference as a single mom from Iowa who supported President
Bush‘s efforts. The president‘s budget director even singled out that
FreedomWorks employee as one of the regular folks who was behind the whole
idea to privatize Social Security.
This is how FreedomWorks does their work. They try to create the
impression that they‘re just regular grassroots Americans without any
financial or political interests in the outcome of these policy fights.
On the board of directors of FreedomWorks, you‘ll find Richard
Stephenson. In addition to being director of FreedomWorks, a group that‘s
actively trying to derail health care reform, Richard Stephenson is also
the founder and chairman of Cancer Treatment Centers of America,
Incorporated. He‘s also president of International Capital and Management
Company, which runs a hospital consulting company. Totally disinterested
Then there‘s the president of FreedomWorks, a gentleman named Matt
Kibbe. Before joining FreedomWorks, Mr. Kibbe was the former senior
economist for the Republican National Committee. Before that, he was chief
of staff to Republican Congressman Dan Miller of Florida.
Republican officials and the health insurance industry and for-
profit hospital consulting firms and for-profit cancer treatment centers
and all of these other people have every right to participate in this
debate. Of course, they do. They have every right to go to these events
and yell “no” and say that there‘s no reason to reform health care.
They even have the right to scream at people who actually want to
talk about the fact that there might be a need to reform health care. That
is their constitutional right. They are Americans like any of us.
Nobody is suggesting that they can‘t participate in this debate in
the way that they are. What is dishonest is to do it in a way that
disguises who they are, that disguises their role in it, that disguises
their financial role in it.
Washington lobbyists and health care executives and former
Republican Party officials have just as much a right to shout down the
policy debate about health care reform as anyone else does. These folks
have just as much a right to try to derail this entire process as anyone
But we have the right to know who they are and who is paying them
for their efforts. These guys are pros. This is an industry. This is
Beltway politics being organized and played out in town halls across the
And as we have said before, and I fear we will have to continue
saying and saying and saying again, this should be reported as such.
MADDOW: In the days that followed our reporting about Dick Armey‘s
role in opposing health reform, he resigned his position as senior policy
adviser at the giant lobbying and legal services firm DLA Piper. Dick
Armey has continued his effort to kill health reform though, including one
time when he shouted me out at a rally and got my name wrong. I have to
say it was an honor just to be mentioned.
So, at least some of the public rage against health reform was
fomented and organized and mysteriously financed inside the Washington
beltway. One strand of pure baloney used to foment the rage was the made
up idea of death panels. Up next, the birth of the deathers. Do you
remember how the death panel thing started? It was not Sarah Palin.
MADDOW: One of the primary strains of anti-health reform rhetoric
came from folks known as the deathers. Up next: the truth about the lies
about death panels and the old but forgotten anti-health reform pro who‘s
singularly responsible for inventing the whole thing. Stick around.
MADDOW: You know who‘s not all that excited about fixing America‘s
current health care system? The companies that comprise America‘s current
health care system. You see, they have a preexisting condition of awesome
profitability. Please don‘t cure us.
The level of resistance among health industries is directly
proportional to the level of ginned up hysteria about the possibility of
America finally getting health care reform. Among the most hysterical and
completely bogus drivers of public opposition to health care reform has
been the idea that the U.S. government plans to determine which senior
citizens among us should die and when. They are the death panels and they
Yes, THE RACHEL MADDOW SHOW has done what we could to figure out why
so many people believed the death panels do exist.
MADDOW: In 1993, the last time a newly-elected Democratic president
was pursuing health care reform, two of his most formidable foes were Harry
and Louise, a fictional middle-aged couple sitting at a kitchen table
talking smack about how dangerous it would be to reform the American health
Harry and Louise, of course, weren‘t just a freelance actual middle-
class couple concerned about cutting into the insurance industry‘s profit
margins. They were actors. They were hired by the insurance industry to
try to sink the reform plan.
Well, incidentally, the same actors who portrayed Harry and Louise
back in 1993, this year, have been hired by pro-health care reform forces
to try to sell the idea of reform. So, the corporate interests opposed to
changing the system they profit from so handsomely and their allies in the
conservative movement have found new actors to sit at a fictional kitchen
table and talk smack about how dangerous it would be to reform health care
Here they are. They‘re the new Harry and Louise, and this time, the
reason they say changing the health care system is so scary is because—
you guessed it—health care reform is really a secret plot to kill old
people, and to try to make people have more abortions.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: They won‘t pay for my surgery. What are we
going to do?
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: But, honey, you can‘t live this way.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: And to think that Planned Parenthood is included
in the government-run health care plan and spending tax dollars on
abortions. They won‘t pay for my surgery, but we‘re forced to pay for
ANNOUNCER: Our greatest generation denied care. Our future
generation denied life. Call your senator. Stop the government takeover
of health care.
Family Research Council Action is responsible for the content of
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MADDOW: You got that? The real agenda lurking behind health care
reform is a secret plot to kill old people and to promote abortion. That
ad was just released by the conservative group the Family Research Council.
Now, you know about the conspiracy theory that the president
secretly isn‘t really the president because he secretly is foreign. Those
conspiracists are called birthers, right? Christopher Beam at Slate.com
has christened the “health care reform as a secret plot to kill old people”
conspiracists as the “deathers,” which is sort of brilliant.
The deathers‘ theory is being advanced not only by far right
advocacy groups like the Family Research Council. It‘s also being advanced
in Congress by Republicans like Virginia Foxx of North Carolina.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
REP. VIRGINIA FOXX ®, NORTH CAROLINA: It will not put seniors in
a position of being put to death by their government.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MADDOW: The deathers‘ theory is also being advanced by Republicans
like Congressman Louie Gohmert on talk radio.
(BEGIN AUDIO CLIP)
REP. LOUIE GOHMERT ®, TEXAS: We‘ve been battling this socialist
health care, the nationalization of health care, that is going to
absolutely kill senior citizens. They‘ll put them on lists and force them
to die early.
(END AUDIO CLIP)
MADDOW: The deathers theory is also being advanced, as of today, on
the editorial page of the conservative newspaper, “The Washington Times.”
It should probably be noted that the editorial cites as its sources right-
wing talk show host Mark Levin, the Red State blog, and FOXNews.com.
But as the deathers theory leeches from the wingnut fringe into the
mainstream of efforts to stop health care reform, consider where it
started. Consider its source.
When you start digging, it turns out that this theory all traces
back to a single person—a person named Betsy McCaughey. She‘s a
director of a medical device company called Cantel Medical Corporation.
She‘s also a former director of a biotech company called Genta. She‘s also
a senior fellow at the Hudson Institute, a conservative think tank funded
by some of the biggest pharmaceutical giants in the country.
Betsy McCaughey is the person who started the whole conspiracy
theory that the government promoting people getting living wills—which
the government has done for 20 years—is somehow now a secret plot to
kill old people.
(BEGIN AUDIO CLIP)
BETSY MCCAUGHEY, HUDSON INSTITUTE: Congress would make it mandatory
absolutely require—that every five years, people in Medicare have a
required counseling session that will tell them how to end their life
(END AUDIO CLIP)
MADDOW: Wrong. Not true. Not in the bill. Not there. Totally
But nevertheless, Ms. McCaughey has seeded that idea on the
editorial page of “The New York Post” and in talk radio interviews with
hosts like Fred Thompson, and that‘s been enough for it to take root on the
Now, Betsy McCaughey has done this before. In 1994, she wrote an
attack on the Bill Clinton health care reform proposal in a magazine called
“The New Republic.” That article was so riddled with errors that the
magazine ultimately distanced themselves from it, even though they
published it in the first place. But that didn‘t stop the opponents of
health care reform back then from citing her disproven attacks over and
over and over again. And so far, nothing is stopping the opponents of
health care reform now from doing the same thing.
The deathers theory is everywhere on the right. It‘s on the House
floor. It‘s on talk radio. It‘s in TV ads and it is a script, a nonsense,
totally made up, totally disprovable script written by the corporate
interests who have wanted to block health care reform forever because
they‘re making a mint off of the way it is now.
Welcome back to 1993.
ANNOUNCER: This is a special edition of THE RACHEL MADDOW SHOW, “To
Health in a Handbasket.”
MADDOW: The desperate fight to stop health reform from happening
has been paved with some really bad behavior. With vigor and venom
generally reserved for the tragic results of ill-advised elective foreign
wars, some Americans confronted their elected representatives about the
possibility of reforming our lousy system—a system which is much less
effective than it is expensive. The summer of town hall rudeness took
plight during the August recess for the House and Senate, and as
grassrootsy and as spontaneous as it was all supposed to seem, we
discovered that not all groundswell movements spring from real roots.
MADDOW: As of Friday, the U.S. House of Representatives is
officially on recess. And they are on recess for the rest of August. And
while that sounds like an awesome summer vacation, what it means for House
members is as tradition dictates—they go home to their districts and
they meet with their constituents about all the hot issues on the political
stove right now. Hottest among them of course is health care reform.
Now, whatever the political issues are this recess happens every
year, and the meetings with constituents thing happens every year. What‘s
different about this year? Well, I‘ll let you judge for yourself. To my
mind, this is not your typical meeting with constituents.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: What government agency has the government taken
over and it‘s run beautifully and made money?
REP. TIM BISHOP (D), NEW YORK: Sir, we are not talking—
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: No, no, no, please tell me, please tell me.
I‘ve asked you a question, please answer it.
BISHOP: OK, if you would stop talking, I‘d be happy to answer it.
The overwhelming weight of the evidence, the scientific evidence, is
that global warming is real. No one is talking about the government taking
over health care.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Don‘t pull the wool over our eyes.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Answer the question!
BISHOP: I‘m trying to!
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MADDOW: Democratic Congressman Tim Bishop of New York being shouted
down and overwhelmed by a belligerent, organized crowd of hecklers that had
no interest in letting him get a word out as he attempted to answer their
questions. This could just be a one-off thing. This could just be a one-
off experience of badly behaved constituents somewhere, mad at their
congressman about something or other.
It turns out this was not at all a one-off bad meeting. It turns
out this is happening around the country. Here‘s Texas Democratic
Congressman Lloyd Doggett—yes, there are still elected Democrats in
Texas. Here‘s Congressman Doggett facing a similar scene at a town hall
event over the weekend. This one took place at a grocery store in Austin.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
CROWD: Just say no! Just say no! Just say no! Just say no! Just
say no! Just say no! Just say no! Just say no! Just say no!
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MADDOW: What you may or may not be able to make out there is the
crowd yelling “just say no, just say no,” they‘re holding signs depicting
Congressman Doggett as the devil and there‘s one sign that reads “No
government counselor in my home.”
The U.S. Senate doesn‘t take its recess for another week, but
Democratic Senator Arlen Specter got a taste of what his time off might be
like at recess during a town hall event that he held in Philly yesterday
with Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
KATHLEEN SEBELIUS, HEALTH AND HUMAN SERVICES SECRETARY: I am not a
member of Congress. Have never been one—that‘s just a fact. I‘m just -
I‘m just telling you. My observation is I have never seen members of
Congress work harder on—it is unacceptable to me for somebody to—
SEBELIUS: Reform our health care system and stop this system that
we have now where insurance companies basically get to pick and choose.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MADDOW: We actually had to narrow down the pile of footage that we
had like this from just the last few days in order to figure out what to
show in the time we had available on the show.
We could have spent the entire hour just showing tape like this. But
the more time you spend looking into this seemingly organic outrage at
these town hall meetings, the more clear it is that this isn‘t organic at
This is orchestrated outrage. There is a script for this stuff
written that was before these events happened and that appears to be
instructions to people to shut down these efforts at civic discourse.
The Web site “Think Progress” obtained a leaked memo from a group that
calls itself “Right Principles.” The three-page memo details how
protesters should behave at town hall events under the heading “Inside the
It says, quote, “You need to rock the boat early in the
representative‘s presentation. Watch for an opportunity to yell out and
challenge the representative‘s statements early. If he blames Bush for
something, or offers other excuses, call him on it. Yell back. And have
someone else follow up with a shout out. The goal is to rattle him.”
Also, quote, when the formal Q and A session begins, get all your
hands up and keep them up. The balance of the group should applaud when
the question is asked, further the representative on the defensive.”
Who‘s giving these rent-a-mob instructions like this? That memo was
written by a man named Bob MacGuffie. Bob MacGuffie is affiliated with an
organization called Freedom Works. Freedom Works is a Washington, D.C.
lobbying firm run by former Republican majority leader, Dick Armey.
Corporate lobbyists are organizing far-right hooligan tactics to
disrupt civic meetings about health care reform. This is the organized use
of intimidation as a political tool in the United States. And I don‘t mean
intimidation euphemistically. I mean literal intimidation.
New York Congressman Tim Bishop, who we showed you earlier - he ended
up having to be escorted to his car by five police officers for his own
safety after his town hall event was over.
And this type of harassment is not just reserved for elected
officials. Check out what happened at a Syracuse, New York town hall
meeting when a man who supports a single-payer health care system stood up
at one of these events to ask why his Congressman wasn‘t supporting single
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: It‘s cheaper. It would cover everyone. We have 45
million people who are insured, Congressman. Ninety people who have signed
on in the United States Congress - 90 people.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Sit down. Sit down. Sit down.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Why won‘t you cosponsor HR-676 single-payer universal
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MADDOW: This type of tactic, this type of intimidation is a deliberate
choice and it appears to be stoked and organized by corporate lobbyists.
And it is not something that is happening in a vacuum.
Let me give you another example of what‘s being passed off as politics
right now by lobbying interests on the political right. When the Climate
Change Bill came before the House last month, a Democratic Congressman
named Tom Perriello of Virginia received a letter purportedly from a
nonprofit Hispanic group in his district.
And the letter urged him to oppose the cap-and-trade legislation. He
received similar letters from what were purportedly his local branches at
the NAACP. Only, these letters weren‘t actually from that Hispanic group
in his district or the NAACP.
A Republican lobbying firm in Washington has admitted to impersonating
those local nonprofits and sending Congressman Perriello fake letters to
get him to oppose the climate change legislation. Congress is now
investigating this incident.
This is a lobbying firm. This is the establishment. This isn‘t a
lone nut job passing himself off as a group he doesn‘t belong to. This is
well-paid lobbyists doing this as a strategy.
It‘s the same thing with the deathers. The scare-your-grandmother
myth that the whole point of health care reform is secretly to kill old
people. This patently, patently false rumor about health care reform as
we‘ve talked about earlier on this show was started by a woman who sits on
the board of directors of one of the nation‘s biggest medical device
Everybody says oh, politics - it‘s isn‘t bean bag, right? Obviously
this is not bean bag. But this isn‘t hardball either. No offense to
Chris. This just isn‘t even politics. This is orchestrated mob mentality
intimidation. This is called hooliganism.
MADDOW: As the prospects for health reform in America this past year have
flowed and ebbed and ebbed and flowed, three prime guaranteed to enrage
immovable facts of our current system have kept would be reformers
motivated - the cost of private health insurance, the callousness of the
big insurance companies toward their customers and the country and the
executive compensation packages for CEOs and bigwig executives at those
companies, even as they provide worse and worse service to fewer and fewer
Those things have been very motivating. In recent weeks, when
momentum behind health reform was starting to wane, fresh, new data came to
light that was frankly consistent with all the old data. But it was a
great reminder of what was wrong with the system in the first place, why it
need to be fixed in the first place.
And back came the momentum, and when the momentum came back, the
momentum for reform came back, so did the antireform forces. Even the
deathers came back, though this time they came back with a twist. Check it
Before the summer of the screaming town hall, before death panels and
fake grassroots anti-health reform bus tours, outrage in the country before
all of that was fueling the movement for health reform.
That outrage was aimed at the insurance industry for jacking up rates
and denying people coverage and dropping sick people from their rolls.
Prepared to return to that quaint time, because thanks to a report out
today from the advocacy group, Health Care for America Now, we have just
learned that the five largest for profit insurers in this country made a
combined $12.2 billion last year.
For those of you keeping track at home that is a 56 percent increase
from 2008, a new profit record set of course in the middle of the worst
economic decline since the Great Depression. They accomplished this record
feat at least in part by covering 2.7 million fewer people through private
insurance than they did the year before.
It‘s as if someone has pushed the reset button on the politics of
health reform. Once again, the country finds itself in a forced
confrontation with the reason that health reform is so needed.
And again, like we‘re back to I guess last summer again, the right has
responded to the threat that health reform poses to the status quo by
propounding the theory that health reform is really a secret plot to kill
people. In this case, they say it‘s a secret plot to kill ex-presidents.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Medical rationing is a big concern over the Democrats‘
proposed health reform. Would President Clinton have been denied his heart
stent procedure under their plan?
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: President Bill Clinton is now home and after undergoing
emergency surgery yesterday, the president has had two stents placed in his
coronary artery. Amazing. So if the Democrats‘ health care reform had
gone through, would President Clinton have received the stents?
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Does President Clinton, or you or I who needs it, get
the stent under the new regimen of health care effectively?
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MADDOW: Welcome to the new health reform debate, same as the old health
reform debate, only instead of health reform being a secret plot to kill
old people or a secret plot to kill veterans or a secret plot to kill
Republicans, now health reform is a secret plot to kill Bill Clinton.
That‘s the story on the right. The story everywhere else is about
insurance companies like Anthem Blue Cross, the largest insurer in the most
populous state in the country, California, hiking its rates 39 percent
right now, just because - just because they can, even though their parent
company is making billions in profit.
So far tonight we have documented the origin of various myths and
rumors and campaigns and self-proclaimed movements against health reform.
But the story of this end game in health reform is incomplete if it does
not shed light on the performance of our elected officials, many of whom
have contradicted themselves and stretched the truth and flat out lied in
an effort to keep things just the way they are, in an effort to stop
We will always do all that we can to expose the “audacity of nope”
here on this show. That effort continues when we come back.
MADDOW: Imagine the delight of Senator Orrin Hatch of Utah when “The
Washington Post” agreed to print a string of falsehoods under his byline
without a whiff of resistance, without threat of a correction. The
venerable, the vulnerable, and the flabbergasting outrage next.
MADDOW: It‘s one thing to be against health reform. Lots of reasons to
say like the current system or not like the proposed fixes or have an idea
you think might be better than the proposed fixes for making the
That‘s all part of the debate. Arguments like that are why we have an
oppositional debate-based system of legislating. It makes us stronger in
the end. It makes for better policy - opposition, vigorous argument, good.
Lying about what‘s being proposed, lying about how the legislating
process works, even lying about your own record on matters being debated as
part of health reform? Not OK. Not helpful.
Fortunately, there is a price to be paid for such bad behavior. The
price is that the lies and you, the liar, get made fun of. Sometimes even
(on camera): Health reform is going to pass. It‘s going to pass. It
passed the house already before Christmas. It passed the Senate on
Christmas Eve with 60 votes. The next step is to bridge the differences
between the two bills so the president can get something on his desk to
In order to do that, two things will happen. First, the House will
pass the Senate version of the bill and then there will be a small package
of tweaks to that bill that will be passed by the Democrats under majority
All appearances are it‘s going to happen. There are things the
Republicans can do to yell and scream about it. There are ways they can
try to slow it down. There are epithets they can scream at it and crowds
to be whipped into blood-thirsty fear about it, but it‘s going to happen.
All that‘s left is to procedurally see it through and of course, to
pop the popcorn and watch the people opposed to health reform lose their
minds over the fact that this is one that they have lost.
For example, Senator Charles Grassley, the Republican‘s point person
in the Senate on health reform, has now started denouncing his own proposal
for a mandate that people buy insurance. It‘s Charles Grassley‘s own idea
which he is now denouncing as unconstitutional. Senator Grassley taking a
brave stance against himself.
And there‘s senator Lamar Alexander who Senate Republicans have been
trying to elevate into a prominent position on health reform since maybe
Senator Grassley needed some help. Lamar Alexander is now denouncing the
use of reconciliation to get around the fact that Republicans are
filibustering health reform.
He‘s denouncing it as a political kamikaze mission, a mission that
should be noted Senator Alexander himself has flown many, many times when
he voted for things under reconciliation rules. It‘s amazing, actually,
that he‘s still around to be so hypocritical after flying all those
Then, there is Senator John McCain who is proposing now to change
Senate rules so that no one can use reconciliation rules to get around a
filibuster when they‘re voting on something that involves entitlement
programs like Medicare or Medicaid or Social Security.
John McCain‘s own record of voting yes on those types of votes that he
now wants to ban is apparently not holding the senator back from taking
this strong stance against his own behavior.
Lamar Alexander, Chuck Grassley, John McCain - these not newbies.
These have been senators who have been around the block. These are guys
who book themselves on the Sunday talk shows instead of the other way
around because they are such respected, respectable members of the
I thought these were the people we‘re supposed to take seriously and
yet they‘re just trying to get away with really, really blatant hypocrisy
on this subject.
I don‘t get it. Do they think they‘re so respected, they‘re so
mainstream that no one is going to fact check them? They‘re above that or
Take another example. Take Senator Orrin Hatch. Senator Orrin Hatch
of Utah has just published an op-ed in “The Washington Post” that has so
many blatant, outright, laugh-out-loud falsehoods in it that it made me
wonder if maybe there is a deal or something where if you‘re a United
States senator or if you are a United States senator who‘s been in office
for 33 years like Orrin Hatch has, you just don‘t get fact-checked anymore
in “The Washington Post.”
They just agree to let you print whatever you want. Is that the rule?
Because if that isn‘t the rule, how else do you explain this? This is
Orrin Hatch from “The Washington Post,” “This use of reconciliation to jam
through this legislation against the will of the American people would be
unprecedented in scope. And the havoc wrought would threaten our system of
checks and balances, corrode the legislative process, degrade our system of
government and damage the prospects of bipartisanship.”
Doesn‘t it sound horrible, this reconciliation thing? Senator Orrin
Hatch certainly makes it sound awful; Senator Orrin Hatch who voted for a
reconciliation bill in 1989 and in 1995 and in 1996 and in 1997 and, again,
a second time in 1997 and again in 1999 and in 2000, and in 2001, and 2003
and in 2005 and then again in 2005 and then in 2007.
Now, he says that doing what he‘s done all those times would wreak
havoc. Orrin Hatch then goes on to admit that, yes, “both parties have
used the process,” he says, “but only when the bills in question stuck
close to dealing with the budget. In instances in which other substantive
legislation was included, the legislation had significant bipartisan
That is a total, utter, complete, 100 percent, unambiguous lie. It is
a lie. It is an L-I-E and I do not mean the Long Island Expressway. It is
not the truth. Maybe I‘m naive. I find it hard to believe they think they
can get away with stuff like this.
In 2003, Republicans used reconciliation to get the Bush tax cuts
passed, the tax cuts that exploded the deficit. They did not get
significant bipartisan support for that. They passed it with 50 votes.
Dick Cheney had to come in as vice president and president of the
Senate to break that tie to give them 51. Two years later, another
reconciliation vote, this time on Medicaid. Republicans were only able to
get that one passed using reconciliation, too, because they only got 52
votes for that one.
Significant bipartisan support - when Orrin Hatch says, “Hey, we never
used reconciliation for big substantive bills when the vote was going to be
close,” when he said it would be unprecedented, he was not telling the
truth. It is a lie.
Health reform passed the Senate by 60 votes. It passed the House by a
majority. And now, Democrats are going to pass the last fixes to align the
two bills using reconciliation.
Republicans used reconciliation a lot for major legislation. They did
it all the time and they‘re now lying about that record. Orrin Hatch, in
particular, has been there voting with them while they did it just about
every single time.
And now, Orrin Hatch is lying about that in “THE Washington Post.”
And “The Washington Post” is just printing the lying. Who knows, maybe
they‘ll run a correction.
But meanwhile, Chuck Grassley, Lamar Alexander, John McCain, Orrin
Hatch - all these guys are taking brave, brave stands in public against
their own positions, against their own voting records, against their own
It‘s one thing to not want health reform, to not want the other party
and a president from the other party to get a legislative win. You don‘t
want them to be seen as addressing the problems of the country with a
policy that might help people.
It‘s one thing to try to stop it. It is another thing entirely to
expect us to suspend disbelief while you pretend you‘re doing this for
principled reasons. At this point, you‘re a guy on a loud speaker scolding
us to keep our voices down.
You‘re the speed-eating hotdog kid telling us to go vegan. You‘re a
family values, chastity-lecturing lecher. You are hypocrites. You‘re not
making serious arguments and you do not believe what you‘re saying. It‘s
disproven by your record.
In the case of Orrin Hatch, you are flat-out lying about the history
of the tactic that Democrats are going to use to pass health reform. And
that - lying about what‘s been done, lying about the record lying about
this tactic is not actually a substitute for just making an honest argument
against health reform.
For “The Washington Post” to print something like this is bizarre.
For these established, supposedly mainstream senators to try to get away
with this is an insult to everyone they‘re addressing and to the media in
And for us all to just let this slide and call it politics is to
surrender to cynicism profoundly. Listen, health reform is going to pass.
Chuck Grassley, Lamar Alexander, John McCain, Orrin Hatch, you can‘t stop
it. You can‘t stop health reform. You tried but you can‘t.
But you can stop embarrassing yourselves with the blatant hypocrisy
and the lying. Come on, get serious. The country needs real debate. The
country needs real opposition. The country needs you guys to grow up here.
MADDOW: In short order, we expect a shiny new bill to emerge from
Congress. We expect it to zip 16 blocks up Pennsylvania Avenue to the
White House. We expect it to receive President Obama‘s signature and we
expect it to become law.
No one, of course, will be completely satisfied. Republicans will
scream that the end of the republic is upon us, and possibly the country.
And our medieval non-system of a health care system will be at least a
little better off for all this trouble.
Throughout this grueling journey to get this far, the one poor soul
most often overlooked amid the bickering and the politicking has been the
health reform bill itself. In September, we here on this show visited with
Bill just to see how he was doing.
(on camera): We have a very special exclusive guest tonight you will not
see anywhere else. Joining us now is health care reform. Hi, Bill. Are
you OK? I have to say you don‘t actually look very good.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE (as Health Care Bill): I‘ve had a bad August, Rachel.
People said so many mean things. I don‘t want to kill old people. Come
MADDOW: Well, things did seem to be going pretty well for you as recently
as July. You were approved in those three House committees. You were
approved in one Senate committee before the recess. You only had one
committee to go. What happened?
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Max Baucus happened. He thought delaying me would make
Republicans like me better. Yes, right. As if.
MADDOW: Bill, that cough sounds pretty bad. Maybe you should get that
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I would, Rachel, but I can‘t afford it. I‘ve got to
go. I‘ve got a cracked rib, too. See you, Rachel.
MADDOW: Are you actually going to make it? I‘m very worried about this.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I don‘t know, Rachel. You tell me.
MADDOW: Well, I‘m not a doctor. Wait a minute. Let me rephrase that.
Given everything that has happened in the sixty-four-and-a-half years since
comprehensive health reform was first proposed in this country, given the
extraordinary power exerted to oppose health reform down the homestretch in
the last year, no one can say with 100 percent certainty that the Health
Reform Bill is going to survive.
But given everything, all things considered, I think Bill is doing OK
right now. We won‘t stop paying attention until we know for sure one way
or the other.
That does it for our health care retrospective special tonight. We‘ll
see you again tomorrow night to continue this reporting. “COUNTDOWN” with
Keith Olbermann starts right now. Have a great night.
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