The Republicans' scary-movie strategy has some logic to it: If they can frighten young and healthy people from joining the health-care exchanges, the exchanges will become expensive and unmanageable. This is sabotage, plain and simple -- much like the refusal by red-state governors to participate in setting up the exchanges in the first place.
Sen. Joe Manchin (D-W.Va.), who's never been the Affordable Care Act's biggest fan, appeared on MSNBC yesterday to join the critical chorus. In reference to the Obama administration, the conservative Democrat said, "The bottom line is that they messed up, they messed up royally. There's no excuse for this."
The administration's missteps have been well documented, and officials have earned much of the criticism they've received. But to say there's "no excuse" is to overlook Republican sabotage efforts that have made a real difference.
Todd Purdum recently made the case, for example, that "calculated sabotage by Republicans at every step" is a "less acknowledged cause" of the rollout's troubles. Jamelle Bouie added this week, "If Republicans have shown anything over the last four years, it's that they'll do anything to stop the Affordable Care Act, even if it amounts to legislative sabotage."
We've talked before about the scope of these unprecedented efforts to undermine a federal law, which include blocking necessary resources needed for implementation, public misinformation campaigns, discouraging public-private partnerships, blocking Medicaid expansion, blocking CMS nominees, refusing to create marketplaces, and prohibiting "Navigators" from doing their jobs. But the campaign is arguably intensifying now.
Dana Milbank reports on House Republican leaders who emerged from their weekly meeting yesterday and tried to scare the bejesus out of Americans.
The quotes from House GOP leaders are rather remarkable. Majority Leader Eric Cantor (R-Va.) said health care reform may lead to identity theft; Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio) falsely claimed "premiums are going right through the roof"; Majority Whip Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.) warned that consumers who visit healthcare.gov may become victims of fraud; and Caucus Chair Cathy McMorris Rodgers (R-Wash.) said vulnerable constituents may be put "on the casualty list."
Milbank added, "Let's hope the new health-care plans have generous coverage for anti-anxiety medication."
Let's not forget that the difference between a lie and a falsehood is intent -- if you know the truth and say the opposite because your goal is deceit, you're lying. And for the most part, congressional Republicans, whose interest in helping provide greater health security for Americans is easily trumped by their interested in destroying a Democratic law, have been reducing to lying.
But for saboteurs, honesty and serious policy debate are easily sacrificed for the larger goal. Indeed, they're a small price to pay.
Also note, we're looking at quite a one-two punch from the far-right -- on the one hand we see the Koch brothers and their allies urge the uninsured to stay that way on purpose, in order to advance conservatives' ideological goals, and on the other we see congressional Republicans try to terrify the public in the hopes that people who stand to benefit from "Obamacare" steer clear of the system.
President Obama added yesterday, during an interview with the Wall Street Journal, that if both parties were "invested in success," the rollout wouldn't have been quite so rocky. "One of the problems that we've had is that one side of Capitol Hill is invested in failure and that makes the kind of iterative process of fixing glitches as they come up and fine tuning the law more challenging," he added.
There's no denying that the dysfunctional health care website matters, and the administration's missteps deserve criticism. But Republican sabotage matters, too.
Kevin Drum recently explained, "No federal program that I can remember faced quite the implacable hostility during its implementation that Obamacare has faced. This excuses neither the Obama administration's poor decisions nor its timidity in the face of Republican attacks, but it certainly puts them in the proper perspective."