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Speaking of 'cooking the books'...

If the Affordable Care Act news was awful, Fox News probably wouldn't feel the need to air wildly misleading charts.
Sen. John Barrasso (R-Wyo.) is so troubled by the Affordable Care Act's recent successes that he's gone into denial. Confronted with evidence of an enrollment surge, the Republican senator argued on national television yesterday that he believes White House officials are "cooking the books" to make it appear as if consumers are signing up for health insurance.
In reality, of course, there's nothing to suggest the Obama administration is perpetrating a massive fraud. But if we're going to talk about the health care debate and cooking the books, we should pause to appreciate the above work of art Fox News aired this morning, as reported by Samantha Wyatt.
It's tough to know where to start, exactly. First, Fox clearly manipulated the axes, to a comical degree, in the hopes of making some kind of ideological point. Second, it's not clear why Fox relied on March 27 for the left column, since enrollment has grown considerably since.
Third, to characterize the 7 million total as the "goal" is itself misleading -- the Obama administration never announced a specific enrollment goal for the open-enrollment period. Rather, the figure was a projection from the Congressional Budget Office, which actually dropped to 6 million late last year.
So, if Fox News was going to do this chart correctly, what would it look like?
This is my attempt to recreate Fox's image without the political slant, but remember, even this doesn't tell the public much. The left column is out of date -- rumor has it, the ACA is going to get pretty darn close to 7 million -- and the right column isn't really a "goal," so much as a projection.
But let's not miss the forest for the trees: Fox News felt the need to put that ridiculous chart on the air because reality is starting to look pretty good for the Affordable Care Act. If the facts were on ACA opponents' side, there wouldn't have been any need to manipulate the axes in the first place.
The larger takeaway, then, is that we're poised to experience a very different kind of debate than the one we've been stuck in for the last several months. Since the fall, the question has been, "Is Obamacare failing?" The new question is, "Does the Obamacare good news count as a proper success?"
For the right, this shift is itself something of a disaster. Conservatives aren't just having to root for failure, but they're simultaneously stuck pretending good news is bad news.