The Lincoln Plawg - the blog with footnotes

Politics and law from a British perspective (hence Politics LAW BloG): ''People who like this sort of thing...'' as the Great Man said

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Tuesday, August 10, 2004

Kerry's stretcher on health insurance

The Mary Ann Knowles story was just the thing to goose up Kerry's big Convention speech. As part of Kerry's lame-ass help is on the way litany, we got
What does it mean when Mary Ann Knowles, a woman with breast cancer I met in New Hampshire, had to keep working day after day right through her chemotherapy, no matter how sick she felt, because she was terrified of losing her family's health insurance.

Unlike most pronouncements in this campaign, that's pretty much unambiguous: the woman had to show up to work every day, otherwise she, and her health cover. would be terminated.

If we can believe the nice people at AP, it's a lie:
John Knowles told the New Hampshire Sunday News that Mary Ann could have taken disability leave without losing her health insurance, but needed to keep earning her full salary.

The NHSN story gets into the jury questions of the case rather more deeply than I've a yen to do here. (Except to point out that both the Knowles have worked for Kerry's campaign, and that John Knowles is fighting a New Hampshire Senate seat - this story is not in the same hemisphere as the crapfest produced by those Swift boat hacks who can't keep their stories straight!)

But the response from the Kerry side seems deliberately unresponsive:
Veteran New Hampshire Democratic activist Judy Reardon, representing the campaign, said Kerry's reference to "'every day' is a colloquialism. She had to keep working. Her full disability went for 10 days."

Asked if the campaign had confirmed the details of the Knowles' story, Reardon said, "When a woman has a mastectomy and goes through therapy, I don't need to doublecheck on her." Reardon added, "Her husband is unemployed. She needed to keep working at full pay."

Reardon said Mary Ann did take four or five days off during chemotherapy.

The fact that the campaign thought it didn't
need to doublecheck on her
might explain the fact that she does not address the falsehood of Kerry's speech: Kerry said Mary Ann would lose her health insurance if she hadn't kept on working. And that, according to the NHSN piece, is untrue.

Now, the state of health provision in the US is bad enough - 40 million and more without cover, many more with inadequate cover - that it seems incredible that Kerry's people couldn't have found a really good - that is, a really bad - story to illustrate the crying need for reform which didn't need 'improving' to make its point.

There was widespread incredulity - not to say ribaldry - at the pack of lies and distortions with which Colin Powell was pleased was to regale the UN Security Council on February 5 2003 on Iraqi WMD. Surely, making the biggest speech of his career, we thought that Powell would have checked every detail, surely his native cunning and experience as a Pentagon bureaucrat would have smelt the wishful thinking, the con-artistry that informed its content?

Same, mutatis mutandis, goes for Kerry.

British readers will recall the War of Jennifer's Ear from the 1992 General Election. The similarities are striking with the Knowles case (so far as I understand it).

Now, the NHSN is part of the Union-Leader operation - which is supporting Bush. The editorial which goes with the story sums up on Kerry and the Mary Ann story:
In short, he lied. Repeatedly.

Conclusions? Zero moral outrage here, of course: pols (and journos too, of course) work through manipulating facts and creating false impressions.

The problem with the Mary Ann lie is how easy it is for the layman to understand. With the 350 Kerry votes for higher taxes nonsense, the truth gets buried under a pile of technicality. And one could at least argue the point, however great the contortions needed to do so.

The Mary Ann lie is just too transparent to be attack-proof.

Which leads one to wonder, What has the Bush campaign been doing all this time? Biding its time? How come the Knowles spoke to the Kerry-hostile Union-Leader people (according to the piece, during the week before publication)?

(No point in wondering why the gentlemen of the press didn't have the intellectual curiosity to follow up the story. Even now, according to the Poor Man Nexis, the top table of Big Media is not taking any notice.)

Next business: what about those other tales in the help is on the way litany? David McCune of Canton, OH; Deborah Kromins of Philadelphia, PA; not to mention the asthmatic children of Harlem and the rough sleepers in Lafayette Park: hadn't some journos better be despatched to factcheck Kerry's ass on these touching stories?

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