October 22, 2019 | Reading Time: 4 minutes
Warren Can’t Trust the Press with the Truth About Health Care
Republicans tell lies. Reporters validate them. Warren knows it.
Elizabeth Warren is under enormous pressure to say the magic words: I will raise taxes on every American in order to fund universal health care for all. The pressure will continue, and it will surely intensify if she’s dubbed the Democratic nominee.
But the commentators, even the liberal pundits, are wrong. The Massachusetts senator should never say those words. Ever. If she did, she’d be playing by the Washington press corps’ rules, and once she did that, she’d be setting herself up for betrayal. The Washington press corps cannot be trusted to behave honestly, bravely or with integrity, much less with a sense of citizen duty or even patriotism, for God’s sake. (The Post reported Monday that she’s going to explain everything. A bad idea.)
Think about it.
The problem isn’t Warren’s lack of transparency.
The story about the biggest story of 2016—“but her emails!”—got none of the attention it deserved over the weekend. A State Department report released Friday said an exhaustive three-year investigation into Hillary Clinton’s use of a private email server while she was secretary of state found “no systemic or deliberate mishandling of classified information.” It is now a fact that the biggest story of 2016 was a collective fabrication. Yet the people who turned it into a “controversy” whose consequences have changed the world have said nothing. Only one person, Jeffrey Toobin, has taken responsibility for his role in poisoning public opinion and imperiling the republic.
Instead of soul-searching, what we saw over the weekend, and so far this week, is more of the same. I have seen reams of commentary about how the woman not running for president should not have spoken. She should not have suggested, commentators argued, that the Russians are grooming a Democrat to be a third-party spoiler. She should not have said that someone is probably Tulsi Gabbard, who does enjoy rubbing elbows with ethnic authoritarians. (Clinton did not name Gabbard in her interview.)
Largely missing from this commentary, however, is Clinton’s larger point, which is that the Russians continue to violate our national sovereignty. As if on cue, Facebook reported Monday that it disabled a network of accounts created by Russian operatives to spread propaganda about Joe Biden in key swing states. This news came after Bloomberg reported that a Russian mobster fighting extradition to the US provided dirt on Joe Biden in exchange for legal help from the president’s personal attorney, Rudy Giuliani, the very same guy, the Post reported, whose associates were funneling Russian cash into the campaigns of Republican members of Congress, a pattern the Senate intelligence panel recognized when it said that the NRA was “a foreign asset.”
So here’s Hillary Clinton, who has no skin in the game this time, warning us about something big and important that we all need to pay attention to, not for herself but for the good of our country, and not only is the press corps silent on its role in kneecapping her campaign, all it hears when Clinton speaks is some bitch bitchin’.
Now I ask you, truly: What would you do if you were Elizabeth Warren?
You could say be honest about what Medicare for All requires, and there’s something to be said about that argument. Warren could be upfront with the American people. She could explain that the 1 percent by far will pay the most for universal health care, but that even that won’t be enough. She could say don’t worry about paying more in taxes, because you’re going to pay less in health care. She could explain that it’s going to be no more painful than paying for Social Security. But the problem isn’t Warren’s lack of transparency. The problem in a media environment in which lies become political reality is that honesty can’t solve the problem. Indeed, honesty in a media environment in which lies become political reality can make the problem worse.
If Elizabeth Warren said the magic words—I will raise taxes on every American to fund universal health care for all—that would not prevent Donald Trump and the Republican Party from attacking her in ways that have no basis in reality. If she did say the magic words, she’d end up giving credence to those attacks. By attacking her uniformly and ruthlessly, even if those attacks have no basis in reality, the Republicans in effect bully the press corps into covering how she’s “handling” the politics of universal health care, thus validating the Republican line of attack, even if that line of attack has no basis in reality. Reporters knew all along there was nothing to the Clinton email scandal. But they pretended it mattered anyway because it mattered to the Republicans. When something worked last time, there’s no reason not to try again.
Warren is already getting a taste of what will happen if she says the magic words. The press corps has been framing the issue not as universal health care but eliminating private health insurance, as if that’s Warren’s goal. It isn’t. Getting rid of private health insurance would be the outcome of achieving something bigger, cheaper and better.
But the Republicans don’t want you to pay attention to bigger, cheaper and better. They want you to pay attention to something would be be terrible if any real person were trying to do it. The fact that no real person is trying to do it has no relevance to the Republican plan of attack on Warren. They are going to lie until the lies become political reality, and no amount of honesty on Warren’s part is going to change that.
John Stoehr is the editor of the Editorial Board. He writes the daily edition. Find him @johnastoehr.