Gibbs Lets the Media Have it Over Healthcare, Town Hall Coverage


mediaite_thumbWhite house Press Secretary Robert Gibbs unloaded on the media today, criticizing their “he said/she said” coverage of the health care debate and focus on the more sensational aspects of recent town hall meetings (video below).

During the rest of the briefing, Gibbs revisited the theme that the media was disappointed that the President didn’t get yelled at during his New Hampshire town hall meeting several times.

On the town hall score, Gibbs is on target, but also off base. To observe that news outlets promote conflict over harmonious debate is to observe that the Pope is Catholic. That some news outlets were crassly open about their lust for fur-flying, as our Steve Krakauer observed, makes for a more relevant point.

Gibbs’ point about “he said/she said” coverage, referring to Sarah Palin’s “Death Panel” hysteria, was spot-on. While most people who are even half-serious (sorry Newt) have laughed off the outlandish crazytalk, a number of journalists have given credence to the idea that end-of-life provisions are the government’s way of encouraging people to cut costs by dying with dignity.

In the past few days, the Washington Post’s Charles Lane, then Eugene Robinson, and now The Daily Beast’s Lee Siegel have all given Palin’s death panels the “she’s crazy, but there’s a germ of a point here” treatment.

The section of the House bill with which they feel such unease, section 1233, does nothing more than mandate payment for a medically accepted service, and describes the service as it would any other benefit. That the service is (voluntary) end-of-life counseling seems to throw people off, but the government’s involvement is simply to pay for it.

The description of the counseling session is not a government creation. It is the product of the medical establishment’s collective judgment, just as they determined that two aspirin was the best dosage. The counseling is neutral as to how the patient’s life ends, either “with dignity,” or kicking and screaming. In fact, had conservative cause célébre Terry Schiavo had one of these sessions, there would never have been a need for President Bush to intervene. She could have insisted on that feeding tube, or not, long before her incapacity.

It is faux “balance” like this, not Sarah Palin’s ravings, that will truly muddy the waters in this debate.

Tommy Christopher is a freelance writer, blogger, and online journalist based out of New Jersey and Washington, DC. He has covered the progressive political scene and the historic 2008 elections, including live coverage from the Democratic National Convention in Denver. Tommy became a freelance White House reporter in early 2009 after a year in which he was able to break a number of big stories and was quoted in print and online by everyone from the LA Times and the New York Times to the Huffington Post and Hot Air. Tommy can also be found at his own blog: Follow him on Twitter here.

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