Thursday, August 27, 2009

RNC Chair Michael Steele All Tied Up In Knots Over Health Care Reform

In an interview with Michael Steele, NPR’s Steve Inskeep repeatedly asked the RNC chairman to explain why Republicans keep defending Medicare at the same time they claim that the government is incompetent at running anything.

Steele grew frustrated with the questioning, telling Inskeep to stop being “cute” and “doing a wonderful little dance.” But even while admitting that people “like Medicare” and it’s “a valuable program is it’s the last line of opportunity to receive health care for a lot of our seniors,” he continued to attack it as “bloated” and inefficient. “I’m not saying I like or dislike Medicare,” an exasperated Steele finally said. “It is what it is.”

At one point, Steele tied himself into knots trying to explain his view on the proper role of government after saying that “there are issues in the insurance market that we can regulate a little bit better”:

INSKEEP: Wait, wait — You would trust the government to look into that?

STEELE: No, I’m talking about the private — I’m talking about citizens. I’m talking about — (CROSSTALK)

INSKEEP: Who is it you — You said it is something that should be looked into. Who is it that you think should look into that?

STEELE: Well, who regulates the insurance markets?

INSKEEP: That would be the government, I believe.

STEELE: Well, and so what. Now wait a minute. Hold up. You’re doing a wonderful little dance here and you’re trying to be cute. But the reality of this is very simple. I’m not saying the government doesn’t have a role to play. I’ve never said that. The government does have a role to play; it has a very limited role to play.

INSKEEP: Mr. Chairman, I respect that you think I’m doing a dance here. I just want you to know that as a citizen, I’m a little confused by the positions you take because you’re giving me a very nice nuanced position here —

STEELE: It’s not nice and nuanced. I’m being very clear.

Steele also had to admit that sometimes private insurers do get “between the doctor and the patient,” but he quickly added that if the government were involved, it would be “10 times worse.”

Toward the end of the interview, Inskeep also asked Steele whether it was “challenging” to explain the health care situation to Americans in a way that “doesn’t just kind of scare people with soundbites.” Steele insisted, “No one’s trying to scare people with soundbites. I have not done that, and I don’t know any leaders in the House and the Senate that have done that.” (Of course, many Republicans in Congress have been using these soundbites, and Steele himself has endorsed them.)

Steele has been all over the map in recent weeks, trying to square the GOP’s dogmatic positions with the realities of health care in America. He has fear-mongered about death panels, and then said that no one should be using such soundbites. He has criticized cost-cutting savings to Medicare, then said that such measures may be warranted. In today’s interview, all those positions finally caught up with him.

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