Is Health Care Reform the new Iraq War?
Here's the New York Times' David Brooks in a snappy back-and-forth with Gail Collins yesterday:
Let's say we had a year-long debate in the run-up to the Iraq war. Let's say at the end of that debate, 33 percent of Americans thought it was a good idea to invade Iraq, 46 percent thought it was a bad idea and the rest weren't sure ... Would you have advised George Bush under these circumstances to go ahead and invade Iraq? ... Or would you have said, George, I know you really want to invade Iraq. I know you think an invasion will do a lot of good for the world. But the American people are pretty clear about this issue. Maybe you should show a little doubt. Maybe you ought to listen and give this whole thing a second look.
Here's the problem with that analogy. Imagine that we had this debate over the Iraq invasion, and there were some legitimate differences of opinion. But one side was mostly telling the truth and the other side was mostly confusing the public and telling lies. At the end of the debate, opinion polls reflected that the side telling lies had persuaded a majority of the public, and we went ahead and launched the war.
Oh wait -- that actually happened?
The Iraq War was fairly popular at the time it was initiated ... about 60 percent of the public supported it, give or take, depending which poll you look at. It was authorized by the Congress overwhelmingly, including by a majority of Senate Democrats -- not just Blue Dogs but also John Kerry, Joe Biden and Hillary Clinton, among others ...
Brooks' analogy to the debate over health care, then, is somewhat ironic: once again, one side has told a lot of lies to help alter the course of public opinion. Some of these lies, like death panels or the government takeover meme, are not very subtle. Others are a little more clever: the notion, for instance, that we could easily require insurers to cover all people with pre-existing conditions without either adopting an individual mandate or substantially escalating premiums.
And those lies have had an impact.