PBS's Smiley Likens Obamacare Repeal to 'Drive-By' Shooting of 'Innocent Bystanders'

On Thursday's Tavis Smiley show, PBS host Smiley made one of the most over the top analogies one will hear in the health care debate as he likened the repeal of ObamaCare to a "drive-by" shooting that would "kill" people who are "innocent bystanders" as he hosted liberal activist Sister Simone Campbell as his guest. Smiley wondered how Speaker Paul Ryan views people who might suffer if ObamaCare were repealed: 

They may not be the targets, but there are often innocent victims who are -- the bystanders.They get hit in a drive-by. Somebody came through there to kill somebody -- and you weren't the target, but you got killed as an innocent bystander. Does he not -- so if he doesn't see them as the targets, does he see them as potentially innocent persons who are going to get killed in this drive-by?

A bit earlier, the two also jabbed Speaker Ryan over whether he is really a Catholic because he is pushing ObamaCare repeal.

After the show began with Smiley listing 10 points -- referred to as "commandments" -- that Campbell advocates for a national health insurance plan, the liberal nun fretted that there would be a "historic" and "untold" amount of "suffering" if ObamaCare were repealed. Smiley then brought up the issue of Speaker Ryan's Catholic faith, and the two joked about whether he was really a Catholic:

TAVIS SMILEY: You're a Catholic.

SISTER SIMONE CAMPBELL: I'm a Catholic.

SMILEY: Last I checked, Paul Ryan is a Catholic.

CAMPBELL (smiling): He alleges it. I wonder some days. I wonder. 

SMILEY (after laughing): So I ask how you process the fact that a fellow Catholic is leading the charge to pass a health care plan which does not include any of those commandments that you laid out?

A bit later, after recalling the case of a man she knows who has a daughter with Down's Syndrome who depends on Medicaid, Campbell recounted:

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And the challenge is, when I have talked to Speaker Ryan -- not recently, not in this current cycle but before -- I'd lift up these stories of people I know. He would say to me, "Oh, but they're not the targets of my program." But they're going to be his victims.

After the PBS host asked, "But who are the targets?" Campbell cited statistics that an overwhelming majority of Medicaid recipients are either employed or are not in shape to work. Smiley then began making his drive-by shooting analogy. Smiley:

I hate to use this analogy, but it's the best one I can come up with on the spur of the moment. They may not be the targets, but there are often innocent victims who are -- the bystanders.

The liberal PBS host added:

They get hit in a drive-by. Somebody came through there to kill somebody -- and you weren't the target, but you got killed as an innocent bystander. Does he not -- so if he doesn't see them as the targets, does he see them as potentially innocent persons who are going to get killed in this drive-by?

Campbell further derided Speaker Ryan as she responded:

I think he dismisses them as being small potatoes, doesn't matter, collateral damage, just one of those things that's unavoidable. Which breaks my heart because it's our people that we're talking about.

Below is a transcript of the relevant portion of the Thursday, March 23, Tavis Smiley show on PBS:

SISTER SIMONE CAMPBELL: So the suffering about to come if this bill passes is historic, is untold.

TAVIS SMILEY: So Donald Trump made a campaign promise -- which doesn't excuse it, but he made a campaign promise about this, a repeal of ObamaCare. So he's trying to honor the campaign promise he made to those who believed in that. But that's different than Paul Ryan. You're a Catholic.

CAMPBELL: I'm a Catholic.

SMILEY: Last I checked, Paul Ryan is a Catholic.

CAMPBELL (smiling): He alleges it. I wonder some days. I wonder. 

SMILEY (after laughing): So I ask how you process the fact that a fellow Catholic is leading the charge to pass a health care plan which does not include any of those commandments that you laid out?

CAMPBELL: Well -- and I think this is the anguish. The only way that I can explain it, Tavis, is he does not know the lived experience of our people.

SMILEY: But he traveled the country. He did his own listening tour. He traveled the country. He's written about it. He's given speeches about the fact that he met people, he saw them where they are. So, I mean, I'm not -- I would never push back on you -- but I'm having a hard time accepting that because he did a tour of his own.

CAMPBELL: Well, he did a tour of his own, but, you know what, he's very socially awkward. And he didn't have anyone with him to buffer that. And so some of the stories I heard, he was in one African-American church in Cleveland, and what did he do? He sat in the front row as a good Catholic and didn't move, didn't talk to anybody, but now he says, "I was there." 

And he doesn't know, like, we got a call from one of our members, Joe McGrath. He's a dad, his daughter Maura is a Down's Syndrome kid who depends on Medicaid. And Joe called in tears saying: What was going to happen to his Maura if she gets pushed off of his Medicaid? Because she depends on that for a lifeline for survival and for training and for being able to be a productive member of our society to the extent that she can be.

And the challenge is, when I have talked to Speaker Ryan -- not recently, not in this current cycle but before -- I'd lift up these stories of people I know. He would say to me, "Oh, but they're not the targets of my program." But they're going to be his victims.

SMILEY: But who are the targets?

CAMPBELL: It's money. It's dollar signs. It's savings. It's this idea also that those who use a government-sponsored program are lazy. And what is not known is that 65 percent of the people using Medicaid are employed. Another 10 to 15 percent are the elderly. Another 10 to 15 percent are the disabled. That leaves a very small percent of people.

SMILEY: I hate to use this analogy, but it's the best one I can come up with on the spur of the moment. They may not be the targets, but there are often innocent victims who are -- the bystanders.

CAMPBELL: Exactly.

SMILEY: They get hit in a drive-by. Somebody came through there to kill somebody -- and you weren't the target, but you got killed as an innocent bystander. Does he not -- so if he doesn't see them as the targets, does he see them as potentially innocent persons who are going to get killed in this drive-by?

CAMPBELL: I think he dismisses them as being small potatoes, doesn't matter, collateral damage, just one of those things that's unavoidable. Which breaks my heart because it's our people that we're talking about. 

And the American people need to wake up to the fact that this devastating proposal is going to shift money to the top -- 63 percent of the savings -- that's a big amount of the savings that they're going to do because of the repealing all these taxes are going to those with .6 percent of the income -- the top of the top, And this is not who we are as a nation. We're not just for the rich. The whole genius of this nation is that it's "We the People." We, the people of the United States, together for the common good.

SMILEY: So the nation needs to wake up. At this point, what agency do the American people have to try to push back on what is in the offing?

[CAMPBELL]

How hopeful are you as we sit here on what could be the eve -- we will see what happens -- but what can be the eve of this vote? How are you processing this moment and all that you've worked for and all that you've seen in your lifetime that we are back at this point of balancing budgets on the backs of poor people?

[CAMPBELL]

As the fighter that I've always known you to be, let me close on this note. It's a personal question, if I can. How do you sustain your hope?

[CAMPBELL]

You are faith in action, and I appreciate you for it. Yes. We will follow this and see what happens in the days ahead. As you heard her say, if it can't be stopped in the House, there's always the Senate, and the fight goes on. Thank you for your work. Glad to have you on the program.

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