NYT's Backhanded Compliment for AZ Gov. Brewer: 'Compassionate...Not a Word Often Used to Describe Her'

January 22nd, 2013 7:01 AM

New York Times Phoenix bureau chief Fernanda Santos reported Sunday on Arizona Gov. Jan Brewer's controversial action to expand Medicaid in Arizona, in a story full of labeling bias and a denigrating description of the supposedly uncompassionate governor: "Medicaid Expansion Is Delicate Maneuver for Arizona's Republican Governor." (Previously, Santos has advocated for Arizona's illegal immigrants cowering in "the shadows.")

Gov. Jan Brewer called it “one of the most difficult decisions” of her 30 years in public service.

If she chose to expand Medicaid, the federal and state program that provides health care to poor and disabled people, she risked antagonizing her conservative base, steadfast opponents of President Obama’s health care law. If she did not, she risked missing a solid chance of shifting the way she is viewed by a Latino population of increasing political influence, beyond her stern positions on immigration.

Ms. Brewer, who has become something of a conservative icon for her aggressive opposition to Mr. Obama’s policies, surprised many Legislature watchers at her State of the State address last week by saying she wanted to expand the state’s Medicaid program to include anyone who makes up to 133 percent of the federal poverty level, or $14,856 for an individual. The risk if Arizona does otherwise, she said, is losing the federal funds and the health care jobs that come with the changes.


Her fellow Republican governors in the Southwest, Susana Martinez of New Mexico and Brian Sandoval of Nevada, used a similar argument to justify their decisions to do the same thing. But it was Ms. Brewer whom National Review Online, the conservative publication, singled out for criticism in an editorial, saying she exemplified “that unfortunately common strain of Republican leadership that is uncompromising in rhetoric but opportunistic in reality.” Americans for Prosperity, the conservative advocacy group, also circulated a paragraph-by-paragraph rebuttal of the arguments she used to support her choice.

While Santos readily uncovered "conservative" groups, the left-wing separatist group National Council of La Raza (it stands for "the race," suggesting a separatist streak) was not pinned with an ideological label but innocently described as "a Latino advocacy organization."

The expansion in Arizona, which requires state legislative approval, is popular among Latino voters, who lean heavily Democratic, and among Latinos in general, who stand to gain the most from it. A report by NCLR, a Latino advocacy organization also known as the National Council of La Raza, said the national expansion of Medicaid would account for about half of the Latinos newly insured under the health care law across the country, with about 3.1 million additional Latinos covered by the program.

Santos unloaded an unflattering profile and a cheap shot against Brewer.

Ms. Brewer, though, casts a different profile. She is the finger-wagging governor respected in conservative circles for her outspoken criticism of Mr. Obama and unfaltering support of Arizona’s strict immigration legislation, which she fought for all the way to the Supreme Court.

But on Wednesday, as she stood surrounded by health care executives at a news conference that seemed more like a pep rally, she was repeatedly called “compassionate,” not a word often used to describe her. The health care industry had lobbied hard for her support of the Medicaid expansion, hiring her former budget director, Peter Burns, and Chuck Coughlin, her campaign strategist, to guide their efforts.

Is "compassionate" a stand-in for "spending more tax money"?

Santos added a reference to "Several hard-line Republicans" who weren't seeking re-election to the Arizona Legislature, presumably because of a turning tide in favor of looser immigration enforcement.