Olbermann Cherry-picks AP to Accuse Alan Simpson of Attacking Veterans

September 1st, 2010 11:15 PM

Keith Olbermann on Wednesday cherry-picked an Associated Press article in order to accuse former Wyoming Sen. Alan Simpson (R) of attacking Vietnam veterans.

For some background, AP's Mike Baker wrote Tuesday about concerns Simpson, as the co-chair of President Obama's deficit reduction commission, had involving changes the Veterans Administration made to the number of maladies Vietnam vets could be covered for as a result of exposure to the defoliant Agent Orange.

Much as he often does as one of the nation's least professional journalists, Olbermann on MSNBC's "Countdown" took a grand total of two sentences from Baker's article to convict Simpson of attacking Americans that proudly served their country (video follows with partial transcript and commentary):

KEITH OLBERMANN: Enter former Republican Senator Alan Simpson. Last week, Senator Simpson, former senator Simpson, who co-chairs the President's panel on reducing spending, said of Social Security America was suckling on a milk cow. And the executive director of the Older Women's League who had dared complain about his previous sexist language should get a real job. This week Simpson went after Vietnam veterans. Here's what he said about providing decades-late for the cost of treating conditions that might be linked to Agent Orange. Quote, "It's the kind of thing that's just driving us to this $1 trillion, 400 billion deficit this year...The irony [is] that the veterans who served this country are now in a way not helping us to save the country in this fiscal mess."

Vietnam vets not helping to save the country because they insisted on breathing in the toxic defoliant their country sprayed on them while fighting the war their country drafted them to fight. The law that provided for their treatment, by the way, was approved by 99 U.S. senators in 1991 including Alan Simpson.

To begin with, Olbermann dishonestly juxtaposed the two Simpson quotes to make them appear that the second sentence came before the first and therefore was related.

This was not the case, as "It's the kind of thing that's just driving us to this $1 trillion, 400 billion deficit this year" came at the very end of the AP piece nowhere near the other quote.

Nice job, Keith.

But most importantly, Olbermann - as he so often does - completely ignored the context of Simpson's comments.

With this in mind, here were some relevant paragraphs from Baker's piece with emphasis added:

The system that automatically awards disability benefits to some veterans because of concerns about Agent Orange seems contrary to efforts to control federal spending, the Republican co-chairman of President Barack Obama's deficit commission said Tuesday.

Former Wyoming Sen. Alan Simpson's comments came a day after The Associated Press reported that diabetes has become the most frequently compensated ailment among Vietnam veterans, even though decades of research has failed to find more than a possible link between the defoliant Agent Orange and diabetes.

For some additional background, this is what Baker and the AP reported Monday:

More Vietnam veterans are being compensated for diabetes than for any other malady, including post-traumatic stress disorder, hearing loss or general wounds.

Tens of thousands of other claims for common ailments of age, such as erectile dysfunction, are getting paid as well because of a possible link to Agent Orange.

The VA said yesterday it will add heart disease, Parkinson's disease and leukemia to the list of Agent Orange-related conditions. The new rules will go into effect this fall unless Congress intervenes and could cost $42 billion over the next 10 years.

As co-chair of the President's deficit reduction commission, you would imagine that Simpson should be concerned about this change to what the VA is going to be covering especially given the price tag and that there has yet to be a definitive causal relationship made between Agent Orange and diabetes.

But Olbermann didn't share that with his viewers. Here's what else he conveniently ignored in Tuesday's AP piece:

Virginia Sen. Jim Webb, a Democrat and Vietnam combat veteran, has also raised questions about the spending. [...] 

Other ailments have been added even though and [sic] Institute of Medicine review has found they only have a potential association and that they could not rule out other factors. Those maladies include prostate cancer, lung cancer and diabetes. The committee has said that, for diabetes, more powerful influences include family history, physical inactivity and obesity. 

Indeed Webb did raise questions about this spending as the Washington Post reported Tuesday:

Changes set for publication in Tuesday's Federal Register could result in payouts of about $42 billion in the next decade, VA said. But the department still could face resistance from lawmakers, including Sen. James Webb (D-Va.), concerned with how the department will pay out claims for ailments that are common among elderly Americans anyway, despite military service.

Under the new regulations, the VA will presume that veterans who served in Vietnam between Jan. 9, 1962, and May 7, 1975, were exposed to Agent Orange and will add three medical conditions -- hairy cell leukemia, Parkinson's disease and ischemic heart disease -- to its list of disabilities presumed to have a connection to exposure to the herbicide.

The changes will go into effect in early November, after a two-month Congressional review period, VA said. The department also plans to review about 90,000 previously denied claims from veterans who had sought benefits for Agent Orange-related health problems.

Congress included $13.4 billion for Agent Orange-related benefits in this year's $58 billion supplemental spending bill. But Webb, a Vietnam veteran, has said that adding ischemic heart disease to the VA's list of approved diseases could result in the department paying veterans for a disease they might have contracted anyway as they aged.

"I take a back seat to no one in my concern for our veterans," Webb said in May. "I have spent my entire adult life one way or the other involved in veterans law. But I do think we need to have practical, proper procedures, and I do believe that the executive branch . . . needs to be held to an accountable standard."

Not at all surprisingly, Olbermann didn't mention that Webb, a Democrat as well as a veteran, shared similar budgetary concerns about this VA change with Simpson.

That would have been too much like journalism for such a shill.

As for that juxtaposed quote, here was the complete context again with emphasis added:

The VA also acknowledged in its heart disease rule Tuesday that it could cost billions more than initially anticipated. The initial projection was that the new ailments, mostly heart disease but also Parkinson's disease and certain types of leukemia, would total $42.2 billion over 10 years. But that was based on disease prevalence rates for the general population, not representative of the aging class of Vietnam veterans.

VA used an age-adjusted formula in its latest proposal and estimated that it could cost some $67 billion in the next decade.

"It's the kind of thing that's just driving us to this $1 trillion, $400 billion deficit this year," Simpson said. "It's not that I'm an uncaring person, but common sense is the most uncommon thing in Washington."

As such, in Simpson's view, "the kind of thing that's just driving us to this $1 trillion, $400 billion deficit this year" is the faulty accounting the VA used to underestimate by 60 percent the cost of covering these new ailments.

He was not as Olbermann stated blaming this on veterans.

Frankly, this entire report was utter nonsense, and that a cable news network allows one of its prime time hosts to employ such tactics should be offensive to Americans on both sides of the aisle.