We turn to the growing outrage at insurance companies, the ones that raise premiums on ordinary Americans while racking up big profits. Today, executives of the company that insures the most Americans had to answer for big bonuses and lavish retreats while socking clients with a double-digit increase in fees.ABC viewers were treated to demagogic Democrats railing against the salaries and profits of WellPoint. Then, as if it were a coincidence, Sawyer acknowledged “this anger erupts on the eve of President Obama's health care reform summit tomorrow.” (NBC also ran a story pegged to the House Energy and Commerce Committee hearing, but sans the histrionics.)
Over on CBS, Katie Couric insisted Thursday would bring “that much-anticipated summit at the White House” to “try to save health care reform.” She began with “shades of the Paris peace talks,” ruing “Republicans have been arguing about the shape of the table and the seating arrangement.” Getting to the substance, Couric pleaded: “Does the President have any chance of reaching some kind of compromise with Republicans on health care reform?”
Karl reported “the top five insurance companies took in $12 billion in profit last year,” as if that’s shameful or excessive, and gave short-shrift to how Republicans would control costs “with a limit on malpractice lawsuits, and increasing competition to allow people to buy insurance policies across state lines.”
He concluded by returning to the Obama team’s claims that their reform regime in itself would lower costs: “As for the White House idea to have that panel control how much insurance premiums can go up, the White House acknowledges that that is only part of the solution – in fact, a temporary fix until health care can go – health care reform can go fully into effect.”
ABC reporter Jonathan Karl reviewed Ken Gormley's huge 789-page Clinton-scandal book The Death of American Virtue for The Wall Street Journal on Tuesday. Karl played no favorites among the actors in the impeachment drama, but the review made clear that Bill Clinton stood out for his never-ending bitterness against conservatives:
Mr. Gormley interviewed the former president three times in 2004-05 and found a man still seething at the vast right-wing conspiracy that he blames for bringing the stain of impeachment to his presidency. "They're on a crusade," Mr. Clinton says. "God has ordained them to crush the infidels. . . . Ken Starr was their errand boy, and he danced to their tune, just as hard as he could dance."
Crush the infidels? Was Clinton trying to make his critics sound like Islamic jihadis?
CBS's Nancy Cordes reported, over a helpful graphic showing the words written on Palin's hand, that while Palin “dismissed the President Saturday night as a 'charismatic guy with a Teleprompter,' she may have been relying on some crib notes of her own.” Cordes concluded: “Her supporters called it an endearing sign that Palin's a real person, while detractors argue it's proof she doesn't know her facts.” On NBC, Brian Williams led the Palin story with how “it happened after a speech where she criticized the President for relying too much on a Teleprompter.”
Next on CBS, Katie Couric highlighted how, in her pre-SuperBowl sit-down with Obama, she had raised with him that “people are not sure who he is or what he stands for.” Viewers were then treated to a two-minute long answer from Obama, ending with his insistance that when the economy improves “we'll do just fine and everybody will be saying what a connection President Obama has with the American people. Which is what they were saying a year ago.” (“They” being journalists?)
NBC and CBS’s morning shows on Tuesday completely ignored the revelation that the Obama administration’s Recovery.gov website claims to have saved or created jobs in congressional districts that don’t exist. ABC’s Good Morning America devoted 21 seconds to the developing story.
On ABCNews.com, Jonathan Karl wrote, "In Arizona's 15th congressional district, 30 jobs have been saved or created with just $761,420 in federal stimulus spending." There is no 15th congressional district in Arizona. On Monday night’s World News, the network did manage a full report by Karl. He elaborated, "And it lists $34 million spent in Arizona's 86th district. That district doesn't exist either. In fact, in virtually every state, the website lists millions of dollars spent and hundreds of jobs created in fictional congressional districts."
NBC's Brian Williams contrasted “big endorsements by two influential groups” with “a big, noisy rally urging lawmakers to just say no,” while reporter Kelly O'Donnell minimized the conservative event as “a few thousand protesters.” ABC's Jonathan Karl, however, recognized how “the hastily-planned protest drew one of the largest crowds in memory for a congressional event. The crowd extends all the way up around to the House side of the building, across to the Senate side, literally surrounding the western front of the Capitol.”
NBC's Kelly recounted how the House bill would “expand health coverage to 96 percent of Americans, and create government-backed insurance called a public option. Today that plan won a powerful endorsement. AARP, the lobby group for Americans over 50, signed on and showed off boxes of supportive petitions” and that was “followed by another boost, the doctors' lobby, the American Medical Association.”
ABC's story began with a McConnell soundbite (“'Shut up,' the government says, 'don't communicate with your customers. Be quiet and get in line,'”), before reporter Jonathan Karl explained McConnell was referring to the “Department of Health and Human Services, telling insurance companies who serve Medicare recipients, to stop 'misleading' and 'confusing' mailings, saying, quote: 'We are instructing you to immediately discontinue all such mailings, and remove any related materials from your Web sites.'”
Karl continued: “The extraordinary order comes in response to a mailing the Humana insurance company sent to customers in the Medicare Advantage program. The Humana mailing warned that because of Medicare cuts in the health care reform bills, quote, 'millions of seniors and disabled individuals could lose many important benefits and services.'”
ABC’s Jonathan Karl on Friday attacked wasteful government spending of stimulus money, even going to the John Murtha Airport in Western Pennsylvania, which he derided as a "ghost town." Providing some refreshing journalistic skepticism about the Obama legislation, Karl described the airport as a "monument to powerful Democratic Congressman John Murtha."
The House member’s portrait could be seen in the background as Karl reported for Good Morning America on the $17 million that the tiny airport has received. (Politico puts the total number at $150 million.) The reporter conducted a tour of the empty, quiet building: "When we visited Murtha Airport earlier this year, the place looked like a ghost town. We have rented a car. But the Hertz counter is as deserted as the rest of the airport." (Karl also traveled to other small town airports that recieved money.)
Reporter Jonathan Karl noted continued opposition amongst those at town hall meetings, yet ran soundbites from three Democrats who demonstrated how “many prominent Democrats are hoping to turn an outpouring of goodwill into political magic.” For instance, “the most senior Senator, Robert Byrd, said yesterday, 'my heart and soul weeps' at the loss of the Senator Kennedy and called for naming the health care bill after him, a view wildly held b by Democrats.”
Karl recalled “the tactic has worked before. After the assassination of John Kennedy, President Johnson invoked his memory to revive the long-stalled civil rights bill.” This year, however, while “win one for Teddy” is “already becoming a rallying cry here on Capitol Hill, Karl concluded, “the divisions run deep and will not be easily overcome, even with all that obvious good will for Senator Ted Kennedy.”
Following O'Donnell, NBC's Chuck Todd checked in from a parallel universe at the White House where, except for the pesky health care opponents, Obama's staff achieved great things during the week:
They look back at this week, and they see that they've rescued two Americans from North Korea, that they broke a barrier at the Supreme Court with the confirmation of soon-to-be Justice Sonia Sotomayor, that a major terrorist was killed in, of the Taliban, a figure that is believed, that is somebody that might be able to break up the Taliban in such a way, that the cash for clunkers turned out to be a success, those good unemployment news. So they sit here and say, hey, it's pretty good, but then this health care debate and this town halls that Kelly was reporting on....ABC anchor Charles Gibson saw “a pattern of disruption -- opponents of change shouting at members of Congress so loud that at times police are called in.” He then pointed to the Obama administration as an authority on civility, highlighting how “White House spokesman Robert Gibbs said today: 'We can discuss these issues without being uncivilized. It's the same thing I tell my six-year-old.'”
Good Morning America's Jonathan Karl on Friday provided a questioning, skeptical analysis of how stimulus money is being spent on road signs promoting the legislation. At one point, the correspondent quipped, "But for now, the signs seem easier to create than jobs." However, former Clinton aide-turned journalist George Stephanopoulos provided White House spin on the total amount of stimulus money spent.
In a follow-up segment, GMA co-host Diane Sawyer pointed out that of the $787 billion allocated in February for the legislation, only ten percent has been spent. Providing White House talking points, Stephanopoulos offered a tortured explanation for how this wasn't so: "They [the Obama administration] argue, though, that more than ten percent has actually been put to work. They would argue that about 20 to 25 percent has been put to work, because money has been obligated that allows these projects to go forward." Continuing this charitable analysis, he added, "Even though the check isn't written until the roads are actually built."
Good Morning America on Thursday unearthed archival footage that featured Supreme Court nominee Sonia Sotomayor on the show in 1986 complaining about discrimination against women. The clips highlighted her fretting, "There are different styles. And because of those styles, I think that's what affects the ability of women to get ahead in the workplace."
In the video, Sotomayor can be seen talking to then-GMA host Joan Lunden and asserting that men inadvertently discriminate against women: "Well, I found in my experiences that it's not that men are consciously discriminating against promoting women. But, I do believe that as people, we have self-images of what's good. And if you're a male that grew up professionally in a male-dominated profession, then your image of what a good lawyer is a male image."