I was listening to MSNBC on satellite radio on the way home last night, when Chris Hayes had Jennifer Stefano of Americans for Prosperity on to talk about, what else, the latest GOP/conservative/right-wing/&c. complaint about the Most Monstrous Law Ever Passed. The current panty-embunchening episode involves the extension of open enrollment for two weeks to allow those who begin the process before March 31 to finish it without being penalized if the process takes them past that deadline.
The result was predictable, but I still found myself a bit taken aback by just how loudly and shrilly Ms. Stefano recited her well-rehearsed (and almost entirely false) talking points while paying little or no attention to the questions she was actually being asked. While the yelling and the shouting and the talking past each other and the lying and the factual rebuttals and the taking of personal affrontery were all par for the course, if one actually made an effort to listen to what either of them was actually saying, the interview provided an excellent example of why these conversations and debates really make my brain hurt.
Follow me below the fold for a partial transcript and discussion.
The interview starts at 4:24 in the video linked above. Chris's first question:
Why should anyone care about this extension of the deadline? Who cares? So people are going to have a few more weeks to sign up.Fairly straightforward question, and a very narrow, specific topic: the extension of the deadline. Jennifer's answer, to the question about why anyone should care about the extension of the deadline:
I think people should care about the deadline for the same reason that I wake up, and millions of women, actually 85 million ... women across the country wake up and think about their children as well, that's how many mothers we have, because we really are having our choices removed from us as mothers, and the health care that we can provide our children.This is where Chris began to interrupt, because I expect he had the same thought I was having.
What? Why?Jennifer continued:
Why? Because the president lied to us.Oh, jeez, here we go....
The president promised us, and a lot of women who voted for him, a lot who didn't...
They're never going to get past that, are they? We know what she was going to say next, although she never actually got to say it, and even if we grant that it's true it still doesn't come anywhere close to answering Chris's original question of why anyone should care about the extension of the deadline (let alone demonstrate an absence of "choices" under the ACA). Chris tries to interrupt here and after some crosstalk attempts to get Jennifer back on point:
Why does extending a deadline for two weeks take away the choices you have for your children? Explain that.A fair follow-up question. That was her answer to his original question and he's asking for an explanation, how [A] causes [B]. Seems reasonable, right? Jennifer's answer:
Because it continues to not allow people to go back and change this law.Read that again.
Because it continues to not allow people to go back and change this law.What in the high holy name of Jeebus Fleebing Cripes does that mean? "People" can't "go back and change this law" because the deadline is being extended, whereas if the deadline were not extended then "people" would be able to "go back and change this law"? Extending the deadline "continues to not allow" that? What on the FSM's multi-colored Earth is she talking about?
What follows doesn't help much.
This law has made seven million people lose their insurance.The tone here starts to become halting and deliberate, like a teenaged William Shatner/S.E. Cupp hybrid.
This law has made seven ... million ... people ... lose ... their ... insurance. For the people who have actually signed up on the exchange, the McKinsey Institute, which is a consulting firm that tracks these things, non-partisan, has found only 14% of them are actually people without coverage.By now it's clear she's reciting a prepared script. Whether her facts are correct or not, they have nothing to do with the extension of the deadline, which is all she's been asked about so far. On we go:
People without health care right now, who don't have health care for their children, don't ... want ... this ... law, Chris. It's not helping them.Chris says that's not true. Jennifer rebuts midstream:
That is true, they're not signing up, and as a mother I take offense, that women are being forced, to have no choices to cover their children.Chris is totally flabbergasted by this point.
What... what are you talking about? Wait .. what are you talking about?Jennifer doesn't stop as Chris tries to get a word in:
They don't ... want ... this ... law. That's why you have the pushback [about] the deadline.Well, at least she mentioned the deadline. And here she basically makes the point that Chris made in the segment before the interview, that the "pushback" about the deadline is based on nothing more than generalized holistic unprincipled irrational opposition to the entire concept and existence of the Affordable Care Act. They hate the law, so they hate the extension of the deadline. That's all there is to it. There's no specific, principled objection to the extension of the deadline, it's all about just irrationally hating this law, reinforcing the irrational hatred of this law, and working backwards from that irrational hatred to try to make it seem rational.
But we've all known that for some time.
Jennifer continues to talk -- loudly and emphatically -- over Chris's efforts at follow-up, as Chris bows his head in frustration:
That's why you have the pushback [about] the deadline. You can't get people to pay for it. You can't get people to sign up for it. If it was successful, you wouldn't care.OK... so.... People are not signing up for health care, so they don't want the deadline extended because... umm.... they... don't want to be given more time to do something they're not going to do? I can't fathom the logic there. If people aren't signing up then they shouldn't care one way or the other when the deadline is. Again, they're just mad about it for the sake of being mad about it.
And what does she mean by, "If it was successful, you [Chris] wouldn't care"? The question was, why do she and her political compatriots care about the extension of the deadline. Maybe she meant, "If it was successful, you wouldn't need to extend the deadline," but that's not what she said. And that wouldn't really make sense anyway; the deadline is being extended because it is successful and people do want to sign up. If it were true that no one was signing up, then there would be no need to extend the deadline.
I suspect a lot of people tuned out at this point due to severe brain pain. What started as a simple question about a deadline extension turned into an increasingly-heated back and forth (watch Jennifer get indignant and watch Chris's facial contortions) as Jennifer's declarations become more and more ridiculous (the poverty level is $94,000 a year?) and Chris simply couldn't keep up with the wide-open spigot of well-rehearsed perfidious bullshit pouring from her mouth, and couldn't hide his utter bewilderment at the sheer mendacity of it all.
It makes my brain hurt to hear things like this. In fact, it's depressing. It goes back again to the technique that Sarah Palin pioneered in the 2008 vice-presidential debates, viz., ignore the question, recited prepared "answers" even if they don't relate to the question's subject matter, and add a little victimization language to distract from what you're doing and make yourself look like a hero for doing it (remember Sarah saying, "It may not be what you [Biden] or the moderator want to hear, but....").
It doesn't take a political scientist or a genius to understand why Republicans and their enablers are so up-in-arms about this and the various other administrative fixes that the DHHS has implemented -- pursuant to explicit statutory authority, by the way -- in implementing the Affordable Care Act, be they delays or deadline extensions or exemptions or waivers or whatever. All of those measures are designed to do two things: (1) make the law work, and (2) help people. Two things the GOP and its fans have absolutely no interest in doing. Jennifer's performance certainly bore that out. All she managed to say was that extending the deadline will help the law work, will help people get health care, and thus make it less likely that the ACA will ever go away.
I can't help going back to this part of the exchange, which I think says it all:
Chris: Why does extending a deadline for two weeks take away the choices you have for your children? Explain that.Ow.
Jennifer: Because it continues to not allow people to go back and change this law.