Catch of the Day: Republicans Fire, and Miss, at Obamacare

Jonathan Bernstein is a Bloomberg View columnist. He taught political science at the University of Texas at San Antonio and DePauw University and wrote A Plain Blog About Politics.
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Kevin Drum at Mother Jones asks the obvious question about yet another overinflated or inaccurate Obamacare sob story from Republicans, in this case, from an advertisement produced by Americans for Prosperity :

So here's my question: if this is the best AFP can do, does that mean that no one is truly being harmed by Obamacare? Hell, I'm a diehard defender of Obamacare, and even I concede that there ought to be at least hundreds of thousands of people who are truly worse off than they were with their old plans. But if that's the case, why is it that every single hard luck story like this falls apart under the barest scrutiny? Why can't AFP find someone whose premiums really have doubled and who really did lose her doctor and who really is having a hard time getting the care she used to get?

If this is happening to a lot of people, finding a dozen or so of them shouldn't be hard. But apparently it is. So maybe it's not actually happening to very many people at all?

For the details about this particular story, see Glenn Kessler's column in the Washington Post. See also a good item on testimonial ads from Bloomberg View's Francis Wilkinson. Seriously: It's not as if the occasional Obamacare horror story turns out to be exaggerated; every single one propagated by Republicans has fallen apart under scrutiny.

I've talked before about the lazy mendacity of these stories, and the incentive structure behind it: If you spend most of your time producing fodder for Fox News and other largely uncritical party-aligned media, then there's just no incentive for finding actual true stories to support your case, or actual compelling arguments to support your position. And given that, it's no surprise that messages that are pegged for a larger and less partisan audience retain that laziness.

Or maybe the audience, even for these campaign ads, is really just strong partisan Republicans; they are designed more for the purpose of generating enthusiasm than as a way to persuade voters.

The lesson for Republicans? If you don't demand rigor on your own side, you're not going to get it.

The lesson for the press? If you want a nice, easy, debunking story, focus on Republican claims about Obamacare.

Again: I'm with Drum on this; there really should be plenty of absolutely accurate stories out there about Affordable Care Act losers. But the inability of Republicans to find any of them does raise some doubts.

And: nice catch!

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(Jonathan Bernstein covers U.S. politics for Bloomberg View. He is co-editor of "The Making of the Presidential Candidates 2012." Follow him on Twitter at @JBPlainblog.)

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