Hoist by their petard: Mediscare campaign will backfire on Democrats

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Someone who looks like Rep. Paul Ryan, R-Wis., pushes an old woman in a wheelchair over a cliff as the ad claims he would leave seniors "without Medicare." It was, said PolitiFact, the 2011 Lie of the Year.

Expect to see that ad often now that Rep. Ryan is on the GOP ticket. This pleases MSNBC anchor Chris Matthews, who said it's the ad he likes most in this campaign.

The ad and Mr. Matthews' fondness for it epitomize the Democrats' strategy for re-electing President Barack Obama. They assume senior citizens are greedy and stupid, that maintaining their government benefits as they are is more important to them than the welfare of their children and grandchildren.

Democrats also assume that seniors will take their word that Republicans plan to cut their benefits. That they'll make no effort to determine the facts. It would be disastrous for Democrats if they did, because in the Medicare reform plan Rep. Ryan drafted with Rep. Ron Wyden, D-Ore:

• No one over the age of 55 would be affected in any way.

• Traditional Medicare fee-for-service plans would remain available to all.

• Overall funding for Medicare would grow at the same rate as in President Obama's budget proposals.

It's the Democrats who plan to cut benefits for those who receive them now. Starting in October, they'll take $716 billion from Medicare to help fund Obamacare.

Seniors, presumably, would be unhappy if they knew about this. President Obama must think so, because he's spending $8.3 billion on a "demonstration project" of dubious legality to conceal until after the election his plans to gut the popular Medicare Advantage program.

Most seniors don't know this because few in the news media have reported much about the Obamacare cuts to Medicare, or on the administration's efforts to conceal them. The key Democratic assumption is that the "mainstream" media is completely in the tank for them.

When Gallup asked them in April 2011, seniors 65 and older chose the Ryan plan, 48 percent to 42 percent. In a poll by a Democratic firm this month, voters preferred the Ryan approach, 52 percent to 37 percent, once it was explained to them.

So relying on the bias and dishonesty of the likes of Chris Matthews is a better bet.

But some of their friends in the news media will not let them lie with impunity. CNN's Wolf Blitzer dogged Rep. Debbie Wasserman-Schultz, Democratic National Committee chair, until she admitted her charge that the Ryan plan would hurt current Medicare recipients was false. When former White House Press Secretary Robert Gibbs told the same lie, MSNBC's Chuck Todd corrected him.

My favorite archaic expression -- Shakespeare put it in Hamlet's mouth -- is "hoist with his own petard." A petard was a small explosive used to breach walls. To be "hoist by your own petard" is to be hurt by a scheme you devised to do injury to others.

Because it worked before, Democrats assume Mediscare will work for them again. They don't appreciate -- yet -- how much the public's aversion to Obamacare has changed the game.

In the special election for a House seat in Nevada last year, the Democrat attacked the Republican for proposing "to end Medicare as we know it." The Republican hammered the Democrat for supporting the Medicare cuts in Obamacare. He got 63 percent of the vote in a swing district. It's Democrats who plan to "end Medicare as we know it."

The biggest help their friends in journalism give Democrats is to downplay or suppress news unhelpful to them. By bringing health care reform back to center stage, the Democrats' Mediscare campaign undermines this. Journalists can ignore no longer the facts about the parlous financial condition of Medicare, and the Obamacare cuts to it. And because these facts are simple and clear -- and will appear in Mitt Romney's ads -- even friendly journalists have to call Democrats out on their most blatant lies, or their own credibility will suffer.

Mediscare hangs a curve ball in the wheelhouse of Paul Ryan, the Babe Ruth of policy wonks. "We want this debate. We need this debate. And we will win this debate," he said in Ohio Wednesday. "Your payroll taxes should go to Social Security and Medicare, not Obamacare."

Democrats are hoist by their own petard.


Jack Kelly is a columnist for the Post-Gazette and The Blade of Toledo, Ohio (jkelly@post-gazette.com, 412-263-1476).


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