October 8, 2013

Read enough opinion pieces out there, and you’re likely to conclude that the problems underlying the government shutdown and the Obamacare crisis stem from the country’s political polarization. Or a bunch of other things, too.

Yet one problem also appears to be that a lot of folks have no idea what’s going on, especially regarding who’s affected by Obamacare and who isn’t. Andrea Mitchell today illustrated that point in her interview with Rep. Sean Duffy (R-Wis.). The back-and-forth was contentious from the start, as Mitchell addressed the government shutdown and the question of good-faith negotiations. The Wisconsin congressman used that topic to launch into a point about Obamacare’s tilted playing field:

Sean Duffy: Why won’t [President Obama] join us in Obamacare? Why wasn’t Michelle Obama on Oct. 1 at the computer with her family signing up for Obamacare? Or Jay Carney? They have their own, gold-plated health-care plan.

Andrea Mitchell: Well, so do you.

Sean Duffy: No, I’m not, I’m in Obamacare. I’m in Obamacare, Andrea. All members of Congress are and my family. The president should join us in Obamacare, and the rest of America. Is that pretty reasonable? We should all be treated equally under the law? Why should members of Congress be in Obamacare and not the president? Explain that one. Isn’t that fair? Can you defend that? Can you defend why the president shouldn’t be in Obamacare like members of Congress and their staffs?

Here, Mitchell was wrong and Duffy was right: Congress is getting booted off of its “gold-plated” health-care plan and will be choosing plans on the exchanges. Yet Mitchell, had she been prepared, could have had an easy retort to Duffy’s glorious fairness flourishes. The reason that Congress is being forced onto the exchanges is because Congress itself legislated that requirement, and it’s a requirement that makes little sense. After all, one of the linchpins of Obamacare is that workers who currently have employer-provided insurance will continue receiving it.

Nor did Duffy stop with the president’s health-care arrangements. He went after MSNBC for failing to ask tough questions about all of this: “The media won’t even ask the question about why are you treating families different from big businesses. You need Jon Stewart on Comedy Central to ask Secretary Sebelius, ‘Hey, why won’t you treat these two equally?’ And she can’t answer it. That’s how pathetic I think news reporting has become when we won’t ask tough questions to the administration.”

Mitchell brislted, saying, “Well, we’ve asked questions to both sides. That’s not fair.”

Duffy: “Why do you want your own health care and you won’t join us in Obamacare?” he said. “That question, I haven’t seen anyone ask on MSNBC.”

At the awkward end of the session, Duffy said, “I think the media should start doing its job.”

Mitchell said “Thanks for your advice” in a way that evinced absolutely no appreciation for the advice.

Erik Wemple writes the Erik Wemple blog, where he reports and opines on media organizations of all sorts.