Tuesday, June 16, 2009

Playing favorites

Having written a piece on the upcoming health care debate at my blog this week, I thought I would be done with the subject for a while. I was mistaken.

Tuesday morning, it was announced that ABC News will broadcast a health care town hall program from the White House with President Obama. The studio audience for the town hall? Handpicked by the folks at ABC. Not only will ABC be turning its programming over to the Obama administration for this prime time special, the network will also be running health care specials on its Good Morning America, World News Tonight and Nightline shows.

While I understand that the upcoming health care debate is one of the President's priorities, I was under the assumption that the news media was supposed to be a neutral party when it comes to policy. So much for that theory. This state sponsorship of a news cycle seems to borrow a page right out of Hugo Chavez's playbook. I cannot seem to remember a broadcast network working side by side with a Presidential to deliver his message straight to the public, excluding opposing voices on the debate.

I know that the progressives out there will immediately bring up Fox News, and the cozy relationship they had with the Bush administration, but even they must admit that such an obvious public relations campaign is not the job of a news network. When asked by the Republican National Committee if ABC would give the RNC a chance to offer its views on the debate, ABC declined. Isn't that convenient. ABC wants us to believe it will remain objective with this mini-series of health care infomercials for the President.

The other side in the debate will be represented by statements such as, "Critics of your plan say this is the first step towards socialized medicine." The President will chuckle and dismiss these claims as partisan rhetoric. He will offer dazzling statistics, complete with charts and graphs, and ABC will interview people with horror stories about the current health care system to back up the President’s case. Dissenting views will be framed as unfounded opinions.

I want to see this debate open to all sides, not the ones handpicked by the media. For all the talk about bailouts, soaring deficits, Guantanamo and Iran, the health care debate reaches out and touches every American. The idea that the public will be sold socialized medicine under the guise of health care reform, all the while aided by a fawning press corps, is unthinkable to me. If you want to socialize America’s health care system Mr. President, then come out and say it.

Call me crazy, call me a right-wing nut, but at the end of the day, Mr. and Mrs. America deserve to know what they are buying. The politicians and the media should not collaborate to sell them something they would never accept if they were fully informed.

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