A Childish GOP Ad On Health Care

Some loaded pauses are more loaded than others. Sometimes, it’s necessary to preload them.

At least that seems to be the Republican National Committee’s idea.

The RNC posted an attack ad last week using audio from the Supreme Court’s oral arguments on the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act. The ad portrays Solicitor General Donald Verrilli – identified in the ad as “Obama’s lawyer” – struggling for words, pausing and peppering his statement with “um” and “uh.” Behind the recording, the text reads “ObamaCare: It’s a tough sell.”

However, that pause and those hesitations are not the result of Verrilli grasping for something to say. They are the result of editing, in what RNC Communications Director Sean Spicer disingenuously described as a “mash-up.” In its coverage of the incident, Bloomberg News pointed out that such unflattering edits are par for the course in political campaigns, which is hardly likely to make members of the Supreme Court eager to see wider dissemination of their proceedings.

This judicial reflex, however, is the wrong response. If ever there was a case that called for live video and audio broadcast, the health care case was it – and the Republican Party’s sneaky editing proved it.

If the entire country had seen Verrilli’s argument as he made it, would the GOP’s operatives have been so brazen as to edit his presentation into something so obviously different? The fraud would have been clear to even a casual observer, who would have wondered whether Republicans believe the word “voter” is a synonym for “gullible dupe.”

For those who don’t regularly read this column, let me point out that I am not a fan of the Obama administration. I’m a registered Republican, and I believe the Affordable Care Act is a terrible piece of legislation. I also respect the Supreme Court’s jurisprudence on most First Amendment matters, including its Citizens United decision. And it is that belief in free expression and open government that has led me to make the case, on more than one occasion, for broadcast of the Supreme Court’s proceedings.

Will live broadcast prevent misleading and inaccurate quotation of the court’s activities? Most of the time, probably not. People who are in the business of spin and distortion are not going to stop just because they might be called out. They count on the fact that only a fraction of the people who hear a misleading message are also going to hear and be persuaded by the counter-message. Yet this is no reason for the Supreme Court to resist putting the full truth of its proceedings into public view; it is, instead, a reason to ensure that the truth can be found by anyone who cares enough to look.

The RNC ad is particularly galling to someone like me, who opposes the health care legislation and wants to see it overhauled or repealed before it does a lot of damage. The people who produced that ad it should be forced to go sit in a corner and think about the damage done to a creditable argument when they resort to childish tactics. Spicer, the operative behind the ad, seems thus far unfazed. “Are there multiple clips in that video? Yes,” he said to Bloomberg. “The point was that he continually had to stop because he was having trouble making the case for why Obamacare was valid.”

The point, in fact, is that the RNC has provided a textbook example in how to turn a strong argument into a weak position. The bright spot is that this mistake actually strengthened the case for allowing the public to view arguments like Verrilli’s live and uncut, so they can form their own conclusions without political “help.”

About Larry M. Elkin 562 Articles

Affiliation: Palisades Hudson Financial Group

Larry M. Elkin, CPA, CFP®, has provided personal financial and tax counseling to a sophisticated client base since 1986. After six years with Arthur Andersen, where he was a senior manager for personal financial planning and family wealth planning, he founded his own firm in Hastings on Hudson, New York in 1992. That firm grew steadily and became the Palisades Hudson organization, which moved to Scarsdale, New York in 2002. The firm expanded to Fort Lauderdale, Florida, in 2005, and to Atlanta, Georgia, in 2008.

Larry received his B.A. in journalism from the University of Montana in 1978, and his M.B.A. in accounting from New York University in 1986. Larry was a reporter and editor for The Associated Press from 1978 to 1986. He covered government, business and legal affairs for the wire service, with assignments in Helena, Montana; Albany, New York; Washington, D.C.; and New York City’s federal courts in Brooklyn and Manhattan.

Larry established the organization’s investment advisory business, which now manages more than $800 million, in 1997. As president of Palisades Hudson, Larry maintains individual professional relationships with many of the firm’s clients, who reside in more than 25 states from Maine to California as well as in several foreign countries. He is the author of Financial Self-Defense for Unmarried Couples (Currency Doubleday, 1995), which was the first comprehensive financial planning guide for unmarried couples. He also is the editor and publisher of Sentinel, a quarterly newsletter on personal financial planning.

Larry has written many Sentinel articles, including several that anticipated future events. In “The Economic Case Against Tobacco Stocks” (February 1995), he forecast that litigation losses would eventually undermine cigarette manufacturers’ financial position. He concluded in “Is This the Beginning Of The End?” (May 1998) that there was a better-than-even chance that estate taxes would be repealed by 2010, three years before Congress enacted legislation to repeal the tax in 2010. In “IRS Takes A Shot At Split-Dollar Life” (June 1996), Larry predicted that the IRS would be able to treat split dollar arrangements as below-market loans, which came to pass with new rules issued by the Service in 2001 and 2002.

More recently, Larry has addressed the causes and consequences of the “Panic of 2008″ in his Sentinel articles. In “Have We Learned Our Lending Lesson At Last” (October 2007) and “Mortgage Lending Lessons Remain Unlearned” (October 2008), Larry questioned whether or not America has learned any lessons from the savings and loan crisis of the 1980s. In addition, he offered some practical changes that should have been made to amend the situation. In “Take Advantage Of The Panic Of 2008” (January 2009), Larry offered ways to capitalize on the wealth of opportunity that the panic presented.

Larry served as president of the Estate Planning Council of New York City, Inc., in 2005-2006. In 2009 the Council presented Larry with its first-ever Lifetime Achievement Award, citing his service to the organization and “his tireless efforts in promoting our industry by word and by personal example as a consummate estate planning professional.” He is regularly interviewed by national and regional publications, and has made nearly 100 radio and television appearances.

Visit: Palisades Hudson

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