I guess this counts as the apology for what New Republic editor Frank Foer calls the magazine’s “original sin”: Fifteen years after publishing her stunningly dishonest article on Bill Clinton’s health care reform bill, TNR takes on Betsey McCaughey. Here’s a sample.
Asked why her analysis bears no resemblance to that of other experts regardless of ideology, McCaughey consistently responds, “My reading of the bills is correct.” Even when it is pointed out that her interpretation is clearly hyperbolic–e.g., her fantastic assertion on Fred Thompson’s radio show that “Congress would make it mandatory, absolutely require, that, every five years, people in Medicare have a required counseling session that will tell them how to end their life sooner”–she will not budge. Ironically, her familiarity with the data, combined with her unrecognizable interpretation of it, makes it nearly impossible to combat McCaughey’s claims in a traditional debate. her standard m.o. (as “Daily Show” host Jon Stewart recently experienced) is to greet each bit of contradictory evidence by insisting that her questioner is poorly informed and should take a closer look at paragraph X or footnote Z. When those sections don’t support her interpretation, she continues to throw out page numbers and footnotes until the mountain of data is so high as to obscure the fact that none of the numbers add up to what she has claimed. “It’s impossible to keep up with the quantity of misinformation,” laments Henry Aaron. “It’s like being sprayed with muddy water.”