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Health Care: Right Wing Attacks 12-Year Old Boy

On Sept. 22, President Bush used his weekly radio address to lambaste Congress for its efforts to increase five-year funding for the State Children's Health Insurance Program (SCHIP).

OCTOBER 11, 2007 by Faiz Shakir, Amanda Terkel, Satyam Khanna,
Matt Corley, Ali Frick, and Jeremy Richmond
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HEALTH CARE

Right Wing Attacks 12-Year Old Boy

On Sept. 22, President Bush used his weekly radio address to lambaste Congress for its efforts to increase five-year funding for the State Children’s Health Insurance Program (SCHIP). In the address, Bush threatened to veto the bill, which he eventually did on Oct. 3. A week later, in an effort to change Bush’s mind, the Democratic Radio Address featured a 12-year old boy named Graeme Frost, who had received life-saving care through Maryland’s CHIP program after his family was in a car accident. “I don’t know why President Bush wants to stop kids who really need help from getting CHIP,” said Frost in the address. “All I know is I have some really good doctors…and I’m glad I could see them because of the Children’s Health Program.” Conservatives, like House Minority Leader John Boehner (R-OH), were quick to complain about Frost’s impassioned plea for presidential compassion. “To use an innocent young child as a human shield…is, frankly, beyond the pale,” said a spokesman for Boehner. The Weekly Standard’s William Kristol called Frost’s address “pathetic.” Boehner and Kristol’s disparaging complaints were mild, however, compared to the attacks on Frost and his family that soon developed on conservative blogs and talk radio over the past week.

THE ANATOMY OF A SMEAR: On Saturday, Oct. 6, a poster at Free Republic propagated information alleging that Frost was actually a rich kid being pampered by the government. Among other bits of information, the post by the Freeper “icwhatudo” asserted that Graeme and his sister Gemma attend wealthy schools that cost “nearly $40,000 per year for tuition” and live in a well-off home. The Freeper smear, which distorted the facts with innuendo, was soon picked up across the conservative blogosphere. The National Review, Michelle Malkin, Wizbang, Powerline, the Weekly Standard blog and others all used the Freeper’s claims to launch assaults on the Frost family. “The boy is fair game,” said National Review’s Mark Steyn. One blogger at RedState suggested that “a team of PIs” should be hired to investigate the Frost family’s finances in order to “destroy their lives with that info.” Instead of hiring a team, Malkin investigated the Frosts herself, visiting Mr. Frost’s business and driving to the family’s home. On Monday, right-wing radio host Rush Limbaugh picked up the story, claiming that Democrats “filled [Graeme’s] head with lies just as they have some of these soldiers.” Though congressional conservatives are staying officially silent on the smear campaign, Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell’s (R-KY) office is intently tracking the story while one Senate GOP aide told the Politico, “We’re going to ride this story.”

MYTH — THE FROSTS ARE RICH: As The New Republic’s Jonathan Cohn, a health care reporter, notes, the Freeper’s charges amount to little more than the fact that the Frosts “have jobs, make a decent living, and own their home.” “One house in the Graeme’s neighborhood has recently sold for half a million dollars, they reported,” writes Cohn. “Graeme’s father, Halsey, owned his own business and had his own commercial property. Graeme and his sister went to an elite private school where tuition was some $20,000 a year.” While these assertions by the Freeper are correct, they omit crucial context that directly undermines the conclusions fueling the conservative histrionics. Together, the Frosts “earn between $45,000 and $50,000 a year,” which makes them “eligible for Maryland’s Children’s Health Program.” Though Graeme does attend the private school, the Frosts only pay $500 a year due to a scholarship. Because of injuries sustained in her accident, his sister Gemma attends another private school that costs $23,000 a year, but the state pays the entire cost. As for their “lavish home,” the Frosts bought it in 1990 for $55,000, at a time when the neighborhood was less safe. Including Halsey’s workplace, the family “is still paying off the mortgages on both properties” they own. In her investigation of the family, Malkin spoke to a friend of Halsey’s, who said the family is “struggling,” but she refused to believe it.

FACT — SCHIP HELPS WORKING FAMILIES: The fact that families like the Frosts can “have jobs, make a decent living and own their homes” but still not be able to afford health insurance is exactly what SCHIP seeks to address. “SCHIP finances basic, usually private health insurance for children in families with too much income to qualify for Medicaid but too little to afford coverage on their own,” write former Sen. Tom Daschle (D-SD) and Center for American Progress President and CEO John Podesta. The Congressional Budget Office estimates that at any given time, about 5.4 million children are eligible for Medicaid or SCHIP, yet remain uninsured. The SCHIP bill passed by Congress, but vetoed by Bush, would extend coverage to four million children. “We stood up in the first place because S-chip really helped our family,” Bonnie Frost told the New York Times. “And we wanted to help other families.” For her desire to extend the help her family has received to others in need, Ms. Frost and her family are now being targeted by conservatives with an ideological axe to grind.

UNDER THE RADAR

MILITARY — ARMY OFFERS LUCRATIVE BONUSES TO STEM ‘CRITICAL SHORTAGE OF OFFICERS’: The Army is offering large cash bonuses in the face of “a critical shortage of officer ranks that have been hit hard by frequent deployments to Iraq and Afghanistan.” “Army officials said that lengthy and repeated war-zone tours — the top reason younger officers leave the service — plus the need for thousands of new officers as the Army moves forward with expansion plans have contributed to a projected shortfall of about 3,000 captains and majors for every year through 2013.” In an effort to stem these shortages, the Army has offered bonuses of  “$25,000 to $35,000 in exchange for committing to serve three more years.” So far, about 6,000 of the eligible 18,000 officers have taken the bonus. This shortfall is not unique to officers; the Army was able to meet its recruitment goal recently but only by rushing “enlistees into its ranks more quickly than usual, depleting the number in the pipeline for next year to less than 7,000 — the smallest in more than a decade.” In a press conference Monday, Army Chief of Staff Gen. George Casey stated the Army would continue to be “out of balance” as long as  significant number of U.S. troops occupy Iraq.

IRAQ — MILITARY ANALYST BLASTS THE ‘SOFT-PARTITION’ OF IRAQ AS A ‘CRUEL OXYMORON’: Recently, the Senate voted 75-23 in favor of an amendment introduced by Sen. Joe Biden (D-DE) calling for the division of Iraq into at least three sectarian enclaves. “You make federalism work for the Iraqis,” claimed Biden. In a report released yesterday, Center for Strategic and International Studies analyst Anthony Cordesman hit back against the idea of a “soft-partition” imposed by coalition forces. “Cordesman said any form of formal federalism or partition could be dangerous.” Calling the label “soft partition” a “cruel oxymoron,” he said that “virtually every aspect of sectarian and ethnic struggle to date has been brutal, and come at a high economic cost to those affected” and would encourage external elements to “exploit Iraq’s weakness and divisions.” The soft-partition plan is also supported by Brookings Institution analyst Michael O’Hanlon, a long-time escalation proponent. In his opposition to the plan, Cordesman is joined by the 98 percent of Iraqis who oppose the partitioning of their country on sectarian lines, according to a September poll.

ETHICS — ALABAMA GOV. ALLEGEDLY PROSECUTED ‘AS A RESULT OF ROVE TALKING TO’ DOJ: Last month, House leaders began an investigation into improper communications between former White House adviser Karl Rove and the Justice Department regarding the prosecution of former Democratic Alabama governor Don Siegelman, who was jailed in June on federal corruption charges. Yesterday, House Judiciary Committee Chairman John Conyers (D-MI) released the full 143- page testimony of Alabama lawyer Jill Simpson, who said that Rove directly intervened in the prosecution. “They were pursuing Don Siegelman as a result of Rove talking to the Justice Department,” she said. Simpson testified that Rove had assured Republicans involved in the prosecution that Siegelman would face Mark Fuller, an Alabama federal judge who reportedly “hated” Siegelman. Simpson said that Rove told these operatives that “Fuller would hang Don Siegelman.” The Committee is expected to investigate the Bush administration’s alleged interference in the activities of the Department of Justice next week. As Time noted, if Simpson’s testimony is accurate, “it would show direct political involvement by the White House in federal prosecutions — a charge leveled by Administration critics in connection with the U.S. attorney scandal.”

THINK FAST

A poll done for Rep. Barbara Lee (D-CA) “found that 70 percent of registered voters think President Bush’s $200 billion Iraq war supplemental spending request should be rejected or conditioned on redeployment.”

“The Marine Corps is pressing to remove its forces from Iraq and to send marines instead to Afghanistan, to take over the leading role in combat there, according to senior military and Pentagon officials.”

The United Nations urged U.S. authorities to establish mechanisms to hold security contractors accountable “for unjustified killings and to ensure that offenses committed in Iraq ‘by all categories of U.S. contractor employees’ are subject to prosecution.”

The AP reports that the State Department “may phase out or limit the use of private security guards in Iraq, which could mean canceling Blackwater USA’s contract or awarding it to another company in line with an Iraqi government demand.”

A new study finds that the “amount of moisture in the air near Earth’s surface rose 2.2 percent in less than three decades.” Researchers note that this increase in humidity bears the “man-made fingerprint of global warming.”

And finally: “Staffers at the Senate Press Gallery have been noticing heavy usage on one of their printers in recent weeks and set out to find out why.” Launching a “quiet investigation,” one staffer “discovered a suspicious file in the computer and printed it out.” The file turned out to be “page after page from the Daily Racing Form.” Staffers suspect either “someone from the cleaning crew or a reporter staying late at night.”

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GOOD NEWS

In a “major defeat to the Bush administration,” a federal judge ruled that “the government cannot use mismatched Social Security data” to root out undocumented immigrants from the workforce, saying it would do “irreparable harm to innocent workers and employers.”

STATE WATCH

ILLINOIS: Pharmacists opposed to dispensing emergency birth control agree to let someone else fill the prescriptions, ensuring that minors “would not be turned away.”

MASSACHUSETTS: “Public health regulators reversed yesterday a controversial limit on stem cell research imposed during the administration of Governor Mitt Romney (R).”

UTAH: “Utah is responsible for more greenhouse gas emissions per capita than the rest of the nation.”

BLOG WATCH

THINK PROGRESS: Rep. Henry Waxman (D-CA) discredits right-wing hysteria over a rumored congressional investigation of talk radio.

TPM ELECTION CENTRAL: Nearly 90 Members of Congress sign a letter pledging to no longer fund the Iraq war.

DAILY KOS: Listeners of Rush Limbaugh’s radio show flood VoteVets.org with hate mail.

MEDIA MATTERS: CNN’s Glenn Beck falsely claims Scooter Libby “went to jail” for obstructing the CIA leak investigation.

DAILY GRILL

“I urge members to oppose the Armenian genocide resolution now being considered by the House Foreign Affairs Committee.”
— President Bush, 10/10/07

VERSUS

“The Armenians were subjected to a genocidal campaign that defies comprehension. … If elected President, I would ensure that our nation properly recognizes the tragic suffering of the Armenian people.”
— President Bush, 2/19/00