Does It Matter If C-SPAN Is Allowed To Broadcast the Health Care Negotiations?

The Center for American Progress' Wonk Room offers a case for not allowing C-SPAN cameras into the House-Senate health care negotiations. But I still don't buy it.

The short version of the argument is that C-SPAN's coverage would put pressure on legislators to perform for the cameras and thus make the bill worse:

C-SPAN is grounded in the belief that transparency produces superior legislation. And maybe a certain level of transparency does. But if one actually considers the tone and tenor of the televised health care debate of 2009, filming the conference negotiations seems counterproductive.

...On the whole, C-SPAN’s coverage informed and entertained the viewer. But did it improve the underlying bill?

The post suggests pretty strongly that the answer is no. But how you answer this last question depends quite a bit on what you mean when you say "improved." If you asked me, I'd say that anything in the health care bill that increased individual control and responsibility for their health care improved it. But when anyone at CAP asks whether something has been "improved", I think it's fair to say that what they're asking is whether it made the bill more progressive — ie: does it cover more people, spread costs across a greater share of the population, offer larger subsidies for care, and move more power away from private enterprise and toward centralized government authority. The implicit argument here is that not filming the negotiations will push the bill in a more progressive direction. I agree, but I think that's a bad thing. And I also think that as excuses go, shutting out C-SPAN and other media because doing so would limit opposition to the progressive agenda is pretty weak.

There's also something to be said for the argument that even if Democrats allowed C-SPAN to film some of the discussions, much of the real negotiations — the conversations in which legislators actually hash out the details of the deals — are going to happen behind closed doors anyway. To some extent, I'm sure that's true. But even the most self-aware, for-the-cameras political performance is going to air more of the debates and information than what we're getting now, which is zilch.

But how about this for a reason to be annoyed with the refusal to air the debates: It's a blatant reversal from the president. On the campaign trail, Obama promised these negotiations would be broadcast on C-SPAN. Repeatedly.

Now, Obama's not shown any particular concern about breaking campaign pledges when it comes to health care, so I guess it's not all that surprising that he'd break this one too. But it's more than reasonable to hold him to account for this sort of thing, especially when the only excuse for doing so that Obama press secretary Robert Gibbs can come up with is that, uh, well, the White House really wants to move the bill through quickly, thankyounextquestionanybody. As The Cato Institute's Will Wilkinson recently argued, the Democrats increasingly "seem interested primarily in how a temporary majority can do more, faster, now." Shutting out C-SPAN is about avoiding accountability in order to speed up the Democratic agenda. And when time is of the essence, I suppose you just can't be bothered to deal with pesky annoyances like political opposition, or public scrutiny.

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  • Nancy Pelosi||

    Are you seri- whoops, wrong press conferenece.

  • Barack Obama||

    It's okay, Nancy... I was just making shallow campaign promises to please the gullible bastards who put Me in office. It's okay to break those.

  • Barack Obama||

    And the morons that voted for me love it when I take a dump in their mouths.

  • Paul Krugman||

    It tastes like chocolate!

  • MediaMatters||

    More Obamatine, please!

  • Daily Kos||

    It's a mandatory part of our health regimen!

  • Keith Olbermann||

    I wouldn't be able to do my show - seen by hundreds of people every night on MSNBC - without a steaming mug of Obamatine!

  • Rachel Maddow ||

    I drink Obamatine while watching the two girls, one cup video.

  • Ed Schultz||

    I have a cold glass of Obamatine between every commercial break!

  • Michael Savage||

    I wouldn't pour Obamatine on a liberal's head if he were on fire.

  • The Libertarian Guy||

    Chicago-style Cleveland Steamers for everyone!

  • Barack Obama||

    Oh, you have NO idea how close you are to the truth...

  • Rahm the Enforcer||

    Y'wan' I should break his fuckin' arms, Boss?

  • EJ||

    "And when time is of the essence, I suppose you just can't be bothered to deal with pesky annoyances like political opposition, or public scrutiny."

    Progressives - for democracy until they are against it

  • Gilbert Martin||

    "Now, Obama's not shown any particular concern about breaking campaign pledges when it comes to health care..."

    Or anything else.

  • Old Mexican||

    Does It Matter If C-SPAN Is Allowed To Broadcast the Health Care Negotiations?

    Uh . . . no?

  • Pip||

    "and thus make the bill more worse"

    Shouldn't that be worser?

  • ||

    More worser. Can no one speak the President's English?

  • Old Mexican||

    The short version of [The Center for American Progress'] argument is that C-SPAN's coverage would put pressure on legislators to perform for the cameras and thus make the bill more [sic] worse.

    Good argument - in that case, why have a Congress? Just have a shadow committee working in a secret location make all laws and they will be close to be as perfect as The Bible itself.

  • Johnny Longtorso||

    So you want the Supreme Court to go into hiding before telling us what the laws and Constitution really say?

  • Old Mexican||

    Not me - The Center for American Progress.

    (Talk about a misnamed organization...)

  • Nohbody||

    Not necessarily misnamed, they just ran out of space for the "-ives" at the end of the organization's registration form(s).

  • Nohbody||

    Erm, ran out of space on the "name" field, rather.

    It helps if I finish my thought... *sigh*

  • Old Mexican||

    But how about this for a reason to be annoyed with the refusal to air the debates: It's a blatant reversal from the president.

    That's no problem, because he really didn't mean it.

  • Old Mexican||

    Shutting out C-SPAN is about avoiding accountability in order to speed up the Democratic agenda.

    Nooooooo!

  • ed||

    Obama inherited the right to change his mind.

  • Pip||

    It's a man-child's prerogative.

  • ||

    Biscuit?

  • Tony||

    I want my binkie!

  • Old Mexican||

    If you asked me, I'd say that anything in the health care bill that increased individual control and responsibility for their health care improved it.

    Torching it would probably achieve that result much quicker.

  • Old Mexican||

    But it's more than reasonable to hold [the President] to account for this sort of thing, especially when the only excuse for doing so that Obama press secretary Robert Gibbs can come up with is that "uh, well, the White House really wants to move the bill through quickly, thankyounextquestionanybody!"

    I like Robert Gibbs - he's silly!

  • ||

    gibbs is exceptional. rivals presBO in the pompous ass category.

  • ||

    But when anyone at CAP asks whether something has been "improved", I think it's fair to say that what they're asking is whether it made the bill more progressive — ie: does it cover more people, spread costs across a greater share of the population, offer larger subsidies for care, and move more power away from private enterprise and toward centralized government authority.

    Most people consider "more like what I want" to be synonymous with "improvement".

    Of course, what I want to know is, "Will it work?"

  • JB||

    Scratch a 'progressive' and you find a Stalinist underneath.

  • ||

    "And when time is of the essence, I suppose you just can't be bothered to deal with pesky annoyances like political opposition, or public scrutiny."

    I used to believe in public scrutiny, but then I used to believe in Santa Claus.

    "Political opposition"?!

    Have you been paying attention for the last 10 years?

    What's the public gonna do after all that scrutiny? Vote for Kodos?

  • ||

    I know this is the second day I've piped up with this, and I just wanted to say, very briefly, that I'm not just tryin' to score some laughs here.

    I've come to the conclusion that perpetuating the myth of voter participation is actually quite harmful.

    It adds to the legitimacy of those who would impose things like this on us. And "legitimacy" ,among other things, means the government's ability to impose its will on individuals.

    When a critical mass of Americans (voters or non-voters), come to the conclusion that having won an election doesn't give the jokers in Washington the right to screw us over again, things will start getting better.

    Until then, if you're out there perpetuating this myth that the politicians in Washington are accountable for how they vote or are worried about losing their seats...

    Then you really are part of the problem. Wise up.

    What's the incumbency rate these days anyway? Still way over 90%, isn't it? Even higher if you factor out sex scandals, etc.?

  • ||

    Yeah, but they tell me that it is illegal to shoot 'em.

  • Rich||

    GIBBS: Do you think you’ve reported stuff that was inaccurate based on the lack of information?

    Would that Chip had replied, "With all due respect, Robert, WTF?!"

  • IceTrey||

    I disagree that most negotiations would happen behind close doors anyway. We would have the taped negotiations and then the actual bill and it would be fairly easy to see if the two match. If they were significantly different people could start calling bullshit on it.

  • MJ||

    This is not a broken campaign promise by Obama, this was a promise Obama had no right to make in first place. He was running for the leadership of the executive branch and that position has absolutely no authority to dictate how the legislative branch conducts negotiations. His recent actions have not made liar of hime, he was lying from time he made this promise (or complete idiot whichever you think make him look better).

  • ||

    His promise could be given teeth through the implicit threat to veto any bill that doesn't suit him. By being antsy to rush to signing instead of threatening a veto, he breaks his promise.

  • ||

    How does the House and Senate versions of the proposed health care reform compare to what Pres. Nixon proposed in 1974? It seems to me that the Democratic Party controlled government should compare its reform to those prepared by Nixon -- and explain why the Democratic party controlled Congress rejected Nixon's Comprehensive Health Insurance Plan ("CHIP"). Also, why can't Obama articulate what he wants as Nixon did? His Obama too stupid? http://www.kaiserhealthnews.or.....posal.aspx

  • ||

    About the only thing Nixon said that made sense was this:

    "If, on the other hand, the Government were to act as the insurer, there would be no competition and little incentive to hold down costs."

  • josero||

    Share your support for new Health Care Plan at http://www.obamahealthcareplan.org

  • ||

    The only support I give it is to die the death it deserves. Swiftly.

  • The Libertarian Guy||

    I haven't had time or enough Pepto to lurk the DemocraticUnderground-ish websites - how are liberals spinning/standing up for this broken campaign promise?

    Odd that our liberal posters are mum, nary a peep form Tony or Chad in this thread. Very interesting.

  • Mr. ?||

    Typical liberal input here:

    http://www.democraticundergrou.....62#4211082

  • James||

    Of course is does not matter. I say broadcast everything we can, the more we know about each other the better our chances of survival. Heavy I know :) But I like to take a long term mortgage approach - even when we are talking about short term loans

    I think in the few months this has gone on, we have done fairly well in our point.

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