It neither bothers nor surprises me so much that ABC has sold its soul and become a propaganda arm of the Obama White House, as NBC has (see here). What bothers me is their pretension that they remain a fair, objective journalistic outfit. With their upcoming broadcast of a health care reform special, "Questions for the President: Prescription for America," on June 24, they are happily allowing themselves to be used by the White House to advance an agenda and establish premises in the health care debate that are not necessarily accepted by all parties. The special will take place within the White House and will consist of ABC-selected questions from an ABC-selected audience for President Obama regarding the health care system and his proposed reforms. This airtime comes at no cost to the White House or the Democratic Party; rather ABC is footing the bill and, according to them, running the show. ABC cannot bring itself to admit what everyone already knows to be true: they're giving the Obama administration control of their network to broadcast what amounts to an infomercial (sans Billy Mays or slap-chops) peddling their health care agenda.
The GOP, in an appropriately calculated move, requested that its views be presented in the ABC special in order for all voices to be heard, but were rebuffed. ABC insists that the questions from the audience will be fair and even tough for the president, and will represent all sides of the debate. If this is truly to be the case, here are questions to look for as a litmus test to determine if conservative viewpoints are in fact represented:
1. Mr. President, you promised that, under a public health care plan, those of us who prefer to remain with our current, private health care plans will not be compelled to opt for the public option or give up our current coverage. However, if the public plan is cheaper, how can you guarantee that businesses will not drop their private coverage for their employees in favor of the public option in order to cut overall costs, effectively compelling those employees into the public plan, which you promised would not happen?
2. Mr. President, how do you intend to avoid the likely flight of American-educated physicians from the US market when a public option or heavy regulation drives wages for health care professionals down?
3. Mr. President, what are the key differences between your plan and the plans of European countries that have adopted universal healthcare, such as the United Kingdom, which are now facing bankruptcy and reform to scale back coverage?
4. Mr. President, given current, staggering deficits and spending, how do you propose to pay for your plan in a sustainable fashion without raising taxes on all Americans?
I will be surprised if even one of these questions is asked. What will likely happen is that the premise will be established in this forum that the government must play the leading role in health care reform and the question of how to pay for it will be largely ignored, as will the failures of other such public health care programs in Europe and elsewhere. The public option will be touted as the "people's choice," but the president will hijack small-government and fiscal responsibility rhetoric from conservatives in a token effort to appease moderates in his own party and give them hope that he's willing to lower his sights (even if he is not).