Thursday, August 13

Misspeaking Costs Credibility: Health Care

With more than $263 million already spent on lobbying for health care, surpassing spending on all other issues this year without including what AARP reports as $1 million per day on advertising (with the health care bill outspending opponents 2-to-1), there are plenty of problems that might already be solved in the United States. Add to this the untold costs of the President and other proponents traveling across the United States to push the plan, and sometimes with disastrous results.

"AARP would not be endorsing a bill if it was undermining Medicare, okay?" — President Barack Obama

Except, AARP is not endorsing any bill. AARP is disgusted by all of it. And the misstatement of fact by the President, not once but several times, forced the silent observer to issue a correction to that statement.

"Indications that we have endorsed any of the major health care reform bills currently under consideration in Congress are inaccurate," Chief Operating Officer Tom Nelson said in a statement.

Polls also indicate that senior citizens largely disapprove of health care reform ideas so far. In fact, only 20 percent of seniors (and falling) believe any legislation currently proposed will improve their situation, and they represent the largest consumer of health care products in the United States with, in some cases, the most to lose. This is the worst news for the authors of the over-bloated legislation that touches areas that far exceed the intent of the sound bite almost all Americans agree on, especially the President who didn't misspeak once, but several times, in relation to health care.

"And that's one of the reasons that AARP is so supportive, because they see this as a way of potentially saving seniors a lot of money on prescription drugs. Okay? — President Barack Obama

No, not okay. Because AARP does not endorse any bill.

At the same time, that does not mean senior groups are thrilled with the overstatement of what part of one bill — "an explanation by the practitioner of the continuum of end-of-life services and supports available, including palliative care and hospice, and benefits for such services and supports that are available under this title.” — might mean. Again, sound bites are winning out over real solutions despite the fact that euthanasia and death panels are not specifically included in the bill.

But this blog isn't about health care. It's about communication. And the most recent example of miscommunication by the President, followed by the twisted remedy offered up by the White House press secretary.

"Well, the president said -- well, AARP has said they are certainly supportive and have been for years on comprehensive health reform. I don't think the president meant to imply anything untoward. I think he discussed the notion that AARP is supportive of -- or, I'm sorry, an agreement that would fund filling the doughnut hole for seniors as part of Medicare Part D, as well as additional savings for comprehensive health care reform." — Robert Gibbs

It's easy to see the spin in the sound bite as Gibbs reinforces the misstatement more than he offers up any clarification or correction such as either the President was unaware AARP isn't so supportive of a bill or he knowingly overreached. Gibbs then goes to add that "if you ask AARP this -- they have been supportive of comprehensive health care reform for a long time."

Not so right. The truth is most poll data reveals that 95 percent of Americans believe we need health care reform. What we don't agree on is how to do it. And what the majority of Americans are saying is that ANY existing bills being debated don't measure up. So while Gibbs can make that statement, it flies in the face of accuracy within the context.

Expect more of the same. As time wears on and these bills are bulldogged into some sort of misrepresentative statement such as "you're either for reform (and supporting this bill) or you are against it," we will see rhetoric become even thicker. Already, after the President, um, misspoke several times, the White House has decided to launch an e-mail campaign, supposedly to combat the increasingly "fishy" e-mails being pushed by people they describe as an angry mob.

Unfortunately, it seems, the so-called "angry mob" is also an overstatement in that it seems to consist of seniors, which leads many to believe that the political communication in this country is continuing its regression to a time when the rule of thumb: the message "must confine itself to a few points and repeat them over and over.” Even, and/or especially, if it is not true.

The net result is not always the same as it used to be, however. Misspeak too many times, out of ignorance or intention, and erosion will set in sooner or later. And that seems to be the case with health care propaganda, er, public relations.


Rich on 8/14/09, 7:05 AM said...

Famous Last Words:

"This is probably one of the longest emails I’ve ever sent, but it could be the most important." — David Axelrod, Senior Adviser to the President

You can read the proposed viral e-mail from The White House here.


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