Who Is Minding the Store on the NY Post’s op-ed page? Anyone?

Yesterday I posted an item in Huffington Post hitting an issue Mark Kleiman has noted: The absence of adult supervision on the op-ed pages of major newspapers.

Dick Morris and Eileen McGann wrote a self-satirical op-ed in the New York Post slamming the Obama health plan. These authors went on for several hundred words about how wrong it would be to offer undocumented immigrants the same health benefits now offered to the United States Congress when this would require rationing care to elderly Americans.

I noted one problem with their argument: The Obama plan does not cover undocumented immigrants—a fact that was debated at some length during the Democratic primaries. I noted that one could uncover this fact, by entering the words “undocumented immigrants Obama health plan” into a website called www.google.com. I slammed the authors and the Post editors for failing to do this fact-check, and thus for publishing an op-ed whose central factual premise was obviously wrong.

As my article hit HuffPo, Morris and McGann posted online a separate item that includes the following:

The Obama campaign complains that the senator has no such plan. Indeed, he’s said his plan “does not” cover illegals: “We’ve got limited resources. And it is important for us that, when we’ve got millions of US citizens that aren’t yet covered, it’s important for us to make sure that they are provided coverage.”

The fact remains that the single most prominent aspect of Obama’s domestic-policy proposals is his pledge to cover 47 million uninsured people who live in the United States. The fact that the fine print of one of his speeches may indicate that he’s not being truthful and doesn’t plan to cover the illegal immigrants among them is far from compelling.

That supposed “fine print” was actually a direct quote from a nationally televised January 21 debate. Here is what Senator Obama said:

JOHNS: Senator Obama, we all know what universal health care is, as Senator Clinton just said, sort of the idea that everybody deserves health care. And I have not been able to sort of zero in on your position on this one question: Does your plan cover the estimated 12 million or so illegal immigrants in the country?

OBAMA: It does not.

JOHNS: Why not?

OBAMA: Well, because I think we’ve got limited resources. And it is important for us that, when we’ve got millions of U.S. citizens that aren’t yet covered, it’s important for us to make sure that they are provided coverage.

Materials distributed by the Obama campaign repeatedly noted the same thing.

In their original op-ed, Morris and McGann made zero mention of any of this. I had presumed that they were shamefully ignorant and sloppy. Their continued attack on this point suggests instead that they are shamefully deceptive. The real question is how a major newspaper could have printed this.

Author: Harold Pollack

Harold Pollack is Helen Ross Professor of Social Service Administration at the University of Chicago. He has served on three expert committees of the National Academies of Science. His recent research appears in such journals as Addiction, Journal of the American Medical Association, and American Journal of Public Health. He writes regularly on HIV prevention, crime and drug policy, health reform, and disability policy for American Prospect, tnr.com, and other news outlets. His essay, "Lessons from an Emergency Room Nightmare" was selected for the collection The Best American Medical Writing, 2009. He recently participated, with zero critical acclaim, in the University of Chicago's annual Latke-Hamentaschen debate.