America’s “Bully-in-Chief” is at it again. Like most bullies President Obama sets up those who disagree with him as “enemies of the state.” So far either directly or through his “truth police” he has attacked; Retired Teachers and Cops who’s pension funds were the primary investors in Chrysler, the People at AIG who received contractually obligated bonuses, Bob Basso, the guy who made those Tom Paine videos, our Number one ally in the Middle East, Israel, and CNBC’s Jim Cramer.
Now the Obama administration has a new target, the American Medical Association. Their Crime? Not agreeing with the administration’s plans for socialized medicine:
The Jim Cramer Treatment
It’s now acceptable to bash the AMA.
We haven’t lived in President Obama’s America for long, but already we are witnessing a strange new phenomenon: Previously apolitical figures and organizations find themselves demonized, and then forgotten, with the speed, fury, and transience of a summer thunderstorm.
For most of his tenure at CNBC, Jim Cramer was a fairly apolitical creature. First and foremost a stock-market guru, Cramer stated that he eventually split from his partnered show with NRO’s Larry Kudlow “because politics is not my inclination . . . I just really don’t care for [the topic].” But Obama’s early moves spooked the market, and Cramer — who strongly and vocally supported Obama in last year’s campaign — called out Obama and Treasury Secretary Tim Geithner, lamenting the “invisible Treasury secretary” and “the most, greatest wealth destruction I’ve seen by a president.”
Suddenly, Jim Cramer became a much bigger figure. Suddenly, he became a regular butt of jokes on The Daily Show, and host Jon Stewart ripped into Cramer during their “interview.” Suddenly, the New York Times felt compelled to spotlight Cramer’s bad stock predictions and declare, “his personal brand has taken a beating in the last month.” Media Matters felt the need to establish a new site, “Financial Media Matters.”
In recent months, the market has improved some, and Cramer has been less vocal in his criticism of Obama — and, strangely enough, he’s no longer considered so worthy of mockery by the usual suspects. The host retains his same manic, relentless, over-the-top style; but for some reason, when he stopped criticizing the president, major media voices lost interest in ridiculing him.
The latest entity to be subjected to this Two-Minute Hate is the American Medical Association (AMA).
Americans generally like their doctors. Sixty-seven percent rate their physicians’ ethics and standards high or very high; the only professionals with a more favorable rating are nurses, grade-school teachers, pharmacists, and military officers. Most Americans don’t really think much about the AMA, and it seems likely that if the organization objected to a health-care reform proposal, patients would at least want to hear them out.
Last Wednesday, the AMA offered its most detailed response to President Obama’s health reform plans. The association disagreed with Obama that “creating a public health insurance option for non-disabled individuals under age 65 is the best way to expand health insurance coverage and lower costs. The introduction of a new public plan threatens to restrict patient choice by driving out private insurers, which currently provide coverage for nearly 70 percent of Americans. . . . The corresponding surge in public plan participation would likely lead to an explosion of costs that would need to be absorbed by taxpayers.”
Later in the day, the AMA clarified its position: “The AMA opposes any public plan that forces physicians to participate, expands the fiscally-challenged Medicare program or pays Medicare rates, but the AMA is willing to consider other variations of the public plan that are currently under discussion in Congress.”
But it was too late; the group’s apostasy was already a matter of public record. Suddenly, Media Matters felt the need to refute the notion that the AMA’s position might be that of America’s doctors, insisting that the group “speaks for less than one-third of doctors.” Coverage of the AMA’s announcement often implied that doctors don’t join because they disagree with the association’s stances, when in fact the trend in the profession has been for doctors to join organizations based on their medical specialty.
At the Daily Kos site, contributors argue that “the AMA is just as much a relic of a by-gone era as the little black bag.” One declared that the time has come “to ask our own doctors to stand firm against the AMA or revoke their membership with AMA due to their opposition to a strong, robust Medicare-like public option.” Another post carried the none-too-subtle headline “All Together Now: ‘Screw You, AMA!’”
By way of comparison, there was only one Kos diary that mentioned the AMA in March, and none in April; but since the recent health-care announcement, there have been 18. A switch has been flipped; the organization is now worth paying attention to and criticizing.
“When President Obama addresses the AMA today, he will be speaking to a group that is acting more like a typical Washington special interest than one that is concerned about the health and well-being of all Americans,” said David Donnelly, national campaigns director of Public Campaign Action Fund.
No less than the New York Times editorial page has warned that perhaps you shouldn’t trust your doctor: “There is disturbing evidence that many do a lot more than is medically useful — and often reap financial benefits from over-treating their patients. No doubt a vast majority of doctors strive to do the best for their patients. But many are influenced by fee-for-service financial incentives and some are unabashed profiteers. . . . When President Obama speaks at the annual meeting of the American Medical Association on Monday he will need all of his persuasive powers to bring doctors into the campaign for health care reform. Doctors have been complicit in driving up health care costs. They need to become part of the solution.”
Had the AMA backed the public option, or remained neutral, would that editorial have been written?
When the AMA endorsed gun control and climate change, few Democrats or liberals felt that a group of doctors was meddling outside its area of expertise — even though few of the AMA’s members are criminologists or environmental scientists. Now, when the group warns that a legislative proposal threatens to greatly worsen the current system for providing care — and thus affect the AMA’s central mission — it is suddenly unrepresentative of the nation’s doctors, a “relic,” a “typical Washington special interest,” and “in fact complicit in driving up health care costs.”
If the AMA isn’t supposed to weigh in on an issue such as this, why does it exist? If it won’t look out for the interests of its membership, who will?
A political strategist who influenced Barack Obama once taught, “Pick the target, freeze it, personalize it, and polarize it.” Opposition from doctors could be fatal to the Obama plan; indeed, it represents the single-most dangerous threat to his vision of health-care reform. A politician voting “no” could always justify his decision by saying he trusted America’s doctors more than the administration. (Obama addressed this in his June 15 speech to the AMA in Chicago: “Americans — me included — just do what you recommend. That is why I will listen to you and work with you to pursue reform that works for you.”) So the AMA finds itself getting the Cramer treatment — rapidly elevated out of relative obscurity and turned into the public enemy du jour.
Polite as it seemed, Obama’s speech represented an ultimatum. He said he wanted to work with the organization — but recent history suggests that if the AMA doesn’t play ball, some of the president’s allies will continue dragging it through the mud.