Sharon Angle Big Bungle? Disdains Autism Insurance Coverage in 2009

September 25, 2010 · Posted in The Capitol · Comment 

In this day and age where political operatives try to find bits of video or writings that conflict with an image an opposing candidate is trying to craft, one politician who has made it easy for the other side is Nevada Republican candidate for Senate Sharon Angle — with her comments against social security, fleeing reporters, and deciding only to allow herself to be interviewed by Republican p.r. official Fox News’ conservative talk show host Sean Hannity. Will a piece of video that has just been uncovered have the kind of legs that were as enduring as the chicken feet that sunk GOPer Sue Lowden via a politically fowl video?

Perhaps. A 2009 video has come out showing her criticize mandated insurance coverage for autism. And it could not come at a worse time for Angle — when polls find her tied in her race for Senate against Democratic Majority Leader Harry Reid. Here’s the video:
Click here to view the embedded video.

And now a controversy has erupted:

The national Autistic Self Advocacy Network on Friday called for Nevada GOP Senate candidate Sharron Angle to apologize for a statement she made regarding health care and autism treatment.

Video of Angle speaking at a 2009 Tea Party rally surfaced this week. In it the former state legislator slams Democratic health care policies.

“You’re paying for things that you don’t even need, they just passed the latest one is every, everything they want to throw at us now is covered under autism, so that’s a mandate that you have to pay for,” she said, making air quotes around the word “autism.”

The Nevada Democratic Party posted a video of the speech on YouTube.

“We’re concerned by the Angle campaign’s claim that individuals and families ‘falsely label other symptoms as autism’ in order to take advantage of insurance mandates,” the ASAN said in a statement. “Lack of insurance coverage for habilitative services, such as occupational therapy and speech pathology services, is a barrier to the civil rights of autistic Americans both young and old.”

The Washington Post’s Greg Sargent:

Dems are hoping that Angle’s autism moment, which they are portraying as heartless and cruel, will take on the same kind of let-them-eat-cake aura and momentum that “chickens for checkups” ultimately did. Of course, Sue Lowden was the one gave “chickens for checkups” its legs by ham-handedly confirming that poultry barter for health care is a legitimate policy prescription. Angle and her campaign, for all their early missteps, have sharped up a good deal in recent weeks and won’t do anything so inept.

Also: You just never know which incidents and gaffes will take on the kind of defining quality that “chickens for checkups” did. That some take on a life of their own and others sink like a rock is one of the mysteries of politics. This one doesn’t seem quite on that level.

But the autism moment is, however, beginning to gain some traction: The Nevada media is on the story, and autism advocacy groups are now calling on Angle to apologize.

Blue Wave News:

Sharron Angle thinks that she, with no grounding in medicine or any scientific field, understands autism better than the experts who have defined the autism spectrum. She thinks she is qualified to dismiss the spectrum as an attempt by doctors to sweep a variety of unrelated symptoms under the umbrella of autism, thereby allowing people to get mandated coverage for autism when they really don’t “have” autism.

And she is compounding this nasty arrogance by suggesting that mandates for coverage of autism are inherently wrong and unfair. And she can afford to have such an attitude because she has been fortunate enough to not have an autistic child and face the nightmare of trying to nail down a diagnosis and then an effective course of treatment, to locate and access programs to help the child in education and socialization, etc. Angle doesn’t have these problems, so why should she be forced to pay for that mandated coverage?

Like most ideologically rigid self-centered people, Angle views her life as completely under her control. She may credit God as the one doing the driving, but she smugly believes that God likes her better than those people who have been dealt [bad] hands. Why should she share – even fractionally – in the cost of covering an unplanned pregnancy or autism when God has afflicted other people with these punishments and not her? Rather than thinking “There, but for the grace of God, go I,” Sharron Angle goes through life with an attitude that challenges she hasn’t had to face are other people’s problem.

The Las Vegas Sun’s John Ralston notes that Reid has had a truly lousy week, puts his foot in his own mouth and has his share of flaws — but that Angle has become the gift that keeps on giving:

Unlike Reid’s, Angle’s lips are not loose. They are instead locked into positions that no amount of massaging and spinning can obscure, positions that she seems to recite by rote with no real comprehension of the real-world implications. She can stay on script, all right. But many Republicans think they can see the end of this movie and it’s a train wreck climax.

I sometimes think the Reid folks have a vault labeled “Sharron Angle and the Extremes Greatest Hits,” which they disseminate whenever the time is right. Phase out Medicare and Social Security. Privatize the VA. Not my job to create jobs. The hits just keep on coming.

The Reid folks believe they unearthed another instant classic this week: Angle at a 2009 Tea Party in Winnemucca ridiculing a legislative mandate to cover autism. Team Reid played it as Angle mocking those with the condition, but that was — how shall I say this? — an extreme interpretation. Angle was deriding government’s expansive approval of mandates for illnesses and using autism as an example.

But the real issue with what Angle was saying is that she often mouths conservative shibboleths — mandates bad, privatization good — without any apparent sense of the consequences. There is a superficiality to her philosophy, with an undercurrent of religion always over reason, that indicates she is plagued by a different kind of carelessness than is Reid, but one that is perhaps more dangerous.

Call it, as the progressive blogger Desert Beacon did, “compassionless conservatism.” Or just call it a one-philosophy-fits-all approach to a complex world.

So is it better to re-elect the careless four-termer with juice who drives the Democrats’ agenda and is likely to say more intemperate things in the next six years? Or is it better to elect the careless woman who will likely be marginalized in the Club of 100 because of her strange statements but will reliably vote no unless God tells her otherwise?

That, alas, is what the Nevada Senate race has come down to.


The Moderate Voice

Obama’s Mosque Statements: Profile in Courage or Political Debacle Bungle?

August 16, 2010 · Posted in The Capitol · Comment 

Has President Barack Obama essentially stepped in it due to his statements supporting the controversial building of a mosque two blocks away from ground zero — then seeming to qualify his initial statements one day later?

On Friday night Obama seemed to threw his support behind the right of Muslims to build the mosque in the site they selected. This was surprising to many who had expected the White House to steer clear of a controversy that the GOP was clearly trying to turn into a wedge issue and that also greatly upset some 911 families.

Obama later commented again in what some considered to be a partial “walk back” clarification saying his original comment was not on the wisdom of the actual location. This sparked a bigger firestorm with the consensus being: whether it was a partial “walk back or not,” the second statement that seemed to be trying to add nuance to the original statement done in the face of polls showing almost 70 percent of Americans don’t want the mosque there made Obama look bad.

So, in the end, will the weekend events prove to have been a Profile in Courage or one that sparked a classic example of a Profile in Damage control?

A wide variety of political analysts on both sides see the weekend as a negative for a President whose party is already facing a possible trouncing at the polls. Ed Rollins, a GOP strategist who appears on cable and often talks more like an actual strategist giving his honest point of view than as a partisan rattling off talking attack points, thinks Obama has made a grave - perhaps politically historical -error in wading in as he did.

Republican strategist Ed Rollins, who was the National Campaign Director for the Reagan-Bush campaign in 1984 and the national campaign chairman for the Mike Huckabee presidential campaign in 2007, even called Obama’s comments “probably the dumbest thing that any president has said or candidate has said since Michael Dukakis said it was okay to burn the flag. And it was very similar.”

“This is an emotional issue,” Rollins said. “Intellectually the president may be right. But this is an emotional issue. People who lost kids, brothers, sisters, fathers, what have you, do not want that mosque in New York.”

GOPer Ed Gillespie, also speaking on “Face the Nation,” gave a reaction more typical of a talking points analyst — a harbinger of what is yet to come:

“I thought it was an incredibly revealing comment by the president. You know, he basically said that the 70% of Americans who are opposed to this controversial imam building this controversial mosque at ground zero are seeking to deny the religious freedom of Muslims in this country. That’s how he cast it,” Gillespie said.

“It was said in the reporting this morning that he made a conscious decision to weigh in on it in that regard. I think it tells you that he has a very disdainful view of the American people. And I think that’s one of the reasons his favorability ratings have come down, not just his job approval ratings. People see that in him. There’s a kind of a condescension toward Americans that they don’t like.”

Republican Texas Sen. John Cornyn now says the GOP will likely make the mosque issue a campaign issue — giving the GOP two wedge issues in this campaign: Illegal immigrants (aimed mostly at Mexicans) and the mosque (aimed at Muslims with some GOPers insisting they’re only talking about insensitivies and radical Muslims while others blast the Muslim religion in general).

Essentially the reality is this: even without Obama’s statement, the mosque would have likely emerged as a campaign issue. With his Friday statement it emerged as an issue. And with his later statement which seemed to be a clarifying statement — signalling to Republicans who can also read polls that Obama’s team realized his weighing in could do some real damage to him and the Democrats — means you will be seeing the issue raised in ads on a TV or on a computer screen near you.

And now the issue gets even hotter: a leader of the Hamas terror group is quoted as saying the mosque should be built there. Aside from this being his view, it will now be translated and packaged as a political “AHA” s: “See? A leader of Hamas wants it built so it shows it should not be built there.” And some talk show hosts will likely try and link Obama’s comments to the Hamas leaders’ implying Obama is a terrorist sympathizer or enabler.

Here are the comments:

A leader of the Hamas terror group yesterday jumped into the emotional debate on the plan to construct a mosque near Ground Zero — insisting Muslims “have to build” it there.
“We have to build everywhere,” said Mahmoud al-Zahar, a co-founder of Hamas and the organization’s chief on the Gaza Strip.

“In every area we have, [as] Muslim[s], we have to pray, and this mosque is the only site of prayer,” he said on “Aaron Klein Investigative Radio” on WABC.

“We have to build the mosque, as you are allowed to build the church and Israelis are building their holy places.”

Hamas, he added, “is representing the vast majority of the Arabic and Islamic world — especially the Islamic side.”

Sen. Chuck Schumer (D-NY), who so far has not taken a position on the mosque, dismissed the endorsement.

“Hamas is a terrorist organization, and their views don’t deserve any weight on anything,” his spokesman said.

But they most assuredly will be painted as having great weight — and, correct or not, the weight will be felt on Obama as well.

The stage now seems set for this to become a major “wedge issue” — where the GOP tries to solidify a perceived wedge between Barack Obama and majority poll numbers on this issue and other issues.

Time’s Mark Halperin, noting that Republicans are already likely to make whopping gains this November, is virtually pleading with GOPers not to exploit the issue:

Yes, Republicans, you can take advantage of this heated circumstance, backed by the families of the 9/11 victims, in their most emotional return to the public stage since 2001.

But please don’t do it. There are a handful of good reasons to oppose allowing the Islamic center to be built so close to Ground Zero, particularly the family opposition and the availability of other, less raw locations. But what is happening now — the misinformation about the center and its supporters; the open declarations of war on Islam on talk radio, the Internet and other forums; the painful divisions propelled by all the overheated rhetoric — is not worth whatever political gain your party might achieve.

It isn’t clear how the battle over the proposed center should or will end. But two things are profoundly clear: Republicans have a strong chance to win the midterm elections without picking a fight over President Obama’s measured words. And a national political fight conducted on the terms we have seen in the past few days will lead to a chain reaction at home and abroad that will have one winner — the very extreme and violent jihadists we all can claim as our true enemy.

As I said, Republicans, this is your moment. As a famous New Yorker once urged in a very different context: Do the right thing.

But is pressing the issue of the Mosque, it being built near Ground Zero, and using it as a motif to paint Obama as a President disconnected from the populace and disdainful of public opinion (while hoping voters forget about George Bush also ignoring polls on some key issues) without risk for the GOP? NBC’s Chuck Todd, Mark Murray, Domenico Montanaro, and Ali Weinberg offer these thoughts on First Read:

*** A risk for the GOP? The apparent walk-back turned the mosque story into a second-day story; it made president look indecisive; and it ended up putting him in the position where he pleases no one. But above all, it made the White House seem reactive to the Drudge/FOX/Politico chatter and criticism — the same kind of chatter and criticism the White House says it loathes. As for Republicans, they reportedly want to make political hay out of President Obama’s mosque comments. But such a move for the GOP — especially after its embrace of Arizona’s controversial immigration law — carries some real risks. Our observation: There is now more anti-Muslim rhetoric in legitimate political circles than there was immediately after 9/11. As Ben Smith and Maggie Haberman write, “Republican leaders have largely abandoned former President George W. Bush’s post-Sept. 11 rhetorical embrace of American Muslims and his insistence — always controversial inside the party — that Islam is a religion of peace.”

The bottom line is this: Obama may have shown political courage in his original statement, but given the way it was handled and the political landscape his party faces, it like will be a bungle that will cost him — and his party — dearly.

But the Republicans could also pay a long term cost since the party risks being seen by many as the party that whips up anger against specific groups for wedge issues to win votes. And it’s unlikely to win these groups’ votes in the future when the political outlook may be different.


The Moderate Voice

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