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Yes, Republicans Lie All the Time, About Everything--and the Boston Globe Helps Them: John Sununu Edition

Outsourced to Dan Kennedy:

John Sununu levels a false accusation | Media Nation: John Sununu makes a false claim today in his Boston Globe column…. The former Republican senator writes that Brad DeLong, an economist at the University of California at Berkeley, had called on Harvard University to fire the historian Niall Ferguson over his recent Newsweek cover story on the alleged failures of President Obama. “A Berkeley professor more or less demanded that Harvard ‘fire his ass’” is how Sununu puts it…. In the online version of his column, Sununu helpfully provides a link to DeLong’s blog post. And here is what DeLong actually wrote:

Fire his ass.

Fire his ass from Newsweek, and the Daily Beast.

Convene a committee at Harvard to impose proper sanctions on this degree of intellectual dishonesty.

In an “update,” DeLong clarifies his Harvard reference: “Not that I claim to know what the proper sanctions are, you understand. But we should be inquiring into what they are.”

Now, let me hasten to say that I’m troubled by DeLong’s actual position — that Harvard should look into disciplining Ferguson. But that is a long, long way from calling on Harvard to fire him. And I should note that DeLong and a number of other critics contend that Ferguson went far beyond expressing anti-Obama opinions, veering into deliberate falsehoods in order to bolster his argument that Obama’s presidency is a failure….

My issue isn’t with DeLong or Ferguson, though. It’s with Sununu, who has blithely and wrongly slimed DeLong. Perhaps because he didn’t name DeLong, he thought it was all right. Perhaps he thought including the phrase “more or less” would get him off the hook.

Finally, what is up with the Globe’s editors? If I can click on Sununu’s link, so could they.


I would say that we do not "contend" that Ferguson veered into deliberate falsehoods.

I would say that we ddemonstrate far beyond any reasonable doubt that Ferguson veered into deliberate falsehoods.

For example, in its essentials, this is what we have from Ferguson:

The president pledged that health-care reform would not add a cent to the deficit. But the CBO and the Joint Committee on Taxation now estimate that the insurance-coverage provisions of the ACA will have a net cost of close to $1.2 trillion over the 2012–22 period.[1]

[1] Note that I very carefully say "the insurance coverage provisions". The reason is that there are other provisions of ObamaCare that impose taxes and reduce spending growth. It is true that the nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office in evaluating ObamaCare does say that it will not add a cent to the deficit. But I want to keep readers of my text from knowing that the CBO evaluated ObamaCare as deficit-reducing. Besides, the CBO wrote that "It is unclear whether such a reduction [in Medicare costs as Obama calls for] can be achieved…" Indeed it is [unclear], which is why I wrote what I wrote.

The problem is that, as Matt O'Brien of the Atlantic notes, Ferguson's edit of the CBO transforms the meaning of its sentence completely:

It is unclear whether such a reduction can be achieved through greater efficiencies in the delivery of healthcare or will instead reduce access to care or the quality of care (relative to the situation under prior law.)

That is indeed a question--one that rests in large part on whether Republicans will fail or succeed in blocking efficiency-improving pieces of the Affordable Care Act like IPAB and like the stepping-away from the failed Medicare Advantage experiment. If they do succeed in blocking, then it is indeed unlikely that the cost growth reductions relative to baseline can be achieved without compromising the quality of care.

But it seems to me that the contrast between Ferguson's text in Newsweek, the extended footnote he has gradually added to that text under pressure, and what the CBO wrote is sufficiently large as to call for some response.

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