Morgen on October 15, 2009 at 4:18 pm
Lou Dobbs, Sean Hannity, Rush, and the right-wing blogosphere seem interested in a talk I gave in September, 2007 to students in a political science class here at Berkeley, in which I played the role of a presidential candidate so politically incorrect and tone-deaf as to pummel every sacred cow in sight — including the notion that our society could afford and would continue forever to pay whatever amount of money was required to keep everyone alive forever. The whole point of the mock exercise was to show that presidential candidates can’t state what everyone knows to be the truth because they’ll be taken apart by the Right or the Left. I slew many other sacred cows in that mock exercise, some of which are held dearly by the Left. Nonetheless, two years later the Right has exhumed the lecture and taken my words completely out of context purportedly to show that Obama and the Democrats plan death panels.
If their desperation weren’t so pathetic it would be funny. After all, they have proven the whole point of my lecture. UC Berkeley maintains an archive of webcasts and my speech is available there verbatim, should you wish to listen to it in its entirety.
I’m shocked…the claim is that his words have been taken “out of context”. In fact, “completely” out of context. This is becoming a familiar refrain, to the point where the word “context” seems to be losing all meaning.
Now I’m sure somewhere out there in the blogosphere, or even on talk radio or TV, portions of our original clip have been played without the full set-up that we provided in the video. But I will say that I have read dozens of blog posts discussing this clip, and have watched or listened to the coverage on Fox and Hannity, Rush, and Mark Levin on the radio. And by and large everyone seems to be either playing or quoting the entire thing, or at least setting it up by saying that it was a mock speech given by Reich at Berkeley where he was saying what an honest President would say about health reform (along with the other issues discussed in the full speech).
And let me be clear…we posted a link to the entire speech at Berkeley as well, and encouraged people to listen to it .
So considering that Reich even now concedes that “the whole point of the mock exercise was to show that presidential candidates can’t state what everyone knows to be the truth“, I’m not sure I’m grasping how this is out of context. (Except perhaps in the bizarro universe where certain truths are only “in context” when they are spoken to an educated and enlightened audience.)
The truth is the truth – and these were Reich’s own words. And if it’s so self-evident that these in fact are truths, why has Reich been front and center in accusing opponents of reform of propagating the very same truths as…”myths”?
Look, I don’t have a problem with the speech Reich gave at Berkeley. I admire his honesty, and understand the value of using controversy to provoke academic discussion. Of course there are serious trade-offs to consider when reforming something as large as our healthcare system. And a political campaign is not the place to look if you are searching for uncomfortable truths.
But in choosing to leverage his credibility as an economic and political expert to advocate for reform, Reich is asking for the public’s trust. And it’s ultimately for the public to decide whether they trust what he has to say now in support of reform compared to his words from 2007. Words which even now he admits are the “truth”.
John Adds: Media Matters has labeled this a “lie” that won’t go away, at least that’s the headline they put it under. They note that Rush Limbaugh played it on air but, strangely, they don’t ever bother to explain why it’s a lie.
As Morgen noted above, it seems Reich has just admitted it was “the truth.” Will Media Matters correct the record?
Holding breath…turning blue…*gasp!