Katie Connolly

Stories by Katie Connolly

  • Michael Steele Sends Mixed Messages on Medicare

    That RNC Chair Michael Steele said something confusing isn't really news. Steele has been an erratic leader at best since he won the chairmanship earlier this year. His mixed messages on Medicare though reflect the difficulties of getting a straight answer in the health care debate. ABC News points out that in 2006, Steele told that Medicare cuts should be on the table to help "control runaway spending." But yesterday, Steele hit the airwaves to unveil a "Seniors Bill of Rights" which aims to protect Medicare from cuts, telling Good Morning America that seniors had come under fire in reform efforts. Steele also wrote an op-ed in the Washington Post urging the preservation of the Medicare system, which is of course, a government run system. "We need to protect Medicare and not cut it in the name of "health-insurance reform,"" Steele wrote.Today on Fox and Friends Steele, perhaps understanding the contradiction between being both a vocal...
  • Five Important Health Care Reforms We Aren't Talking About

    Much of the debate about health care reform in recent weeks has focused on a just a few elements of the entire reform proposal - things like the public option and end of life counseling. But the proposed legislation is complex and wide-ranging, and the national fixation with just a few proposals is coming at the expense of meaningful discussion on other reforms which could have significant impacts on the state of health care. Here are five other changes reformers are trying to implement that we think are worth talking about:...
  • Was McCain Right on Kennedy?

    On Sunday, John McCain told George  that Ted Kennedy's absence was sorely impacting the health-care debate. "No person in that institution is indispensable, but Ted Kennedy comes as close to being indispensable as any individual I've ever known in the Senate because he had a unique way of sitting down with the parties at a table and making the right concessions," McCain said, adding that health-care reform would likely be in a very different place today if Kennedy was present. Pundits tend to agree with McCain that Kennedy is uniquely placed to deal with Republicans. Ezra Klein doesn't. Here's Klein: This stuff just isn't plausible. Kennedy was around in 1994 and there was no deal. More to the point, Kennedy's committee, the HELPCommittee, has passed health-care reform. Kennedy's staff, as you might expect, led their effort. But neither Kennedy nor his staff can make the deals for another committee.If Kennedy were in the Senate now,...
  • Hillary's Rank on Forbes 100 Most Powerful Women Drops

    Is Hillary Clinton less powerful now than she was as a senator? Forbes Magazine's list of the 100 Most Powerful Women indicates she is. ABC's Kirit Radia notes that in 2004, Forbes ranked then Senator Clinton at number 5. In this year's list, released last week, Clinton comes in at number 36, immediately after House Speaker Nancy Pelosi. German Chancellor Angela Merkel tops the list - an honor that Clinton's predecessor, Condeleezza Rice, held twice. Michelle Obama came in at number 40. According to Radia, Clinton's ranking has been slipping for years (2005: 26, 2006: 18, 2007: 25, 2008: 28.) But now that she is America's top diplomat, this year's drop seems particularly surprising. Forbes takes into account the size of the organization each woman is responsible for in its rankings. The State Department is a significantly larger organization than a Senate office. Its 2010 budget is $16.4b. Clinton's power within the department is arguably more...
  • Obama's Vacation Reading List

    Curious about what President Obama is planning to read during his vacation? Well, now we know, thanks to Deputy Press Secretary Bill Burton. Obama has taken five books (that we know of) to Martha's Vineyard, a mixture of fiction and nonfiction. (Watch for these titles to rocket up bestseller lists.) They're all American authors. Judging by the list, our president is fond of crime novels and has a penchant for the writers of TV series The Wire. Here's the list:  The Way Home by George Pelecanos: Set in Washington DC, this thriller revolves around Chris Flynn, a 26-year-old released from a stint in juvenile detention. While working for his father as a carpet layer, he discovers a sack of money stashed under the floorboards at a job site, setting in place a chain of life-altering events. Pelecanos is a celebrated crime novelist, and was a writer for HBO's award winning series The Wire. The book traverses familiar terrain─racial tensions, urban decay, and difficult...
  • Fox Viewers More Likely to Believe Death Panel Myth

    For the second time this week, polling shows that a worrying number of people believe that health-care-reform legislation will create so-called death panels. The NBC/Wall Street Journal poll released Tuesday found that 45 percent of respondents believe that the proposals would allow government to make end of life decisions on behalf of Americans. A poll released by the Pew Research Center today isn't quite as disturbing─only 30 percent of those polled believed the myth. But here's where it gets interesting. Unsurprisingly, Republicans are more likely to believe in death panels, but fully 20 percent of Democrats also bought into the notion. The numbers also vary markedly depending on which news outlet is the preferred source of information, with Fox News viewers significantly more likely to think death panels are part of reform. Here's the breakdown:  
  • What Are the Craziest Myths About Health Care?

    Over the past few weeks, misinformation circulating about Obama’s health-reform bill has gone from mildly plausible to downright demented. The myths are so pervasive that even the White House is worried. They've set up a Web site to counter some of them. “What we learned in the campaign is that in today’s world, where what qualifies as news is often something that you’ve heard from your neighbor who got it from another friend who is sure that they got it from an authority, you have to take that seriously,” Linda Douglass, communications director for the White House Office of Health Reform, told the Gaggle last week.     There’s a discernible pattern to the emergence of health-care misinformation. The more startling claims often surface on conservative blogs like Hot Air or in Investors Business Daily editorials. They “go viral” being e-mailed through activist networks, referenced on respectable blogs like The National Review’s Corner or linked through news aggregators....
  • August, Rahm, and Health Care

    Many pundits have noted of late that August has rarely been kind to Barack Obama since he hit the national stage. The folks over at First Read have pointed this out numerous times. Today, Ed Kilgore kicks the idea around in The New Republic. Here’s Kilgore:...
  • Red States Tend to Have More Uninsured People

    Today Gallup has posted some interesting figures on the percentage of uninsured people in each state, based on survey data they have collected over the first six months of the year. Unsurprisingly Massachusetts, which mandated universal coverage a few years ago, comes out on top. But despite the new system, 5.5 percent of the state's residents remain uninsured. There's not a single red state in the top 10 most insured: Massachusetts, Vermont, Minnesota, Hawaii, Delaware, Connecticut, Pennsylvania, New Jersey, New York, and Rhode Island. But six red states feature in the bottom 10, with Texas taking the cake for the most uninsured with 26.9 percent. The red state performing best was North Dakota, coming in at 15th with 12.9 percent uninsured. Chuck Grassley's home state Iowa follows with 13.5 percent. Obviously there are dynamics at play in each state that influencethese numbers─unemployment levels, economic outlook, etc.─but it isinteresting to note that while...
  • Fake Outrage Over Michelle Obama's Short Shorts

    My colleague Kate Dailey, who writes our Human Condition blog, has an interesting post examining who precisely is outraged by Michelle Obama's decision to wear shorts during a recent sightseeing trip to the Grand Canyon. Kate can't find anyone who's geniunely perturbed by the shorts. She writes:I searched The National Review and Googled "Ann  Obama...
  • Is South Carolina Turning on Jenny Sanford?

    Yesterday I took a break from reading about health care reform to flip through Rebecca Johnson’s story about Jenny Sanford in this month’s issue of Vogue. I’m not alone in admitting my repulsed fascination with her husband’s tawdry adventures. And I’m certainly not the only person who admired Jenny’s grace and resilience in those tumultuous days after her husband’s emotional circus of a press conference. Which is why I was so surprised to read the vituperative criticisms of her written by readers of South Carolina’s The State newspaper.State reporter Gina Smith posted a summary of the Vogue piece online yesterday. It was the most read piece on the site and has attracted hundreds of comments. I was curious to read what others thought of the piece. I wanted to see if people shared my reaction─a sense of hope in the possibility of reinvention after tragedy; sadness for a woman who had to live this humiliation publicly. Judging by the comments, I’m probably in the minority.   Now I’m...
  • Five Moves DeLay Won't Use on 'Dancing With the Stars'

    Surprise is perhaps the mildest way to describe the reaction to Jake Tapper’s Monday morning scoop: former Republican majority leader Tom DeLay will join the cast of Dancing With the Stars (DWTS). It’s not unusual for politicians to seek a second life after politics, a reinvention. Bill Clinton, George H.W. Bush, and Al Gore have found success as international defenders of the poor, the displaced, and the planet. Mike Huckabee has a television show, as does Joe Scarborough. But none of them left office shrouded in such a dark cloud as DeLay, who is still awaiting trial on charges of violating campaign-finance laws. So before DeLay transforms into a warm, fuzzy reality-TV star, we thought we’d take a quick trip down memory lane. In all those years busting heads in Congress, DeLay surely picked up a few skills to help him survive the dog-eat-dog world of reality TV. But here are five moves that he won’t be able to use on the dance floor.1. Redistrict to get more votes. To win DWTS,...
  • Things We Never Thought We'd See: Rahm Reads to Kids

    Today in things we never thought we'd see ... The White House has posted a video on its blog of chief of staff Rahm Emanuel reading a children's book to a group of kids as part of a summer reading initiative organized by the Department of Education. Rahm, who is notorious for his temper and profane language, entertains the kids with his rendition of Duck for President, a book about a young duck who defies the odds by winning the presidency. The best part comes at about 1:40, where he reads this passage about Duck's opponent, "Farmer Brown was furious. He ran to the barn and found the animals registering to vote," and then quips, "It's obviously not in Chicago." Watch the video here.
  • House Dems Say Bill Won't Pass Without a Public Option

    Major newspapers today are reporting that the Obama administration is backing away from including a public option in health-care-reform legislation. I'm in the camp that tends to believe that the cautious language employed by officials like HHS Secretary Kathleen Sebelius in recent days isn't actually new, nor does it necessarily signal the death of the public option. One reason is the difference between House and Senate politics. All of today's talk about shifting from a public option to a co-op arrangement emerges from the need to compromise with centrists in the Senate. In the House however, the political center is very different. There you have folks like Congressman Anthony Weiner from New York, who, like a significant number of his peers, still advocates for a single-payer system, even though that's not really on the table this time. For them, even the public option represents a compromise of sorts, so shifting even further to the right, and sanctioning co...
  • On Health Care, What Does 'Getting it Right' Mean?

    Reading Politico's daily health-care roundup Pulse this morning reminded me of a statement Sen. Kent Conrad, a North Dakota Democrat, made to Charlie Rose earlier this month. According to Politico, we should be expecting Democratic lawmakers, in line with the president's wishes, to push for movement on the health-care reform bill by mid-September, but some, like Conrad appear reluctant to move so fast. "More important than any artificial deadline is getting this right," Conrad told Rose. In this context, does getting it "right" actually mean good policy? ...
  • Race Relations Look Worse to Outsiders

    People tend to overestimate racial tensions between races other than their own. For instance, two thirds of black Americans said blacks and Hispanics get along well; 60 percent of Hispanics agreed. But only 43 percent of whites thought so. "When it is your group involved, you judge based on your own … experiences," says Gallup's Lydia Saad. "You're drawing on a different set of information," not just the strife that makes news.
  • Health-Care Reform and the Abortion Debate

    This morning, David Brody of the Christian Broadcasting Network posted a video of California Democratic Rep. Zoe Lofgren being questioned at a public meeting about coverage of abortions in the health-care-reform legislation. As many town-hall meetings have illustrated this week, there’s much misinformation circulating about the reform bills, and it's seriously hindering rational debate over health care. Many of the crazier myths─like the one about death panels─are easy to dispel. But the question of whether the government will fund abortion is a little trickier. Why? Mainly because we’re still not sure what the final legislation will look like, but also because the answer is convoluted....
  • What Clinton's Temper Can Tell Us About Congo

    Robert Mackey, writing for the New York Times's Lede blog, has a really interesting take on Hillary Clinton's testy answer to a question posed by a young man at a Congolese town-hall meeting this week. No doubt Gaggle readers have seen the clip of Clinton smarting over being asked to channel her husband's opinion multiple times by now. And you've also probably heard the cable-news rationale that the question was misinterpreted, and the questioner was actually asking for insight into Obama's opinion. Mackey's not buying that excuse:It always seemed unlikely to The Lede that a translator working for...
  • Clift: Exercise and Health-Care Reform

    Eleanor Clift has escaped D.C.'s infamous August mugginess to unwind at an undisclosed beach. But like most political junkies, she couldn't help but start thinking about health reform. Here's a quick insight she kicked in last night:I was sitting on the beach ...
  • Are Other Countries' Health Systems Really So Scary?

    The New York Times reported yesterday on the thousands of people lining up for a free health clinic in L.A. Many came for routine medical care, like breast exams, TB tests, and Pap smears. Reading this report reminded me of a recent conversation I had with Karen Davis, president of the Commonwealth Fund. The fund conducts a range of comparative analyses of First World health-care systems. Their findings are often surprising, and usually provide striking illustrations of the inadequacies of the American system. I discussed with Davis the difficulties many Americans have with accessing primary care, compared with their international peers. Davis believes the problems can be accounted for, in large measure, by the type of physicians available to Americans. "We have about the same number of doctors per capita as other countries, but a higher proportion of our doctors are specialists," she says. This shortage has led to a squeeze on other services, and a yawning gap in after...
  • Health-Care Protest Deja Vu: Welcome to 1994

    In his biography of Hillary Clinton, A Woman in Charge, Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist Carl Bernstein writes about the 1994 Reform Riders campaign, a nationwide bus tour designed to build support for President Clinton’s health-care reform agenda. The idea was to emulate the famous 1960's Freedom Rides but the campaign was plagued with protesters. In Portland, Ore., the route was blocked by an “angry anti-Clinton mob” who had their own bus, which was covered in red tape and dragged by a tow truck with a sign reading THIS IS CLINTON CARE. A plane bearing protest signs flew overhead. Hillary Clinton met the Reform Rider activists in Seattle where she delivered a speech on health care. The result was a mob scene. Here’s Bernstein:By the time the caravan had reached Seattle the threat of violence was constant. All week, talk radio hosts, both in the Northwest and on national broadcasts, implored their listeners to confront the Reform Riders to “show Hillary” their feelings about...
  • Why Promoting Health-Care Reform Is Harder Than Killing It

    In today's L.A. Times, Peter Wallsten writes about the challenges confronting Organizing for America (OFA), the grassroots network spawned out of Obama's campaign apparatus that is gearing up to combat opponents of health-care reform. Obama's impressive campaign activism quickly became the stuff of political legend, so OFA already has some pretty big shoes to fill. But Wallsten touches on its biggest problems when he writes:The network is powered by local volunteers who often have...
  • What Do Members of Congress Do in August?

    When the Senate breaks for recess this Friday, the Capitol will become an eerily quiet place. House members have already fled swampy D.C., along with many of their staffers. So what do they all do over these sweltering weeks? (Aside from boning up on health-care policy, that is.) Some take a break, some travel. For most, it's a chance to visit with constituents, fundraisers, and home-state lobbyists. They also tend to do something your Gagglers love doing in summer: going to state fairs, of course! (Holly will never forget the butter sculpture of Olympic gymnast Shawn Johnson at last year's Iowa State Fair.) We asked Gaggle pal Rebecca Shabad to call a few folks on the Hill to find out exactly what their plans are....
  • On Health Care, Has Obama Picked the Wrong Punching Bag?

    Over the past couple of weeks the Obama administration has subtly but noticeably shifted its rhetoric on health-care reform. As poll numbers slid, Obama began to pepper his statements with references to health insurance reform. Moving away from the focus on containing costs and extending insurance coverage, which characterized his early sales pitch, now Obama is speaking more prominently about obstructive health insurers that deny or rescind coverage. Obama is making the insurance industry the enemy─a populist strategy designed to counter populist attacks on his plans. But has he backed the wrong horse?Yesterday, The Atlantic's Marc Ambinder posted an interview with Karen Ignagni, president of America's Health Insurance Plans (AHIP), the same industry group (under a slightly different name) that fielded the devastatingly effective "Harry and Louise" ads during the 1993-94 health-care debate. Ignagni essentially says her organization is not planning to fight the...
  • Dan Balz's Campaign Book: New Info on the 2008 Race

    More than seven months after Barack Obama took the oath of office, the long-awaited campaign book from Washington Post political writer Dan Balz and Pulitzer Prize winner Haynes Johnson hits bookstores tomorrow. We were lucky enough to get an advance copy of The Battle for America 2008, and sent Gaggle pal Stuart Johnson out to read it and report back on the juicy bits. The Washington Post has been excerpting the book over the past few days, but if you don’t have time to wade through all that, here’s Johnson’s take on it, and a few spoilers. The Battle for America 2008 is a reported narrative, much of which was written in real -time amid developments on the campaign trail. It covers all the major moments from the primaries onwards. (Unsurprisingly the primary battle between Clinton and Obama is the longest section in the book.) But perhaps the most compelling additions to campaign lore are the secret campaign memos Balz and Johnson managed to get their hands on. The authors paint a...
  • Six Other People Obama Should Invite Over for Beers

    This evening President Obama is hosting Sgt. James Crowley and Prof. Henry Louis Gates Jr. at the White House for beers─postconflict beverages if you will. Last week I wrote about how this simple gesture is laden with potentially transformative meaning. Today, as White House Beerfest ’09 steadily approaches, I got to thinking about some other folks the president might consider easing tensions with over a chilled-out pint. Here are my top six. If you think I missed anyone, add their name in the comments.1. Doug Elmendorf: The CBO director has become a bit of a headline grabber recently, particularly amongst policy wonks closely following the health-care debate. Elmendorf’s cost projections spell disaster for the House bill (particularly the letter his office released earlier this week showing the costs of reform spiraling in the second decade). With legislative negotiations halting during August recess, now might be the perfect time for Obama to have a friendly chat with Elmendorf,...
  • How Worried Should Obama Be About His Poll Numbers?

    Today’s headlines are screaming with bad news for President Obama. Two significant polls─from The Wall Street Journal/NBC and The New York Times/CBS─show support for his health-care-reform plans slipping, alongside his general approval rating. This is perhaps an unsurprising development when health care is dominating the national debate. History has proven repeatedly that this issue is kryptonite for presidents. Health-care reform is an easy issue to dog─it’s far simpler to criticize a system than fix it, and promoting fear of change is easier than explaining the complex nuances of policy alterations. Simply put, health care is a really hard sell, even for gifted communicators. Just ask Bill Clinton.So just how bad are these polls for the president? They’re certainly worrying, but in my view there are hopeful signs. We in the news media delight in dramatic narratives, and these polls can easily paint a damaging picture. But there is enough conflicting evidence in the numbers that...
  • Who Are DC's Biggest Lobbyists?

    Lobbying expenditures have increased in the second quarter of this year, and health care lobbyists appear to be the ones raking in the dough, according to data from the Center for Responsive Politics. Around $262m has been spent on health care related lobbying so far this year. The graph below shows gives a breakdown of expenditure by sector. (Note: "Single Issue" refers to lobbying on topics like human rights, gun rights, Israel and abortion.)...
  • Palin Poetry, Read by William Shatner

    Fellow Newsweek-ette Sarah Ball, who writes our Popvox Blog, just alerted us to this amusing video. She writes, Update: The video has since been removed from YouTube, but you can still watch it here.
  • Senator Dick Durbin's Headaches

    Poor Dick Durbin. The democratic whip presides over the party's largest majority in the Senate since the Carter administration. Yet on contentious issues, like health care, he has to threaten, flatter, and cajole to get the support he needs. Durbin's good friend President Obama wanted a Senate vote on health reform by next month, but Democrats decided last week to put it off. Score one for the wayward Dems and zero for Durbin. His next task is to get the bill passed by Obama's October target date. NEWSWEEK looks at the senators mostly likely to be Durbin's migraine on health care—and a few GOPers who may offer an aspirin. ...