MSNBC's Lawrence O'Donnell: Pay No Attention to What You've Heard (From Rachel Maddow)

This keeps up, I won't feel so guilty watching reruns of  "The West Wing."

Lawrence O'Donnell made a pointed observation on his cable show Thursday night that came across as helpfully illuminating -- and more than a tad passive-aggressive when juxtaposed with what MSNBC colleague Rachel Maddow said only an hour earlier. (video after page break)

Maddow had done her strenuous best to defend the Obama administration's new mandate on insurance coverage for abortion-inducing drugs, sterilizations and contraceptives.

What's all the fuss, Maddow demanded, claiming that 28 states already have similar mandates --

In these 28 states there's already state law that requires employers, including in many cases employers associated with religious institutions, to provide health insurance that covers contraception. That is already the law of the land in these 28 states. There is a reason you have not been deafened by the cries of outrage over that policy in these 28 states. It's because nobody in the Republican Party decided that that sort of thing would be an outrage until now, until they could somehow try to use it against President Obama, even though they never cared about it before.

Actually, in eight of those 28 states that require health insurance to cover contraception, in these eight states there's not even an exemption for churches. That's true of all these godless places you see here like Georgia and Iowa and Montana. So in fact the Obama administration's proposed new rule on health insurance, which says religious institutions like churches do not have to provide health insurance that covers contraception, those new rules from the Obama administration would actually give churches a new exemption from that law that they've never had before. In eight states the Obama administration rule would carve out more space for churches to evade the rules that everybody else has to operate by on the basis of their religious beliefs. More space for the proverbial Amish bus driver rule to get invoked, right, where you can hire a guy to be a bus driver and then once he's got the job, bus driver, he can cite the fact that he's Amish as the reason he's not going to drive the bus. I personally, along with many other people across this country, along with eight states across the country, thinks it is bizarre that there should be religious belief exemptions from having to follow laws like this. But the Obama administration is willing to go there. Their rules will exempt churches, which eight states right now don't even do. Their rules are a compromise measure designed to be super-sensitive to religious institutions.

Followed by this from O'Donnell, whose show airs after Maddow's weeknights on MSNBC (transcript that follows up-sprinkled with snarky italicized commentary) --

O'DONNELL: Now you've heard many, many times in the last couple of days ...

... and tonight on this network ...

O'DONNELL: ...that there are now 28 states that have passed laws similar to the regulation in the Obama health care law and that all of that has become so suddenly controversial. You've also been told, and I've been told repeatedly on television ...

... at the water cooler, in the hallway, getting on the elevator ...

O'DONNELL: ... that eight (stated with Maddowesque ferver) of those states have absolutely no exemptions to the law, none. No religious exemptions at all, no way out for Catholic churches, Catholic schools, Catholic hospitals. They're stuck. And I gotta tell you, when I heard that, every time I heard it, it just didn't sound right to me. And whenever I hear people in Washington or New York ...

... or 30 Rock ...

O'DONNELL: ...telling me what's happening out there in the states, in some state law, in a place where they've never been, I just don't believe them. And you shouldn't either. And so, in a "Last Word" exclusive investigation ...

... as opposed to regurgitation of spoon-fed talking points ...

O'DONNELL: ... we spent the day today studying the statutes in the eight states that everyone ...

... emphasis here on "one" ...

O'DONNELL: ... is saying provide absolutely no exemption. The other 20 states, everyone agrees, provide bigger, more comfortable exemptions for the Catholic Church, including Massachusetts, which has falsely been reported ...

.... not yet by Maddow but give her time ...

O'DONNELL: ... as being identical to the provision inserted in the federal law. In all of those other 20 state laws there's an exemption big enough for the White House to drive through.

... and big enough to ignore for those so inclined ...

O'DONNELL: Let's look then at the Georgia law.

... Georgia, godless Georgia ...

O'DONNELL: ... which you've been told and I've been told repeatedly has absolutely no exemptions and does have that astonishingly liberal sounding  prose introduction to it that I just read. (Cited at beginning of this segment from "The Last Word"). The Georgia law actually says ...

... for those willing to engage in journalism ...

... 'This code section shall not be construed to require coverage for prescription coverage benefits in any contract policy or plan that does not otherwise provide coverage for prescription drugs.' And there is the huge exemption to the Georgia law. You are exempt from it if your policy simply does not provide for prescription drugs. And so all the religious institutions have to do in Georgia to avoid the requirement to providing birth control pills is to just not provide any drug benefit in their policies, which is true of an awful lot of health insurance policies out there anyway.

Ball's in your court, Rachel

Jack Coleman
Jack Coleman
Ex-liberal from People's Republic of Massachusetts