Shuster Erupts -- Charges Congressman Misleading Public by Hiding Medicare is 'Government-Run'

August 13th, 2009 8:06 AM

MSNBC host David Shuster has made it clear that he's left-of-center politically with his stands on social issues and his eagerness to ridicule conservatives. But yet he still maintains an anchor post for the network's mid-day regular news coverage.

But the former host of the network's now-canceled "1600 Pennsylvania Avenue" interviewed Rep. Mike Pence, R-Ind. on the issue of the day, health care and kicked it off with a loaded question and followed by repeatedly talking over the congressman and interrupting him. Shuster wanted to know why Pence was misleading his constituents that Medicare was government run.

"Congressman, first of all one of the themes you keep hearing from protesters is that they oppose government-run health care," Shuster said on MSNBC Aug. 12. "I understand that at your town hall at a Republican district, you got a standing ovation when you said to your constituents, ‘I oppose government-run health care.' But did you know that Medicare is government run? And why haven't you told that to your constituents?" he asked with a sarcastic tone in his voice.

Pence had to clarify that he didn't oppose all government-run health care, but instead opposed a government takeover of health care, which has a totally separate meaning.

"Nice try, David," Pence responded, chuckling. "When I said I oppose a government takeover of health care paid for with $800 billion in new taxes and I do believe that if the Democrats get their way and we introduce a government-run insurance plan that will lead to a government takeover of health care, millions of Americans will lose their health insurance."

Throughout the interview, Shuster interrupted Pence, badgering the Indiana congressman with liberal talking points - that the tax would only be on the rich, that he was part of a misinformation campaign, etc.

"But congressman, I got to stop you right there," Shuster interrupted. "You talk about the $800 billion and about this very point, congressman - aren't you part of the misinformation campaign when you say that $800 billion in new taxes - the CBO, the non-partisan congressional budget office says it's $540 billion and that most of the costs of a trillion dollars of health care will come from offsets of saving of Medicare, but it's only $540 billion and that's taxes not on folks like you and me, but the rich?"

Pence explained the CBO figures were just the cost on the individual and not all the hidden taxes and fees association with a government-run health care option. If you add up the totals it comes to $800 billion, he said.

"I know MSNBC has reported a different number, but it's $800 billion," Pence replied.

However, Shuster resorted to his first question - that Pence was somehow stoking "fears" and that was leading to the backlash against the health care reform proposals the president and Congress are trotting out.

"Congressman, what's the difference between Medicare, which is run by the government and the fears that you're stoking that some of your constituents share? What's the difference?" Shuster asked.

Pence replied, "What fears am I stoking, David?" Following that reply, the MSNBC host needed a chance to compose himself and contended Pence was stoking fear about government-run health care. Shuster alleged the preposterous notion that he was hiding Medicare was run by the government.

"Well, the fears that people don't want government-run health reform and yet we have government-run health care reform in the form of Medicare, but a lot of these people don't seem to know that?"

As far-fetched as the idea that the average American wasn't aware the Medicare was a government-run program, Shuster omitted that Medicare is facing its own financial problems. According a recent Wall Street Journal story, the Medicare fund for hospital care will be depleted in 2017, which is two years earlier than government actuaries estimated in 2008.

"David, you can check - there may be a mis-press report but I describe my opposition to a government takeover of health care," Pence said. "I know there's government-run health care with Medicare, government-run health care with Medicaid. I just simply oppose a government takeover of health care which I think would be the result which I think would be the result of introducing a government-run health insurance plan as an option."

Out of talking points, Shuster and the MSNBC cast left the interview for Obama's Medal of Honor presentation ceremony, which was already being shown in progress on CNN and Fox News.