What Happened to Health Care?

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Every White House tries to control media narratives. They frequently succeed.

Early this week, for example, the CIA Inspector General’s report from 2004 was released, Attorney General Eric Holder announced a probe of detainee abuse, the White House announced its plan to create a special interrogation group for high-value detainees, the government released more Office of Legal Counsel memos from the Bush era, and Michael Jackson’s death was ruled a homicide. The administration can, and almost certainly did, plan those first four. The Jackson thing was a bonus for them.

You see, the health care debate wasn’t going well. The president’s poll numbers were falling, too much attention was being lavished on nutcases and liars, and there wasn’t anything Congress was going to do to move forward, since, well, they’re on vacation. There’s nothing like foreign policy, torture, and terrorism to swing the media’s attention away from domestic issues. A pretty solid rule of White House press strategy is that if something comes out on a Monday, they want you to be talking and writing about it. If it comes out on a Friday afternoon, they don’t. The Ben Bernanke news was planned, too, of course: he doesn’t have to be reappointed for months. But hey, it all worked: health care’s off the front pages, and the president can enjoy his vacation, at least for a few days. Thank whoever killed Michael Jackson. But you can also thank the White House press strategy team.

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