Last week, Rose Hoban of North Carolina Health News reported that employees at the Department of Health and Humans Services edited an audit-response submitted by the the previous administration. She provided copies of the edited pages with her report. Clearly, the pages were changed by top administrators, including Carol Steckel, the Medicaid director.
In response, Civitas, the conservative think tank, attacked Hoban. They made dubious links between North Carolina Health News’ funders and the funders of organizations with more political agendas. The links were weak at best and got no traction in the media.
The response did little to damage Hoban’s reputation or her report, but it brought to light a disturbing trend among conservatives. The right has long criticized the so-called “liberal media” but now they are criticizing reality and creating their own. In essence, a large faction of the Republican Party, the Tea Party in particular, is increasingly divorced from reality and groups like Civitas are fueling their delusions.
They were sure that Mitt Romney was going to defeat Barack Obama because the polls were all wrong or were conducted by liberals. Despite overwhelming and uncontroversial evidence, many still deny the existence of climate change. Today, according to the Tea Party, the GOP is still winning the government shutdown and conservatives who should know better are saying that a credit default won’t hurt the U.S. economy.
Such nonsense would be laughable except that so many Republicans are living in this alternative reality. Responsible conservatives should be trying to wake them up instead of feeding their fantasies. GOP leaders are worrying too much about the short term impact on elections and not enough about the long term credibility of their party.
Conservative columnist Byron York argues that if the GOP had focused on the problems of implementing Obamacare rather than defunding it, the Republicans might be in a whole different place. But that’s not what Republicans or conservatives are doing on any level. They are feeding the fantasies of a relatively small group of people who can’t believe that the rest of the world doesn’t think just like they do.
Similarly, Civitas could have defended the edits to the audit-response, making the case that the Perdue folks who wrote it were wrong. Instead, they went after the credibility of Hoban, a respected investigative journalist who has long history of covering government and health care issues. Instead of trying to address the facts, they tried to change the reality.
In the end, it’s Civitas’s credibility that’s been damaged, not Hoban’s. Somebody in the GOP should point that out. But why would they when the right flank is so quick to shoot the messenger?