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Posted by on Oct 10, 2007 in Health, Media, Politics | 26 comments

Guest Voice: Frost Bite

NOTE: The Moderate Voice from time to time runs Guest Voice posts by readers who don’t have their own website or some people who do who want to present their view to TMV’s diverse readership. Guest Voice columns do not necessarily reflect the opinion of TMV or its writers. This is by The Mystery Reader whose identity is known to yours truly (and he has had our respect for his thoughtfulness for years), but who wishes to remain anonymous.

Frost Bite

By The Mystery Reader

I don’t know why President Bush wants to stop kids who really need help from getting CHIP. All I know is I have some really good doctors. They took great care of me when I was sick, and I’m glad I could see them because of the Childrens Health Program.

On September 29, the Democratic Party introduced the American public to Graeme Frost, 12, a young man who received medical treatment after his family was involved in an auto accident. His speech — the “Democratic response” to President Bush’s radio address that week — was perfect. He was not in a “serious auto accident.” He was in a “really bad car accident.” He did not “receive care for critical injuries.” He “needed a big surgery.” No doubt, the Democrats would have added a teddy bear or a cute puppy to complete the picture, but such props, unfortunately, are not really visible over the radio.

The blowback, to put it mildly, has been intense. For the last week, conservative bloggers have not been kind to either young Master Frost or to his family, alleging the family was not truly needy and generally nosing around the Frosts’ personal life. The New York Times covers the controversy rather well, noting the opposite sides that conservatives and liberals have taken on this this family.

Bloggers here at TMV, particularly Shaun Mullen and the esteemed Mr. Joe Gandelman, have been extremely impassioned in their defense of the Frost family, arguing forcefully that it is unfair to attack a 12-year-old child and that examining the Frosts distracts from the overall SCHIP debate.

They are wrong on both counts.

Today, Ed Morrissey, responding to TMV blogger Shaun Mullen’s post, takes a reasonable stand, essentially arguing that looking into the Frosts’ background is in-bounds. However, Morrissey adds:

However, the response on the Right sometimes outstripped reason. Rather than just argue the facts, some in the comments section here and elsewhere went too far in speculating about finances and motives of the Frost family.

I mostly agree with Morrissey, but I want to add a little bit more here. In any discussion of policy, it is generally understood that each side is free to attack the other side’s arguments, examining both overall arguments and the support for those arguments.

On Sept. 29, the Democrats presented the Frost family as a living, breathing argument in favor of expanding SCHIP. I fail to see how an examination of the family, including its finances, through interviews and an examination of public records (as well as those records the family is willing to give) is any worse than dismantling a simpler argument that a faceless family of such-and-such income and assets should qualify for SCHIP.

A failure to examine the Frost family, in fact, amounts to simply accepting at face value Democrats’ assertion that the Frost family is poor, that young Master Frost was in an auto accident, and he and his family would not have received necessary medical care without government assistance.

The fact that young Master Frost is 12 rather than 21 does not grant the Democrats’ argument an exemption from this particular rule of debate or from the proper scrutiny that members of the media should give any any and all policy arguments … particularly when one side or the other invokes children, senior citizens, veterans, puppies, or any other sympathetic class to put forward a policy argument.

Young Master Frost and his family have, in fact, turned out to be fairly good examples of the types of people who would benefit from SCHIP. They’re middle class — lower middle class for their area, in fact, their children are uninsurable because of pre-existing conditions, and they encountered unexpected medical costs that were beyond their means to pay. But these sorts of facts cannot be found without a thorough examination.

In sum, turning young Master Frost into a mascot for SCHIP renewal was not the conservatives’ choice — it was the Democrats. Any inquiry into the family’s background flows from this decision.

The viciousness of some of the criticisms, however, does not, and vitriolic attacks against the family, particularly those based on innuendo, supposition, and rumor, are out of bounds, and rightly condemned.

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