The vicious underbelly of the blogosphere is in full-howl display over the story of Graeme Frost, the 12-year-old who gave a Democratic Party radio rebuttal to President Bushâ€™s veto of a bill to expand the State Childrenâ€™s Health Insurance Program that had passed Congress with broad bipartisan support.
Before you could say “Michelle Malkin,” conservative and right-wing bloggers and talk-show blatherers were dumping all over the Frost family because Graeme and sister Gemma were eligible for the Maryland version of S-CHIP. It seems that this middle-class family could not meet all of the medical expense following a serious car crash although they live in a semi-palatial $400,000 house with a frickin’ granite kitchen counter, have a newish SUV in the driveway and the youngsters attend an exclusive private school costing $20,000 a year apiece!!!
In point of fact, the Frosts are all too typical of middle-class families (one or two of whom might include Republican moms and dads) who are getting squeezed big time these days because of long-term economic trends and the “compassionate conservatism” of the Bush administration.
As it happens, the school that Graeme attends is not exclusive, many of its students receive financial aid, and his share of tuition apparently is only $500 a year.
Meanwhile, Gemma attends a special-needs private school because of a brain injury from the crash, but the state picks up the entire $23,000 a year tab.
Oh, and the Frosts bought their house for $55,000 in 1991 and made a combined $45,000 last year. (I don’t know about the kitchen counter, but who cares?)
Fact checking is an anomaly for most bloggers no matter their political persuasion and even for a supposedly established journo like Malkin, who should know better and probably does. But what Malkin knows best of all is that her red-meat constituency needs to be fed, whether it is calling people who question an Army general traitors one day or swift-boating a child the next.
Liberal blogger Ezra Klein, who in 2005 treated a young lad with far more deference when Republicans used him to promote Social Security reform, certainly speaks for me when he writes of the larger context:
“This is not politics. This is, in symbolism and emotion, a violent group ritual. It is savages tearing at the body of a captured enemy. It is the group reminding itself that the Other is always disingenuous, always evil, always lying, always pitiful and pathetic and grotesque. It is a bonding experience â€” the collaborative nature of these hateful orgies proves that much â€” in which the enemy is exposed as base and vile and then ripped apart by the community. In that way, it sustains itself, each attack preemptively justifying the next vicious assault, justifying the whole hateful edifice on which their politics rest.”
Incidentally, I believe that Graeme’s parents made a huge if well-meaning mistake in letting the Democrats use him to shill for S-CHIP. I know a kid whose mother pushed him into appearing on a popular MTV show and he still hasnâ€™t recovered from the fallout of being a television star one day and a just another teenager with zits the next.
It’s one thing for a blogger to help try to kill a health-care program because he or she believes that it is an end-run toward national health care, or for any number of sound if arguable reasons.
But that does not excuse piling on a defenseless 12-year-old and further discredits the blogosphere as a place where wing-nuttery of the most malicious kind is encouraged and celebrated.
UPDATE: Also be sure to read:
—John Cole notes how a 12-year-old’s verbal attackers now say they are victims and seemingly “backing off” in some areas.
UPDATE II: Ed Morrissey, one of the Internet’s top conservative bloggers and a talk show host, has a MUST-READ post that must be read IN-FULL. Quoting it takes it out of context, but we’ll use a small portion. He first criticizes the Democrats’ use of a 12-year-old as “demagoguing” and notes some facts about the family, then writes:
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. Certainly, their argument was fair game, as well as their claim on federal assistance, which is after all public money. The S-CHIP debate doesn’t just focus on the Frosts, though (and we find out that the expansion argument wasn’t even relevant to them). We have plenty of reasons to oppose the S-CHIP expansion that have little to do with the Frosts, and we should be focusing on policy, not personal anecdotes.
The Frosts volunteered to serve as the poster family for this debate, but they have been exploited by partisans on both sides of the argument. The Frosts will have S-CHIP regardless of whether the veto gets upheld or not. Let’s leave the Frosts alone and get back to the real policy debate — and ask ourselves why we’re taking $30 billion from poor and working-class Americans to subsidize health care for people better off than they are, for “children” in their twenties, and for people whose choices are not our responsibility.
Read it in its entirety.
UPDATE III: Now a challenge to debate the issues, not personalities.