GOP Manufactures Controversy Over Pelosi Health Care Comment

March 10, 2010 2:13 pm ET — Matt Finkelstein

Yesterday, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) spoke at a conference for the National Association of Counties, where she stressed the importance of enacting health care reform.  "We have to pass the bill so you can find out what's in it away from the fog of the controversy," Pelosi said.

Conservatives are treating Pelosi's comment like some sort of epic scandal.  Fox News is reporting that Pelosi "gaffed," while Twitter virtually exploded with House Republicans disparaging the speaker.  "Wait, what?" Rep. Aaron Schock (R-IL) quipped.  "Supposed 2 b the other way around, isn't it?" Rep. Virginia Foxx (R-NC) added.  In a press release, Rep. Mike Pence (R-IN) called Pelosi's statement "truly astonishing":

The reality is that this legislation represents the kind of elitist attitude, the "We know better than you attitude" that the American people are sick and tired of. It is truly astonishing that the Speaker of the House said yesterday, here in Washington, D.C., that we need to "pass the bill so we can find out what's in it." Madam Speaker, the American people know what's in this bill and they don't want it.

But what Pelosi was saying is remarkably easy to explain.  The Republican spin targets the phrase "so you can find out what's in it," taking it entirely out of context.  It's no coincidence, though, that the next words out of the speaker's mouth were, "away from the fog of the controversy." A paragraph earlier Pelosi referenced "the controversies within the bill."

The fact is, millions of Americans don't know what's actually in health care reform because Republicans have continually drummed up false talking points to create controversy and scare their constituents (like when Foxx declared that health reform would "put seniors in a position of being put to death by their government"). 

And that's what Pelosi was attesting to.  When reform finally passes, the American people will find out what's really in the bill (and, equally important, what's not).  Today's manufactured controversy is just an extension of the strategy that has produced so many false attacks over the past year: throw something at the wall, see if it sticks.