Stephanie Mencimer

Stephanie Mencimer

Reporter

Stephanie works in Mother Jones' Washington bureau. A Utah native and graduate of a crappy public university not worth mentioning, she has spent several years hanging out with angry white people who occasionally don tricorne hats and come to lunch meetings heavily armed.

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Stephanie covers legal affairs and domestic policy in Mother Jones' Washington bureau. She is the author of Blocking the Courthouse Door: How the Republican Party and Its Corporate Allies Are Taking Away Your Right to Sue. A contributing editor of the Washington Monthly, a former investigative reporter at the Washington Post, and a senior writer at the Washington City Paper, she was nominated for a National Magazine Award in 2004 for a Washington Monthly article about myths surrounding the medical malpractice system. In 2000, she won the Harry Chapin Media award for reporting on poverty and hunger, and her 2010 story in Mother Jones of the collapse of the welfare system in Georgia and elsewhere won a Casey Medal for Meritorious Journalism.

No Health Care For Registered Republicans?

The GOP seems to have no end of nutty criticism of the Democrats’ health care plans. First they had the entirely fictional “death panels.” Now, they're claiming that a reformed health care system might discriminate against Republicans. Last week, the ever-entertaining Michael Steele, chairman of the Republican National Committee, mailed out a push-poll disguised as a health care "survey." Among the questions on the survey was this one:

"It has been suggested that the government could use voter registration to determine a person's political affiliation, prompting fears that GOP voters might be discriminated against for medical treatment in a Democrat-imposed health care rationing system. Does this possibility concern you?"

While it's hard to imagine that Steele will get much traction with this sort of thing, in this climate, it seems Republicans are banking on the public’s willingness to believe just about any conspiracy theory they put out there to kill off health care reform. Again.

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The Unsung (And Singing) Ted Kennedy

Back in March, Sen. Ted Kennedy’s family and friends organized a private 77th birthday gala for him, appropriately held at the Kennedy Center in DC. It was a star-studded affair. Bill Cosby was master of ceremonies, and all of Kennedy's favorite Irish tenors and Broadway crooners showed up to serenade him. (Apparently, Kennedy was such a huge fan of show tunes and Irish music that his wife gave him singing lessons a few years back so he could better belt out Wild Irish Rose, a video of which was presented during the event.) President Obama made a surprise appearance as the grand finale.

I was there as part of the community gospel choir doing some back up numbers and performing the big rousing patriotic tribute to Kennedy at the end. The man who organized the choir and composed the tribute to Kennedy was the incredibly talented young African-American minister Rev. Nolan Williams, the music minister of the Metropolitan Baptist Church in DC. Kennedy and his wife Vicki had befriended Williams a few years ago after Kennedy asked Williams to accompany him on his regular visits to Walter Reed Army Medical Center to help bolster the spirits of the wounded troops.

Williams told us during one choir practice that he and Kennedy had been making these visits for several years, which was one reason Kennedy’s family had tapped Williams to choreograph the big gospel production at Kennedy's birthday party. What I found touching about the story was that Williams said Kennedy's visits to Walter Reed were never publicized. The country's most famous senator regularly went to the run-down military hospital without the cameras to show his support for the people who had fought in a war he never supported. It was an authentic expression of patriotism and seemed to say a lot about who Kennedy was and why he will be so so sorely missed in American political life.

The GOP's Health Care Reform Org Chart

Yesterday, Republicans annoyed with news reports that Democrats had decided to reform health care without them, released this chart to highlight the new bureaucracy that the Democrats' plan would create. You have to hand it to them. The chart is a pretty good visual of how complex the Democrats' reform plan really is. Health affordability credits? Health insurance exchange trust fund? Huh? You can see the full chart for yourself here (pdf). One notable omission: In perhaps a commendable show of Republican restraint, "death panels" don't seem to have made it on to the chart.

Are the Palins Splitsville? And Other Tabloid News

The tabs this week are full of juicy political “news.” We read them so you don’t have to. From the August 24 editions:

Former Alaska governor Sarah Palin is this week’s headliner in the Globe, which reports that she and “first dude” Todd Palin are splitsville due to stress over her political success, daughter Bristol’s illegitimate child, and ongoing rumors that Palin had an affair in the mid-1990s. The Globe claims that Palin is “so fed-up with Todd, 44, that she’s thrown her wedding ring away, booted him from her bed and is planning to move with her kids to Montana, where she is said to have purchased land.”  A Palin spokesperson denies all charges. “No divorce. No affairs. No land in Montana. Nothing! All lies and fabrications," she tells the Globe.  (No links, btw. The tabs are strictly paper products.)

The Star also leads with the Palin marriage crisis, observing that after Palin publicly resigned as governor on July 3, she jumped into a waiting SUV and bolted, leaving husband Todd at the curb. “They left me,” Todd reportedly chuckled—a sign, the Star notes, of things to come.  The Star also provides a handy photo chronology of Palin’s bare hands to back up claims that she threw her wedding ring in Lake Lucille shortly after her resignation speech. A photo dated July 26, from Palin’s swearing in of the new governor, shows she still wasn’t wearing it three weeks later.
 

During his New Hampshire town hall meeting on health care reform in mid-August, Obama explained that under his plan, people who lack health insurance would be able to purchase it in a new exchange that offered a similar “menu of options that I used to have as a member of Congress.” Obama said that by creating a big pool of potential customers, the exchange would allow the uninsured and even small businesses to shop around, easily compare various private health care plans and get a better deal than they could on their own.

Most of the health care reform bills circulating in Congress contain some form of this concept. The exchange, in fact, is now the centerpiece of proposed plans drafted mainly by Democrats. It’s a curious development, because the concept was largely popularized by the Heritage Foundation, a right-wing think tank best known in recent years for advocating Social Security privatization during the Bush administration. Its track record ought to make Americans more wary of Obama's proposals than any talk of "socialized medicine."
 

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