The Clinton campaign makes a sad story even sadder

In recent stump speeches, Hillary Clinton has been telling the sad story of a pregnant woman who is refused treatment by a hospital in Ohio because she is uninsured. The ending of the story is tragic, with both the baby and the woman dying. The Washington Post’s Anne Kornblut recently wrote about how Clinton “often chooses to tell dark tales rather than use light phrases while campaigning” and she used the woman’s story as an example: In Speeches, Clinton Often Veers to Dark Side

Unfortunately, it now seems that is not how the story actually goes. In a NYT article today, an Ohio hospital disputes the story that Clinton has been telling: Ohio Hospital Contests a Story Clinton Tells

But hospital administrators said Friday that Ms. Bachtel was under the care of an obstetrics practice affiliated with the hospital, that she was never refused treatment and that she was, in fact, insured.

“We implore the Clinton campaign to immediately desist from repeating this story,” said Rick Castrop, chief executive officer of the O’Bleness Health System.

The worst part of this is not that a politician or campaign embellished a story. The worst part is that the media has now discovered the name of the woman, where she lived, and where her family lives. After suffering this horrible tragedy, they now have to deal with headlines and reporters.

All because a campaign wanted to prove to voters that we have a broken health care system.

17 Responses to “The Clinton campaign makes a sad story even sadder”

  1. matttbastard says:

    The worst part is that the media has now discovered the name of the woman, where she lived, and where her family lives. After suffering this horrible tragedy, they now have to deal with headlines and reporters.

    All because a campaign wanted to prove to voters that we have a broken health care system.

    Not to piss on the latest breathless Hitlery bash-fest at CFLF (“The Democrats: perfecting the circular firing squad since 1999”), but according to the cited NY Times article, “”[Senator] Clinton does not name Ms. Bachtel or the hospital in her speeches.” That information apparently didn’t become public until hospital officials decided to go to the press (while simultaneously refusing to go into further details, citing “privacy concerns” without a note of irony).

    So I don’t see what the point of this post is, except to further the lying Clinton meme (hey, did you know that she’s a closeted lesbian who killed Vince Foster?!!!111one).

    The derangement on both sides is beginning to grate on me.

  2. matttbastard says:

    (BTW, nice to meet you, Terry, and welcome to CFLF. My apologies for not properly introducing myself before turning on the flamethrower. 😛 )

  3. terry says:

    Also in the NYT article, a Clinton spokesman admitted “In this case, we did try but were not able to fully vet it,”

    Maybe in that case, with it such a tragedy, the campaign could have shown a little restraint and not used that particular story. And even though she does not name them in her speech, you would think she would know by now that the media would dig a little.

    I’m not bashing her. I’m faulting her campaign for being lazy and insensitive, and yes, the media also.

    And it’s nice to meet you too matt!

  4. DrGail says:

    Personally, I’m really embarrassed for Hillary and her campaign team. Can you imagine what it must feel like to be considered the presumptive nominee to become the first woman President. Then, due to no apparent fault of your own, you feel it all slip away. Finally, you’re surprised to discover just how desperate you are to feel that delicious anticipation again? You could make history! Not just as the first woman President, but the first First Lady to be elected President. You would be part of a new breed of power couple.

    Listen folks: If we’re going to do more than just tut-tut about the things we see Team Hillary doing — and talk about how we need to reach out to her supporters (yes, I’m talking to you Kyle!) — we need to start trying to see things from their perspective.

    I share your feelings, as the big Obama supporter that I am, of feeling that “our time has come” and we have a 21st century version of Bobby Kennedy blended with Dr. Martin Luther King, so everyone else should just get out of the way and let history HAPPEN! We’re ready for the postmodern presidency, so why can’t everyone else get on board?

    I can also empathize with the feelings I imagine are running rampant within Hillary’s campaign staff, and headlined by Hillary herself. There’s a certain thrill in being the gender trailblazer — when you end up being the very first woman to succeed at whatever, the “high” it brings makes all the pain and loneliness it took to get there almost worthwhile.

    (I started to relate some of my own experiences coming of age in during the Women’s Liberation Movement, but I’ll leave that to some future post or comment)

  5. This is actually a good conversation to have right now because I think Matt’s right, and Dr Gail, and well, everyone at this point in time who’s getting into the discussion. I wish I had more time and energy to partake in it right now.

    But the gist is, there is a confluence of emotions and opinions that have to come to some sort of amicable agreement, one where Obama supporters, and Clinton supporters, can have some sort of addressing of their grievances while at the same time not taking these grievances and using them to demonize the other side.

    And this on two levels. Screw the campaigns, let them be demonized all you want. Mark Penn’s an idiot, as are Wolfson and Ickes. But it’s important to find a happy medium for Clinton supporters because we’re going to need them after this primary is over, and it’s important for Clinton her self because there is still the outside shot that that is who we’ll have to cast our vote for in November.

    As I’ve said a lot lately, I’m not sure how or if it is possible for someone like me to do this because I am emotionally invested in this campaign, so I really go off the rails when I perceive the Clinton campaign crossing a boundary. Invariably I realize, okay we got to back off because this is doing no good, and it’s back and forth like that from one week to the next.

    So, you know, I never claim to know everything; in fact I’m pretty much of an idiot. Here I see a problem, but I need help with a solution I can stick to.

    And my head hurts, so I’m going to bow out of this for now and see what happens.

  6. DrGail says:

    I’ve wrestled with the feelings too, Kyle. For me, at least, the key lies in empathy, as well as realizing that ultimately we all want the same thing but we disagree (often vehemently) on the best mechanism for getting there.

    The stakes just couldn’t be any higher than they are right now, and I see the Obama-Hillary race as a metaphor (if you will) for the larger battle for the Democratic party, between the old-time politicians and the DLC (on one hand) and the new breed of progressives and the netroots on the other hand.

    It’s not quite Mothra versus the city of Tokyo in its epic proportions, but it’s pretty damn monumental as it is.

  7. Cee says:


    Hillary should have recieved the news that this story wasn’t true but she repeated it again tonight in North Dakota.

  8. tas says:

    Matt: I think the point is that Hillary’s lying, period. Should she be the nominee, the same wingnuts with their cracked out conspiracy theories about her and her husband will crawl out of the woodwork again, but it would help if she didn’t discredit herself by lying. It’s one thing to dismiss the Vince Foster crapola as crapola, but when the words coming out Hillary’s own mouth aren’t true, that’s something which really can’t be defended.

    As for reaching out to Hillary’s base, I’ll leave that to everyone else and hang out on the sidelines. Any part I take in that discussion would, well, likely be bad. bad bad bad.

  9. tas says:

    Though if anyone wants advice on which of Hillary’s voters to focus on bringing back into the fold, it’s the rural ones. Call them the “blue collar”, ‘working class”, or otherwise… Hillary cleans Obama’s clock in rural regions of swing states. If Obama continues to be the candidate who can only win in large cities, then things might not look good for him in November.

  10. Marie says:

    I live in Erie,PA, and she came to my town on April Fools day, and told the story about the young woman and her baby dying. I had come to see if she would change my mind from Barack Obama to her, and hearing that story certainly made me want universal health care even more. Knowing now that the story is false, I feel played around with. That story really moved a lot of people. I can’t believe the story was false….

  11. matttbastard says:

    Terry: Fair enough. I still think the tone of this post misrepresents the actual story, and that too much quarter is being given to the “good word” of hospital administrators. Clinton shouldn’t have used the anecdote again after the controversy arose.

    Matt: I think the point is that Hillary’s lying, period. Should she be the nominee, the same wingnuts with their cracked out conspiracy theories about her and her husband will crawl out of the woodwork again, but it would help if she didn’t discredit herself by lying.

    I believe the word “lie” is being misused in this instance. Senator Clinton repeated a story (which may or may not be apocryphal) that she heard from a local. To play this up as classic Clintonian dishonesty is simply playing into the hands of the MSM and the VRWC. It also gives implicit credence to the spin that Obama was “lying” when he said his birth was a product of Selma.

    Newsflash: politicians routinely stretch the truth; Senator Clinton doesn’t hold an exclusive patent on this unfortunate (if inherent) trait.

    As for reaching out to Hillary’s base, I’ll leave that to everyone else and hang out on the sidelines. Any part I take in that discussion would, well, likely be bad. bad bad bad.

    Would that such passion could be directed towards the real opposition. I hope that both Democratic Party factions can focus their energy in the right direction when it counts.

    Once again: the Clinton rules will also apply for Obama, should he turn out to be the nominee (as appears to be the case at this point). The Dems will be fighting a two front war on McCain and his minions in the media, who are happily in bed with the Maverick. C & L has an example of how the press reflexively circles the wagons around their boy (h/t Kyle).

    Anyway, FWIW, I think Gail is on the right track. I also think that too much focus is placed on blogospheric partisans of each candidate respectively. Such vitriol and single-mindedness is rarely emulated in the meatworld. In other words, try not to let the lowest common denominator @ Taylor Marsh’s pad and No Quarter become emblematic of the typical Clinton supporter. One has to keep the hardcore activists separate from the ordinary grassroots if one is to glean an accurate picture of the “opposition”; the chasm that exists between Obama and Clinton supporters is nowhere near canyon-wide, despite what the agitators in the MSM would have us believe.

    (Incidentally, if someone does want to slam the Clinton campaign for something, Mark Penn’s now-terminated business relationship with the union busting right wing government of Colombia re: the proposed bilateral free trade agreement is a good place to start. Hypocritical conflict of interest wha?!)

  12. Mark says:

    As someone who thinks Progressives have the wrong diagnosis for the right symptoms when it comes to health care, it is incumbent upon me to point out that it is illegal for a hospital to deny emergency care to a patient on the basis of a lack of insurance.

    So regardless of whether Clinton got the facts right, this case is NOT an argument for universal health coverage. If Clinton got the facts of this case right, then the responsible people at the hospital should be prosecuted and thrown in jail. This case should not be used as Exhibit 1A for universal health care when it is in fact, at best, an argument for enforcement of existing laws.

    I also would like to express my general disapproval of the practice of using tug-at-the-heartstrings anecdotal stories as an argument for policy. This is something almost all politicians do (so this criticism is in no way Hillary-specific or even Dem-specific), and it does an incredible disservice by making emotional exceptions the basis for one-size-fits-all coercive rules. If you think we need a new law, show me why that law is needed for everyone; don’t exploit someone’s personal tragedy to further your own political aims.

  13. DrGail says:

    Hey Mark, you’re absolutely right that the case Hillary has been citing is, at heart, irrelevant to the issue of universal health care. I just hate that sort of intellectual dishonesty.

    I also share your frustration with politicians (and others, I suppose) who use stories with emotional appeals to make their policy arguments. There’s a fine line, though, between using those anecdotal stories as an *argument* for policy and using them as an *illustration* of why the policy issue is important. Most people — myself included — are not policy wonks, but we still vote anyway. (Oh, the horror of it all!)

    Of course, it is entirely possible to make an illustration so inflammatory that there’s a huge clamoring for the policy to be implemented without fail, the facts be damned! (C.f., huge scary weapons of mass destruction and the invasion of Iraq)

  14. Mark says:

    Hmmm…maybe I’d be more ok with anecdotal evidence if the politician first laid a basis for the anecdote. In other words, I want politicians to first give some hard evidence that there is a really good chance the problem in the anecdote could happen to someone I know. Show me that the anecdote isn’t a fluke exception, but is actually quite typical.
    If the anecdote is a fluke exception that shows the problem in the extreme, it seems that more often than not there is a good reason why the anecdote is “extreme.” The fact is that every case has its own idiosyncracies; politicians do a grave disservice when they gloss over those idiosyncracies. Especially when, as here, the idiosyncracies define the case more than the actual problem the politician is purporting to solve.
    Oh well. Maybe at some point we’ll realize that politicians, as a rule, are almost always evil, evil people. Of course, then we would realize that it’s not a good idea to give evil, evil people control over our lives. Which would mean that we’d all be (small-“l”) libertarians…..I know, I know, that’s just crazy talk!
    By the way, Dr. Gail – congrats on your new digs here at CFLF. You will be getting to know me all too well.

  15. DrGail says:

    You laid out some good guidelines for the use of anecdotes. I would maintain, though, that considering the likelihood of the situation addressed in the anecdote occurring to someone you know is only one part of the equation. The other part is the severity of the consequences. For example, the likelihood of an explosion occurring if you smoke a cigarette near a gas pump may be excruciatingly low (albeit greater than zero), but if it DID happen it would surely mess up your day.

    Thanks for the welcoming words, too. I’ve never written a blog post in my life, so I find the thought of it to be a bit daunting. Participating in the comments is a good way to get my feet wet and to find my voice.

  16. You know, I wanted to jump back in here before I begin a long night of writing because I really like Mark’s interjection here. One of the things that has always really bothered me about Bush is that he’s always been heavy on the anecdotes, but very light on the substantial information. I think the most recent example was during his latest state of the union address where he read out a letter from the parents of a soldier who had died in Iraq.

    The problem with that brief letter was that it was… well… kinda unfair. What about the letters from parents who were furious about the loss of their loved one? And what about the parents of soldiers who haven’t died yet? He chose the single most beneficial bit of anecdotal evidence as opposed to making a strong and logical case.

    Unfortunately, the letter was probably more effective than any kind of reasoned argument he could have ever created.

  17. Mark says:

    Dr. Gail- good point. We libertarians are a lot better at getting rid of rules than we are at making them! Thankfully, we don’t really want to make any rules.

    As for the blogging- you’ll be surprised how easily it will come. The bigger problem for me has more been the knowing when to quit problem.

    Kyle: I had forgotten about that anecdote. Probably because I spend every Bush SOTU completely hammered and/or making fun of every word that comes out of his mouth. As I said, this is most certainly a bipartisan problem. Unfortunately for you guys, on this point even I think that the Republicans are better. Every time one of these anecdotes has boomeranged in recent years, it has been a Dem anecdote at issue: Graeme Frost, Al Gore’s “Can Lady”, and Hillary’s uninsured pregnant woman. I seem to vaguely remember one or two others in the last couple years, but the details are evading me at the moment.

    I have two theories for this, by the way: 1. Republicans use anecdotes that are either unfalsifiable or are presented in a sneakier fashion that is unlikely to lead to inquiries. 2. Bill Clinton was the best at this rhetorical device of anyone in history, and the Dems are all just trying to copy Bill Clinton. The problem is that there is only one Bill Clinton.

    I kind of think it’s a combination of the two. But the Bill Clinton-wannabe theory is similar in many ways to the Ronald Reagan-wannabe problem that Republicans have. Forgive the cheesy analogy, but both types of wannabes are like me trying be Evel Knievel: they’re destined to crash and burn. There was only one politician with Reagan’s talents, and there is only one with WJC’s talents. If you lack their talents, don’t try their stunts.


  1. 2008 April » Comments from Left Field - [...] The Clinton campaign makes a sad story even sadder By terry | April 5, 2008 - 1:51 pm -…

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