Something we knew as true at the time turns out to have been confirmed, as Sen. Bill Cassidy confessed to the Washington Examiner that he “didn’t know who Jimmy Kimmel was” when he established the “Jimmy Kimmel test” as a standard for federal health care policy.
Here’s what we wrote after Kimmel burned Cassidy by calling him a liar when the Senate arrived at a health care bill Cassidy was involved in drafting…
All of this – all of it – was foreseeable.
Of course there would be an organized hit job on Cassidy’s bill. Cassidy’s bill replaces Obamacare. These people don’t want Obamacare replaced, no matter how egregious and destructive it is, and so anything – other than maybe a Bernie Sanders single-payer socialist utopia – put forth as a replacement is going to get the treatment Kimmel and his writers gave Cassidy.
He knew this, and he still reached across the aisle.
There were two facets to that decision. One was that Cassidy figured if anything would pass that would replace Obamacare he had to find a way to attract some Democrat support. So he ginned up the Jimmy Kimmel test in order to create a bit of a kumbaya scenario where maybe some Democrats could sign on to a plan that had support from one of the late night comedians who apparently control the Left’s narrative in this country. That’s a little on the cynical side, but it’s probably not a terrible idea – if you’re going to peel these people off the Democrat pickets you have to give them some pretty good cover, and this was more ambitious than anything else the GOP has tried in order to get bipartisan support for a health care reboot.
But the other was naivete. Cassidy put himself out there as the guy who would go on Kimmel’s show and try to sell a Republican health care reform as a caring, compassionate plan which wouldn’t be killing kids to enrich insurance companies, as though that show of good faith wouldn’t get him burned. Of course he was going to get burned – the only thing that would have prevented that is if Cassidy’s plan didn’t go anywhere.
The lesson from this is you can’t win with the Jimmy Kimmels of the world, just like you can’t win with the Chuck Schumers of the world. You have to beat the Schumers into submission at the ballot box and in the legislative process, and you have to ignore the Kimmels when you’re not castigating them. There is no common cause to be made with these people.
The good news for Cassidy is this won’t kill his bill. No Democrats are supporting it anyway, and his Republican colleagues will probably give him sympathy for getting assaulted last night rather than lose confidence in the legislation. Maybe Kimmel’s broadside will backfire.
But for right now, every left-wing media source you can name has jumped on this controversy and they’re all calling Cassidy a liar for posing the Jimmy Kimmel test in the first place. You knew that was coming, right?
This week Cassidy was asked by the Examiner about L’Affaire Kimmel, and here’s what he said…
Why would Cassidy do an interview with a comedian who got his big start instructing women on the street to figure out what was down his pants before palling around with former President Barack Obama? “I actually didn’t know who Jimmy Kimmel was,” Cassidy explained at a Washington Examiner editorial board.
By all accounts, the physician turned senator was making a good-faith effort to explain a complex issue on a popular television show. Cassidy even helped coin the Kimmel test back in May: “that no family should be denied medical care, emergency or otherwise, because they can’t afford it.” When Kimmel balked at provisions inside the Graham-Cassidy Obamacare overhaul in September, the comedian accused the politician of lying “right to my face.” The moment went viral and dominated the news.
The comedian would later admit he got most of his material from Minority Leader Chuck Schumer. He would own up to the fact that he was parroting Democrat talking points.
But Cassidy doesn’t regret the unsuccessful effort. He likens the whole episode to the reason why he speaks at historically black universities. In addition to representing those students in his district, Cassidy explains that “the people in the middle look at how I interact with those who will never vote for me and then make a judgement.”
“With Kimmel, I did not know that he would just take Schumer’s talking points, never call me for rebuttal, and go to press on that…. “It just seems the decent thing to do if you’re going to call someone out to give them call beforehand.”
Lesson: don’t count on the decency of a late-night comedian if you don’t want to get burned.
There’s a little more…
More importantly though, can Cassidy say that his adventure on late night television was a success? Can he say that it helped advance the GOP goal of Obamacare repeal?
“I will quote Edmund Burke,” Cassidy says borrowing from the 18th century philosopher and English politician, “that which would seem to have happier results in the beginning can have unfortunate consequences down the road.”
“I think it’s sometimes hard to predict,” he says, “You just do what you think you absolutely can understand to be the good thing to do upfront and then you just accept the consequences down the road.”
On one level it’s refreshing that Cassidy is holding on to his positive view of human nature (which could more uncharitably be called naivete) in the wake of the Kimmel mess; you could say it won’t cost him any votes for re-election in 2020, and in all likelihood it might even have a positive effect on his popularity. But for the bad optics of what turned out to be a short-term PR disaster for Cassidy and the GOP, it doesn’t look like there’s any lasting effect of that kerfuffle; if anything Kimmel is the one who looks worse, particularly once the public began to realize Kimmel was shilling for Chuck Schumer.
Still, it’s a bit painful for the supporters of a Bill Cassidy to see him dragged through the mud after he engages in something which was so predictably going to end in such a result.
You can make the argument that Cassidy and others on the GOP side have to keep reaching out to the Jimmy Kimmels of the world, or else the centrifugal forces of American politics will pull the country apart. The problem is, though, that outreach only seems to go in one direction. And if Jimmy Kimmel doesn’t bear any costs for the rank partisanship and incivility he shows to Cassidy, you’re not suffering for a good cause; you’re just losing.
The Senate Obamacare repeal was a failure, after all. What functionally repealed Obamacare was a budget bill gutting its mandates, and that was passed with no Democrat support at all.
We wish we agreed with Cassidy’s sunny view of the Kimmel debacle, and we salute him for keeping it after what happened. But we can’t go that way. Particularly not after seeing the armies of online trolls who beset his social media accounts and the uncivil hooligans who attack him at town halls. He can reach out to those people all he wants, but all they do is bite his hand.
We’d be better off without a Jimmy Kimmel on national television. Then we could do with a lot more Bill Cassidys in politics.