MAD AS HELL: No Comet He, Haley Barbour Plunges Back to Earth



Hale No, He Cain’t! Haley Barbour is out of the presidential race? Oh sure, the current governor of Mississippi could never have been elected, but I’m pretty bummed about Ol' Haley's taking the quitter's path of Palin. I was looking forward to showing up at a campaign event and asking the Don Corleone of the Confederacy for the million dollars he owes me.

Let me explain about Haley Barbour's “Million Dollar Medicare Challenge.” Like most Republican plans, it was a grand hoax. Back in December 1995, congressional Republicans, who had gained a majority in the mid-terms, were locked in a nasty political battle with Bill Clinton. Newt Gingrich was Speaker and was having a fine time throwing his weight around in legendary Napoleonic fashion.

Cheri DelBrocco
  • Cheri DelBrocco
The GOP had already enacted one governmental shutdown, and they’d soon force another. But Clinton and the Democrats were giving them a pounding for a budget proposal that called for $270 million in cuts to Medicare over seven years. Compared to the medeival Ryan budget plan of today, which would put Medicare on the scrap heap, that '95 proposal now seems downright quaint. Nevertheless, the public had begun to figure out that the GOP's real game plan back then was to cut and gut Medicare and Social Security, which, in Newt's candid if artless phrase, would then “wither on the vine.”

During the lull between the two shutdowns, Republican National Committee chair Barbour, schemed up a gimmick so stupid and full of hokum that after it became public, he was branded the“Yahoo of Yazoo City”.

Splashed across a full-page newspaper ad in USA Today was Ol' Haley’s round face and a toothy grin holding a promotional, over-sized check for $1 million, made out to “the first American” who could prove false the GOP claim that its 1996 budget actually increased Medicare spending by more than 50 percent.

“Your Name Here.”was on the giant check by Barbour’s mug. Chairman Haley exuded the graceand savoir-faire of a used-car huckster. “Heard the one about Republicans ‘cutting’ Medicare?”the ad said. “The fact is Republicans are increasing Medicare by more than half. I’m Haley Barbour, and I’m so sure of that fact I’m willing to give you this check for a million dollars if you can prove me wrong.”

Reading the ad as I sipped my morning coffee, I immediately decided to take Barbour up on his offer. A chance to make a million dollars? I thought that was worth the price of a stamp, so later in the day I stopped by the public library to do a little research, (this pre-dated Google) and then mailed in my “Million Dollar Medicare Challenge.” After weeks went by without a response, I forgot about it.

Thirteen months later, having just returned from President Clinton’s second inauguration on a freezing January afternoon in 1997, my doorbell rang and the postman handed me a big, yellow envelope and asked for my signature. “Watkins & Eager/ Attorneys-at-Law/ Jackson, Mississipp”i was the return address. I didn’t know a soul in Jackson and had absolutely no idea who Watkins and Eager were or why they would be sending me certified mail. Obviously, there was some mistake.

After reading the 28-page summons naming me and 79 others as defendants in a lawsuit by Haley Barbour and the Republican National Committee, I was both stunned and amused. I contacted my lawyer who assured me that the whole thing was totally bogus.

A lawyer who represented one of the other defendants put it this way , “Haley Barbour asked Americans whether they agreed or disagreed with him and then sued everyone who wrote in to say they disagreed.” By pre-emptively suing all of us (in a courtroom with a judge who just happened to also be named Barbour), Ol' Haley and the RNC were denying their obligation to pay any of the claimants the $1 million. It was typical Republican bullying and scare tactics.

Ridiculous pranks like the Million Dollar Medicare Challenge are still being played by the Republicans. Lying about their true intentions comes as easily as breathing to them. When it comes to underhanded deception, they can be counted on to bring home the Mirror Ball Trophy every single time.

Like flatulent Keebler Elves popping out of a Hollow Tree Factory to announce some magical new name for the exact, same cookie they’ve been selling for forty years, the Republicans have some sparkly, spangled new name for their same old stale recipe for privatizing the government.

In the Clinton years, it was Haley Barbour who took on the role of creative director for all the toxic lies and stupid publicity stunts in the GOP's efforts to put a wrecking ball to all domestic programs. Today, Congressman Paul Ryan has assumed the mantle of The Flim Flam man. In typical fashion, Republicans are putting the hoodoo on America by claiming the Republican Party is going to create jobs by cutting taxes on the rich. Then, they plan to save Medicare by turning it into an ineffective, undesirable, underfunded voucher program.

The lawsuits against the 80 “challengers” were quickly forgotten, but that same year, Haley Barbour received his own summons. He was called to testify before the Senate Government Affairs Committee regarding fund-raising practices that focused on a possible indictment for perjury and money laundering. Barbour testified that he never intended to funnel $1.6 million in Hong Kong funds to the RNC through the National Policy Forum, a GOP think tank. “Everything the National Policy Forum did was legal and proper,” drawled Barbour during the Senate hearings.

About as proper as suing people for producing the proof that your words were nothing more than big, fat lies.

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