Top Barack Obama aide Valerie Jarrett recently granted an interview to a celebrity gossip website called POPSUGAR and revealed why she had come to Hollywood. "I'm meeting with writers of various TV shows and movies to try to get it into the scripts." The "it" is Obamacare.
Conservatives are no match for liberals in this arena. The White House people know the immense cultural power the left has in popular culture. Liberals rightly credit TV and movies and pop songs for America's growing support for gay "marriage." So why not use that power for Obamacare?
Jarrett told the POPSUGAR crew that they've used all kinds of famous people to push Obamacare: "We're talking to celebrities. We're talking to athletes, because obviously they get injured a lot and many of them are the same age as the market we're going after. And what (athletes) can say is, 'Look, you never know when life is going to throw you a curve ball. You're walking down the street, you're a little clumsy, you trip, you fall -- where do you end up? Emergency room. A couple grand just to walk in the door ... Who can afford that?'"
But there's something undignified and even insulting in the way Team Obama has taken the largest transfer of power from the individual to the state and is trying to accomplish it in the cheesiest venues, like sitcoms and fake-interview comedy shows. It speaks to a dumbed-down popular culture. Sadder still is watching the president feeding it.
So far, the Obama-loving networks seemed to have drawn a line and avoided clunky plot contrivances in its top programs to push a blatantly Obama-boosting agenda. But Obamacare is still wildly unpopular, and the White House clearly thinks most people aren't serious enough to be persuaded by watching CNN or MSNBC. It would rather have your favorite fictional TV characters grab your lapels and tell you to get on the Obamacare bandwagon. It won't admit that Obamacare's promise is as fictional as those programs.
The White House has been pushing Hollywood for a while now, which is its right. But it is not right to promote a radical (and radically unpopular) political agenda using taxpayer dollars. Two years ago, The New York Times reported that Covered California, the Golden State's Obamacare exchange, "poured significant resources into a detailed marketing plan -- developed not by state health bureaucrats but by the global marketing powerhouse Ogilvy Public Relations Worldwide, which has an initial $900,000 contract with the exchange." Ogilvy's plan was to tap major network TV shows like "Grey's Anatomy" and "Modern Family" to sell Americans on the health care law.
"I'd like to see 10 of the major TV shows, or telenovelas, have people talking about 'that health insurance thing,'" said Peter V. Lee, the exchange's executive director. "There are good storylines here." This was funded by the federal government. The exchange itself had been financed by three grants, worth $237 million.
In the Obama era, the government can fund all manner of activities propagandizing for Obama's initiatives. But in the Bush years, liberals were utterly scandalized that the U.S. government would use taxpayer money to promote the war effort in Iraq by spinning positive news stories over there. They were scandalized that Bush's Department of Education gave a million-dollar contract to a PR firm with the understanding that black conservative Armstrong Williams would promote the No Child Left Behind Act on his radio show and on TV.
They trashed that deal as "pay-for-play public relations." Liberal congressman George Miller said it was "probably illegal." Melanie Sloan, a former Democratic staffer who runs the group Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington told USA Today that the contract may be illegal "because Congress has prohibited propaganda ... (A)nd it's propaganda."
Apparently, liberals bitterly oppose taxpayer-funded propaganda when a proposal's seen as conservative, but happily support it for socialism.
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