In Defense Of Matlock

Following their protest of a CMS brochure explaining the benefits of health care reform to seniors on Medicare, GOP Senators have written a letter to HHS Secretary Kathleen Sebelius expressing their “profound concern” about a television campaign featuring Andy Griffith. Seizing on a blog post from Stephanie Cutter, which introduced the Griffith ad as an attempt at “correcting the record” about Medicare benefits, Sens. Coburn, Barrasso, McCain, Burr, and Thune are feigning indignation:

The Administration’s clam to “correct the record” is misleading and offensive. We can debate the relative merits of the new law, but co-opting public funds during a recession, to make a political, poll tested argument about the new law, is wrong. While we understand the intensity of the Administration’s faith in this new law, “correcting the record” through the use of a taxpayer-funded ad campaign is highly inappropriate and breaks with the spirit of the law.

The new law cuts nearly $530 billion in taxpayer dollars from the Medicare program and uses Medicare dollars to pay for those who are forced to buy federally-mandated health insurance.

Watch the ad in which Griffith assures seniors that their guaranteed Medicare benefits won’t be cut and lays out some of the benefits of reform:

Since Republicans spent taxpayer dollars conflating cuts in the private Medicare Advantage program with guaranteed benefits under Medicare, using federal dollars to unspin those myths makes sense, particularly since many seniors still have the wrong impression about the law. For example, according to the latest Kaiser Tracking Poll, a large number of seniors “mistakenly believe the law includes provisions that cut some previously universal Medicare benefits” and 36% think that the law creates ‘death panels.’ Also, only 14 percent of seniors know that the law will increase the Medicare Part A trust fund by 12 years “and nearly half (45%) of seniors think the health reform law will weaken the financial condition of the fund. ”


The politics of attracting and keeping the senior vote are pushing the GOP to foolishly lash out against one of the most popular personality figures in American culture. They’re not necessarily accusing Andy Griffith of lying — standard benefits will be protected and the GOP actually supports some of the fraud provisions described in the ad — as much as they’re just trying to hold on to their narrative about the health care reform law.