The Great Gaski; or, does Twila Brase still need to find a Democrat fretting about death panels?


In today’s Mankato Free Press coverage of the Quist health care reform forum, staff reporter Mark Fischenich writes:

Quist, who promised to have details of his fiscal analysis of the bill on his Web site in the next five days, was joined by a Minnesota nurse who issued even more alarming warnings about the health-care reform bills before Congress.

Registered nurse Twila Brase characterized the reform effort as an “awful bill that’s going to kill a lot of people.” Brase is president of the Citizens Council on Health Care. . . .

. . .Brase said the bill contains provisions that will bring government agents into homes containing young children to judge the quality of the parenting. It will also set up a system where elderly people are examined to see if they’re fit enough to continue receiving health care.

“You will be weighed, watched, measured for fitness to decide when your time is over,” Brase said of the senior citizens in the audience.

Democrats and independent fact-check organizations have disputed accusations that the bill constitutes socialized medicine, that it would establish death panels, and many of the other criticisms raised by opponents. But the statements at the forum, backed up with references to articles from the Wall Street Journal editorial page and by Notre Dame associate business professor John Gaski, left the audience clearly troubled.

I’m fact-checking some of the claims made at yesterday’s forum, which I attended.

First, it’s impossible to assess Quist’s claim about the HCR bill being the largest middle class tax increase until he publishes his analysis; until then, great sound bite, if rather empty of documentation.

Brase’s use of sources and claims about them aren’t so obscure.  I’m tracking down her assertion that John F. Gaksi is a registered Democrat; in her presentation, she stressed that Gaksi’s viewpoint article from September is evidence that even Democrats object to the House health care bill because they share her concerns that the bill will kill “thousands of people.”

This bit of biography seems to surfaced with the Gaksi article, originally published at Investors Business Daily as Health Reform Is Just Subterfuge; Dream Is Democratic Dictatorship, though he made the same claim at a “9/12 Project” group meeting in Indiana on September 9, according to the article, 912 Group Fills Bristol Legion Hall to Hear Notre Dame Professor Speak.

However, according to the Indiana SOS office FAQ on voter registration, Indiana (like Minnesota) doesn’t register party affiliation. Like Minnesota, the only time voters in Indiana must reveal their party preference to election officials is when they ask for a ballot in a primary–just as voters in Minnesota do.

I have emailed him about his party affiliation, as well as calling the Indiana Democratic Party to see if it might check its voter files. Perhaps Dr. Gaski has indeed voted in Democratic primary contests in Indiana for the last twenty years.

Neither the FEC or Indiana databases reveal any large contributions to any party or candidate on either side of the aisle.

The professor’s impressive full academic vita–which includes both refereed scholarly articles and commentary/essays–doesn’t mention a party affiliation. However, those articles that do touch on politics suggest that the professor tacks to the right in terms of both candidates and policies.

For instance, the Notre Dame professor published a scholarly article about the minimum wage in 2004 with the suggestive title, “Raising the Minimum Wage Is Unethical and Immoral,” Business and Society Review, 109, July (3rd Quarter/Summer), 2004, 209-224. 

It’s listed as an article published in a refereed publication on his full vita. The vita’s list of non-refereed commentary begins on page 16 of the 24-page pdf file. This list suggests that Brase’s tactic of trotting out Gaski as a representative (and concerned) Democrat might be ill-founded in fact.

Gaski’s commentary, “Bishops Adopt Leftist Nostrums on Economy,” was published in Human Events in Jan. 5, 1985. I’ll let “About Human Events” speak for itself.

On August 16, 1998, the Chicago Sun-Times published Gaksi’s op-ed,  “Looking Beyond Polls Reveals the Illusion of Clinton’s Numbers.” He wrote in part (via a Highbeam subscription):

In survey research there is a common tendency for respondents to give the socially acceptable answer. For example, if a marketing researcher asks the survey question, “Have you ever shoplifted?” or “Is there mental illness in your family?” the number of affirmative responses will be much less than the characteristic’s true incidence among the sample.

In the present case, after a steady drumbeat of six years’ worth of politically correct brainwashing to the effect that it is impermissible to consider Clinton’s personal character in evaluating him, what then becomes the socially acceptable response to questions concerning any such evaluation? When contacted by a pollster, might a person’s natural thinking be something like, “Uh-oh. I don’t dare express disapproval of the president or I will be seen as one of those unenlightened troglodytes who actually cares about character – which we no longer are allowed to do.” . . .

. . .Speaking of understanding, mine is that congressional Republicans have been getting some very bad advice. Their own party’s pollster, who naively accepts the opinion poll results at face value, has advised congressional leaders not to touch the prospective impeachment matter – the advice grounded on the president’s faux public standing. One also can hope that a more sophisticated understanding of what the poll numbers really mean, and do not mean, can bolster political fortitude in undertaking whatever purgative action may become necessary. . . .

In March 2004, the Chicago Tribune published Gaski’s open “memo” to President Bush and Karl Rove, The mismarketing of a president; A crucial error of the Bush re-election campaign is its failure to appreciate the effect of the Democrats’ long-unopposed smear campaign (Chicago Tribune, Commentary section, p. 9, March 14, 2004 via Nexis). 

Judge for yourself, dear readers, whether you’d fancy the article written by a Democrat. Gaski writes in part [emphasis added]:

It is now obvious that both of you are off form. The Bush re-election effort has already committed some classic marketing mistakes. You need emergency coaching. I am glad to provide it.

A crucial error is your failure to appreciate the effect of the Democrats’ long-unopposed smear campaign. The guiding principle is that when people receive information, attitude formation follows. When voters are fed uniformly biased stimuli–i.e., anti-Bush invective–anti-Bush attitudes form. Once in place, these attitudes are more difficult to influence by counterinformation.

You held your fire too long. If it were a normal communication environment, your “above-the-fray” approach might have made sense, but the environment is an unnatural one. The network news organizations are abetting the Democrats’ propaganda, doing all they can to make your side look bad. Traditional tactics may not work against such orchestration. Remember the enduring effectiveness of the “Big Lie” strategy in Nazi Germany and the Soviet Union. . . .

. . .Such obvious selling points are so underutilized that it raises questions about your campaign’s state of mind. Are you panicking? (Could there be a Democrat mole in the Bush organization?) …

. . .(The Democrats know very well how limited is the intelligence of average Americans. You need to get with that program.) . . .

. . .The ultimate reason for offshore outsourcing of U.S. jobs is the poor education of American workers. Democrats have had a near-monopoly stranglehold on public education in this country for about 40 years, and have run our schools into the ground. Outsourcing-based unemployment is the direct result of Democrat misfeasance.

– You know the Democrats will stop at nothing to regain power. Even now they are trying to talk the economy into another recession, expecting that it will be blamed on your administration. Recent softness of consumer confidence reveals that the Democrats’ scare tactics are succeeding. These mere perceptions already are hitting the stock market and could actually determine the election. You need to call the Democrats on this. And try to anticipate their public-relations counterpunch rather than being so flat-footed as you usually are, which allows them to stay on the offensive. Remember, as well, that the liberal media will always use your least effective sound bites–so all your available bites need to be first-rate.

The Democrats’ substantive positions are equally sinister, designed to be so destructive that they frighten the stock market into tanking, thereby damaging the economy, for which President Bush will be blamed. Please educate the voters about what is really going on here or they will misapprehend the facts and attach their misperceptions and resulting negative attitudes to you. . . .

. . .The preceding strategic insights come from an ally, but exasperation cannot be suppressed. For the sake of our country, I hope you will present your good product more attractively to voters in the future. The Rose Garden non-strategy is not viable. It is time for a strategic overhaul. Ironically, our nation’s security and prosperity depend on your marketing skills.

Nothing in that piece indicates that Gaski favors Democrats. There certainly isn’t any donkey love in the 2005 (Commentary) Who Really Outed Wilson’s Wife? Answer Is Right Under Her Nose, another Investors Business Daily commentary, reposted by Notre Dame’s news bureau:

You are Joseph Wilson, former U.S. ambassador to Gabon, former member of the Clinton National Security Council, a more rabid Democrat partisan than you had ever let on, and an implacable opponent of the U.S. military intervention in Iraq.

Not incidentally, you are notably ungrateful to the first President Bush for your crosspartisan ambassadorial appointment. In fact, you regard that gesture with contempt in the same way the communist world was always contemptuous of Western efforts to sell them the rope by reaching out in friendship.

Like the rest of the national Democrats, the war in Iraq is an anathema to you. Like the rest of the national Democrats, you spend much of your waking time scheming over how to use the war against Republicans. . . .

. . .You’ve always known you are much smarter than the rest of your circle realizes, and this brainstorm gets bigger every time you think about it. Now it is leading to a book deal, the TV fame youve long craved and, no doubt, an unlimited political future in the Democratic Party, to whom you are becoming a real hero. . . .

. . .No problem. Youve had that answer figured out from the beginning, to wit: The liberal Democratic media will help you pretend. The network news anchors and the rest will dutifully look the other way and report your fraud as fact. They can always be counted on to run interference. . . .

. . .No, the only one with the legally requisite prior knowledge of your wife’s covert status if she even was covert and who intentionally announced it publicly, thereby possibly violating federal law, was none other than you, Joseph Wilson.

Right you are, this is too delicious. And you did say you wished federal prosecution for the person who outed your wife, didnt you? Do you know how to do the frog-march, Mr. Wilson?

One can hope the Bush administration has the backbone to follow through with such rightful and poetic prosecution of Joseph Wilson, and to resist inevitable Democratic cavil that it would be vindictive intimidation. The other approach, reaching out in bipartisan spirit to political enemies, hasn’t worked, has it Mr. President?

Go get him. The arrogant jerk deserves it, and it is the law.

Ah yes, that evil Democratic man, outing his own wife to gain star status with those evil Democrats. Unfortunately, Gaski’s anti-Wilson and anti-Democratic party screed bears no resemblance to the facts that emerged about the case. Nor is Investors Business Daily, a frequent subject of Media Matters criticism, a hotbed of pro-Democratic Party sentiment.

Nor does he seem a Democrat in his 2008 Indianapolis Star op-ed piece, “A big cause of the high price of gasoline” (May 18, 2008, VOICES section, p. 1, via Nexis). Note how the talking points–right down to the use of the bogus urban legend about China and Cuba drilling off shore Florida–are standard Republican talking points [emphasis added] :

…No, the main cause of high gasoline prices, other than plain old supply and demand, is policy errors by government. Of course, explosive economic growth in China and India is the main driver on the worldwide demand side, but blunders by the U.S. government have severely aggravated the domestic problem. Prominently, the bottle-neck at the refinery level is explained by onerous and expensive regulations, especially at the state and local government levels, that make it somewhere between unprofitable and impossible to build an oil refinery in this country. Therefore, none have been built here in more than 30 years. So when you hear about oil refinery capacity shortfall caused by maintenance and repair problems, ask yourself whether all this would be happening if we had more new refineries and fewer old ones that need to be patched up all the time.

Overly strict government environmental regulations prevent oil exploration and drilling in the U.S. or off our coasts. We’ve got Cuba and China drilling off the Florida coast in the Gulf of Mexico where American oil companies are not permitted to drill.

As for Alaska’s Arctic National Wildlife Refuge, out of tens of thousands of square miles, 1,000 acres were to be set aside for an oil field, but this has been thwarted by Congress. The prospective estimated volume has been dismissed by critics as only half of our annual demand, but that translates into a 5 percent yearly supply boost for a decade, which would materially affect prices as well as our oil independence.

No nuclear power plants have been constructed in the United States for more than 30 years because of stifling regulation. This also constricts our total energy capacity with corresponding impact on energy prices. Add to this litany the errors of monetary policy by the Federal Reserve in recent years. Had our dollar maintained parity with the euro, prices at the gas pump would be about $2 per gallon today.

There is more, to be sure, such as regulations that mandate more than 20 gasoline formulas or “boutique” blends to meet different environmental criteria in various governmental jurisdictions around the country. This hodgepodge of laws drives gasoline prices higher by curtailing economies of scale.

Note that all the cited policy mistakes are those of one political camp. For decades the liberal Democrats have done everything they could to raise domestic oil and gasoline prices, and now that those higher prices have come home to roost, the Democrats pretend not to like them. Currently, their anti-oil industry propaganda campaign is on track to create the abysmal public ignorance that is a precondition for the same base level of public policy, and policy outcomes. This is our real national test, and the forecast is ominous….

In short, while Gaski may have self-proclaimed his “registered Demcorat” status in September in a state that does not register voters according to party, Bluestem’s review of Gaski’s writing yields no friendly sentiments toward Democrats or Democratic candidates at all.

Brase would do well to drop Gaski as a source and join Quist in pointing to Collin Peterson’s vote against the bill if she wants to cite objections from a wayward Democrat.

Unfortunately, Representative Peterson’s objections are fiscal–rather than being based in fears of death panels and the like. Indeed, I heard him dismiss such claims at his Willmar Town Hall meeting this summer.