Maddow, Maher on Daily Kos, NBC polls showing Republicans can’t separate fact from fiction

Posted Aug 19, 2009, 12:49 PM PT by Jed Lewison • First broadcast: Aug 19, 2009

Get Adobe Flash player

Transcript:

MADDOW: The influential lefty Web site, "Daily Kos," has recently commissioned some polling from a respected nonpartisan firm called Research 2000. And the result, especially combined with new some hot new data that we just got from the new NBC News-"Wall Street Journal" poll, they’re like a cipher machine for decrypting what has seemed like inexplicable, intractable ignorance on display in the fight over health care this summer.

The poll asked people, for example, whether or not they believe that healthcare reform is a secret plot to kill people - this is the research 2000 poll. And of the Republican respondents to this poll, more than one in four said yes. Twenty-six percent of Republicans said healthcare reform is definitely a plot to kill people.

Among Independents, only eight percent think that. Among Democrats, it’s only five percent who think that. It’s important to know when we talk about health care that way too many Americans believe these off-the-kook-end theories.

But honestly, it’s not that many Americans in general wildly believe these off-the-kook-end theories. It really is specifically Republicans who believe this stuff and nobody else does. There is a huge gap between what Republicans think is true, between what Republicans think are the facts at issue here, and what the rest of the country thinks.

And why is that? Well, back to the polls. Another Research 2000 poll from earlier this month found that 59 percent of Republicans say they watch Fox News. That’s nearly double the proportion of Republicans who watch MSNBC and CNN combined.

So, in other words, the Fox News channel is absolutely dominant as a source of news for self-identified Republicans. That itself is not exactly a surprise. Are you ready to crack this thing open? Of course, you are. The latest NBC News-"wall street journal" poll asked respondents whether they believed four big myths about healthcare reform. And then they asked those same respondents what their usual source of news is.

The poll found that the gap between Fox viewers and MSNBC and CNN viewers who wrongly believe healthcare reform will give coverage to illegal immigrants - it’s a 31-point gap.

The gap between Fox viewers and MSNBC and CNN viewers who wrongly believe reform will lead to a government takeover of health care - that gap is 40 points. The gap between Fox viewers and MSNBC and CNN viewers who wrongly believe that healthcare reform assures taxpayer-funded abortions - it’s a 29-point gap.

The gap between Fox viewers and MSNBC and CNN viewers who wrongly believe that the government will decide when to stop providing medical care to the elderly - it’s a 45-point gap.

In other words, we’re trying to have a debate in this country between two groups of people who have two totally different sets of facts. We like to think of the political universe as all one thing, as a place where, sure, everybody has different opinions but we all at least agree what it is that we’re fighting about.

It’s just not true. Americans who are members of the Republican Party, who identify as Republicans, they have a different set of facts from the rest of the country. Their understanding of what we’re fighting about when it comes to health care is not only different than the rest of the country, it’s wrong.

They believe things that are not true about what’s being proposed for healthcare reform. They exist in their own fact-impaired mini-verse inside what we thought was a universe. No wonder we’re not getting anywhere.

Joining us now is the host of HBO’s "Real Time with Bill Maher." Mr. Maher, thank you for having me on your show a couple of weeks ago and thanks for being here now.

BILL MAHER, HOST, "REAL TIME WITH BILL MAHER": Always, Rachel. How are you doing?

MADDOW: I’m weird-ed out by this, honestly. There’s this huge disconnect, not in opinions about what to do, but in beliefs about what is true. What is going on?

MAHER: Well, you know, you’re right that the Republicans have a more casual relationship with the truth. I have always believed that. I mean, I don’t think they care as much about what is really true. It’s more about what the feeling is, what the spirit of the truth is.

Reagan, you know, used to tell a bunch of whoppers, you know, ketchup was a vegetable and, you know, trees cause pollution and, you know, anecdotal stuff about welfare, queens and the Cadillacs, and you know, ball games he saw that he never really saw. They didn’t care.

It was the idea, the big idea behind it. So I’m not surprised at that. You know, it is all about feeling, I think, with those people, which is ironic, of course, because they accuse of liberals of being naive and not steely-eyed.

But really, they’re the ones, you know, who don’t really care about what the actual truth is. They think, you know, like the torture debate. They were all about, "Oh, yes, those naive liberals. We know what the real truth is because we watch ‘24.’ You know, we have the real truth."

MADDOW: Well, do you fight -

MAHER: You know, and the health care -

MADDOW: Go ahead. I’m sorry, Bill.

MAHER: No, no. You go ahead.

MADDOW: Do you fight feeling with feeling? Do you say, "All right, we have facts," on one side of this debate and you believe things that are not true on your side of the debate. So since we can’t agree on the facts, let’s just try to make you have a different feeling about the myths that you believe? How do you actually move people? How do you fight?

MAHER: No, I don’t think you can do that because, again, feelings are very - are stronger than facts. You know, these people who are so exercised now about the healthcare debate, I don’t know if it’s always about health care. You know, it seems a lot of it to be about this "I want my country back." We hear that a lot.

And I always want to say to them, from what? Who’s taking your country away? Name one thing in your life that is different now that Obama is president. So I don’t know if you can fight it on that level. But you can certainly could. The president, I think, could do a better job of, you know, getting a little Harry Truman on these people. He’s just a little too nice about calling a liar a liar.

You know, when somebody says government takeover, he should just say that’s a flat-out lie. There is no government takeover. Stop lying. Stop lying about my record. A little Bob Dole in there.

MADDOW: But the way that that would be fought back against, the way that people would respond to that is by saying, "What’s he covering up? He’s telling us we’re lying but he’s the real BS artist." There is so much more energy than there is factual basis for that energy.

And it’s one thing if you’re just fighting about whether or not you feel bad for the country or good about the country, whether you like Obama or you think he’s a bad guy. But this is, you know, should we have a public option in healthcare reform?

And it feels like something about which all of this fact-free emotion is - it’s stymieing our ability to move forward or even have a smart discussion about it.

MAHER: True. But where are all Obama’s people to help him with this, by the way? You know, I mean, he is Michael Jordan on a very, very, very bad team. Where are all the people who were so enthused during the campaign? You know, that was the fun part, the election.

Now comes the hard part. You know, where’s Oprah? Where are all of the people who were out there on the campaign trail? We need them now. This is the actual hard work of government.

MADDOW: Maybe people will be mobilized by the extremism of the people who are calling Obama Hitler and calling him a Nazi and bringing their AR- 15s to the town halls. Maybe the Obama-ites who came out in such numbers in the election will be turned out specifically because they’re so horrified by the atmosphere that’s happening whenever Obama does one of these town hall meetings and people show up with guns.

MAHER: Well, you think it would have happened by now, because this has been going on for weeks and weeks at this point - the guns in the town hall meetings. You know, I think people figure it’s just a tiny fringe and it’s inflated by the media. And that’s not entirely untrue.

There are people out there who are scary and nutty. I don’t know how much a part of the larger population they represent - certainly, a good chunk of it. But, you know, again, it’s not the Republicans - I mean, of course, it is the Republicans who are holding this up.

But that’s the given. You know, the real death panel is that Senate Finance Committee. It’s these Democratic senators, the Kent Conrads and the Max Baucuses from these tiny little states that represent one or two percent of the population. That’s holding up the works.

You know, I guess the days of arm-twisting are over within your own party. I don’t know, maybe I’m just remembering finally my image of Lyndon Johnson and people like that doing that. You know, you wake up and there’s an intern’s head in your bed or something. I don’t know.

They used to be able to corral the members of their own party to get behind the business of that party. I don’t think that’s something that’s gone away. I mean Bush did it only a few years ago when he was president. He seemed to get his puppies in a line. Why can’t Obama do that?

MADDOW: Well, you are seeing a little bit of an uprising right now of some angry liberals, particularly in the House, saying, "You know what, we’re not going to vote yes for this thing unless it doesn’t have a public option. We’re liberals, we’re mad and you can’t count on our votes." We haven’t seen that in a long time.

MAHER: Yes, but that’s not really going to be there at the end of the day. At least, I hope not. I mean, I hope they don’t split along those lines because as Paul Begala wrote so effectively the other day - boy, he’s a smart guy.

He was writing in "The Washington Post" about the fact that, you know, when FDR was passing social security, it did not include domestic workers. It didn’t include farm workers. It didn’t include the disabled, government workers, who are now, you know, the first people to get an entitlement. Lots of categories that were excluded.

And if people back then had said, "Come on. This is not a very good bill," nothing would have gotten passed. What happened was they got something through and then, over the years, they improved it. And you know, unfortunately, it looks like that’s the best we can do with this health care thing.

MADDOW: It’s the best we can do with 60 seats in the Senate, 80-vote majority in the House and a brand-new, popular president.

MAHER: Yes.

MADDOW: My expectations are shrinking all the time - yes. Bill Maher, host of HBO’s "Real Time with Bill Maher," it’s great to have you on the show. Thanks for joining us tonight, Bill.

MAHER: Thanks, Rachel. Appreciate it.

DKTV is not responsible for, nor does it profit from, any ads that may appear in the video player on this page.