Jimmy Kimmel and Charles Pierce Humanize Media ‘Enemy’ with AHCA Rebukes

The media must continue shining a factual, human light on the suffering Trump's agenda inflicts on the middle and working classes. Some of us are doing better than others.

If one leans toward karmic sensibility, two prescient media events occurred this week. They served as emotional, personal precursors to yesterday’s disgusting American Health Care Act (AHCA) congressional celebration. The Washington shebang to toast first round success in stripping millions of their insurance coverage was astutely distilled by Ryan Koronowski of Think Progress:

“Beer, Braveheart, obscenities, scooters, White House parties, and punching into the end zone.”

Anyway, the higher profile of the twin media affairs was Jimmy Kimmel’s heartfelt and deeply touching Monday night monologue about his infant son and the newborn’s frightening cardio challenges. America is not used to seeing Kimmel in tears, nor are they used to hearing his populist plea for something like universal health care. But as the New York Times’ James Poniewozik noted:

“Mr. Kimmel’s monologue showed there’s still a power in hearing this kind of message from the sort of guy it’s not supposed to come from…he made achingly plain, there are some things you can’t buy your way out of: the frailty of life, the randomness of nature, the strangling terror of a parent with a deathly ill baby.”

Video of the 13-minute appeal to humanity, the ask of lawmakers to quit making insurance access a class issue, has gone understandably viral. I’ll be the first to admit I’ve never been a huge fan of Kimmel’s Broseph schtick, on full display in 1990s and early 21st Century programs like Win Ben Stein’s Money and The Man Show. He’s been easy to ignore for two decades. But when Kimmel decided to use a high-profile network perch as a call to arms for the care and support of everyone’s babies, regardless of class or wealth, attention was deservedly paid. Coolest thing the dude’s has ever done. All good vibes are with his family.

The second predictive media event that colored yesterday’s loss for basic American living standards with public shame, actually began early last week. One of my favorite writers on any subject, Charles Pierce of Esquire, suddenly left the blogosphere on or around April 25. The prolific, hilarious and insightful former sportswriter has been a bullshit mowing lifeline since Donald Trump took the oath of office on January 20. He’s always been a live wire, but we need elder, cranky liberals more than ever. Those who’ve seen a lot and just don’t give a shit, no have time for mincing words. Many readers such as myself were left with vague unease, in the dark as to the reason behind Pierce’s disappearance.

The writer returned Wednesday with Thoughts From a Hospital Bed. Pierce underwent an emergency gallbladder removal surgery late last week that furnished him with particular insight. He described this week’s activities in the House from a decidedly civilian perspective:

“I watched the Republicans fall all over themselves trying to destroy the Affordable Care Act while pretending they weren’t doing that very thing….For a good, long, healthy while, I was completely one of The American People, my privileged view of our democratic follies clouded for a moment by more than just the pharmaceuticals. I was looking through a haze of frustration and pain, and considerable anger…Human health is not a commodity, to be bargained and sold and traded as though it were any other consumer good.”

While the House bill was rushed through without an immediate opportunity to assess its public popularity, budgetary impact or full coverage devastation, it’s worth remembering that the previous incarnation was supported by just 17 percent of Americans. That’s a unified, nonpartisan rebuke from a voting public coming to understand that health should not be a choice between food on the table and a doctor’s visit. A major illness shouldn’t bankrupt a family. We’re remembering that the Declaration of Independence, one of the founding documents of our imperfect union, declares our universal, inalienable right to life. Not just the lucky, well-funded few. All of us.

It’s our job as members of the media to pull the curtains away from yesterday’s decadent Washington fete and expose the real harm that will be done if this farce of a bill actually passes through the Senate. However unlikely that prospect seems to conventional wisdom now, let us recall that even top Republicans thought the “reform” issue was dead not 10 days ago. And a bombastic, buffoonish television reality star could never be elected President of the United States, right?

Yes it’s the media’s job to ignore all Trump administration claims of “winning.” We must continue shining a factual, human light on the losing his agenda inflicts on the middle and working classes. Some of us are doing better than others. A tip of the hat, and genuine thanks, to Kimmel and Pierce.

Becky Sarwate is the current President of the Illinois Woman’s Press Association, founded in 1885, as well as Recording Secretary for the National Federation of Press Women. She is a national award-winning journalist, blogger, newsletter editor and theater critic. Becky lives in Chicago with her partner Bob and their menagerie of pets. Keep up with her at beckysarwate.com.
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