Dave Joyce appears at the start of his recent television ad to give his required approval. Perhaps the calculation was: Viewers will forget, even overlook the “Friends of Dave Joyce” and “Approved by Dave Joyce” surfacing in smaller print at the spot’s end.
This is an attack ad that backfires. The Republican incumbent, seeking a third two-year term in the U.S. House representing the 14th District, wants to raise doubts about Betsy Rader, the Democratic challenger. Instead, Joyce invites questions about his own judgment.
Political campaigns can be rough work. Cheap shots make appearances. Candidates, or supporters, cross a bright line when they tar opponents for positions they do not hold.
That is what Joyce does. The ad warns that Rader “wants a government takeover of health care.” It adds that the result will “kick you off your health plan.” And then there’s the cost, “$32 trillion,” which “means much higher taxes.”
If that $32 trillion figure sounds familiar, it stems from projections about the price of “Medicare for All,” the single-payer proposal of U.S. Sen. Bernie Sanders. The Vermont independent advocates a sweeping change in the health-care system, largely replacing the private component, covering practically all Americans through the Medicare program now limited to seniors and the disabled.
The trouble for Joyce is that Rader does not support the Sanders plan — something she has made clear during the campaign.
Her approach, a reflection of her experience as an attorney working at the Cleveland Clinic and the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services, does not involve a government takeover of health care or ousting people from their current health coverage. Rader wants to move the country closer to universal access to adequate and affordable care. As part of getting there, she proposes giving everyone the choice of buying into Medicare.
The difference with Sanders is substantial. The private, employer-based system would remain. So would the exchanges for individual buyers, plus Medicaid for those with lower incomes. Medicare would expand, along with the program gaining the authority to negotiate drug prices to help check rising prescription costs, among the ideas backed by Rader.
Joyce and others may object to the expansion concept. That shouldn’t include wholly distorting an opponent’s position or resorting to such scare tactics. In an earlier ad, Joyce crafted a false impression of his own position. He did break from President Trump in voting against Republican legislation to dismantle the Affordable Care Act. He also previously voted, on multiple occasions, to repeal the law — without a firm plan for a replacement.
In attacking his opponent for a position she did not take, Joyce isn’t alone. The spot is part of a pattern across the country, the National Republican Campaign Committee, the Congressional Leadership Fund, attached to Speaker Paul Ryan, and individual Republican candidates seeking to make the same false link. The Washington Post Fact Checker assessed the line of attack last week and awarded Four Pinocchios, its grade for “whoppers.”
Campaigns are about drawing distinctions. Dave Joyce has drawn an unflattering portrait of himself, reduced to a Trump-like moment in which he’s just making it up.