With all the page space and air time given to John Edwards’ hair cut and Hillary’s laugh and clothing choices, why doesn’t anyone mention the fact that Republican front-runner Rudy Giuliani is flat-out lying — and why don’t reporters bring up his intentional lies when they’re doing yet another piece on the personality and character of the candidates?
“My chance of surviving prostate cancer — and thank God I was cured of it — in the United States? Eighty-two percent,” says Rudy Giuliani in a new radio ad attacking Democratic plans for universal health care. “My chances of surviving prostate cancer in England? Only 44 percent, under socialized medicine.”
It would be a stunning comparison if it were true. But it isn’t. And thereby hangs a tale — one of scare tactics, of the character of a man who would be president and, I’m sorry to say, about what’s wrong with political news coverage.
Let’s start with the facts: Mr. Giuliani’s claim is wrong on multiple levels — bogus numbers wrapped in an invalid comparison embedded in a smear.
Mr. Giuliani got his numbers from a recent article in City Journal, a publication of the conservative Manhattan Institute. The author gave no source for his numbers on five-year survival rates — the probability that someone diagnosed with prostate cancer would still be alive five years after the diagnosis. And they’re just wrong.
You see, the actual survival rate in Britain is 74.4 percent. That still looks a bit lower than the U.S. rate, but the difference turns out to be mainly a statistical illusion. The details are technical, but the bottom line is that a man’s chance of dying from prostate cancer is about the same in Britain as it is in America.
So Mr. Giuliani’s supposed killer statistic about the defects of “socialized medicine” is entirely false. In fact, there’s very little evidence that Americans get better health care than the British, which is amazing given the fact that Britain spends only 41 percent as much on health care per person as we do.
Anyway, comparisons with Britain have absolutely nothing to do with what the Democrats are proposing. In Britain, doctors are government employees; despite what Mr. Giuliani is suggesting, none of the Democratic candidates have proposed to make American doctors work for the government.
That’s all bad enough. But as Krugman points out, why aren’t candidates being called out for intentionally lying to the American public in the same way they’re called out for getting $200 haircuts?
By rights, then, Mr. Giuliani’s false claims about prostate cancer — which he has, by the way, continued to repeat, along with some fresh false claims about breast cancer — should be a major political scandal. As far as I can tell, however, they aren’t being treated that way.
To be fair, there has been some news coverage of the prostate affair. But it’s only a tiny fraction of the coverage received by Hillary’s laugh and John Edwards’s haircut.
And much of the coverage seems weirdly diffident. Memo to editors: If a candidate says something completely false, it’s not “in dispute.” It’s not the case that “Democrats say” they’re not advocating British-style socialized medicine; they aren’t.
The fact is that the prostate affair is part of a pattern: Mr. Giuliani has a habit of saying things, on issues that range from health care to national security, that are demonstrably untrue. And the American people have a right to know that.
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