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Exploitation and legislation

John Everett | Thursday, October 18, 2007

I’m guessing Mike Gundy isn’t a big fan of the GOP these days.

Gundy is the Oklahoma State football coach whose surprisingly eloquent tirade in defense of one of his players made him a YouTube.com celebrity. In the rant, Gundy expresses his displeasure with a columnist who had insulted the Cowboys’ backup quarterback. He insists that the newspapers take up their issues with him and not the players, saying, “Come after me, I’m a man, I’m 40. I’m not a kid.”

The player Gundy chose to defend is a college sophomore, meaning his status as a “kid” is somewhat in question. One wonders then what level of outrage Gundy reached when right-wing columnists, talk-show hosts, and bloggers began attacking 12-year-old Graeme Frost.

Graeme and his sister Gemma were seriously injured in a car accident. Graeme’s brain stem injury and his sister’s cranial fracture required extensive medical treatment and rehabilitation, which continues to this day. Both might not be alive today if their parents were not covered by the SCHIP healthcare program.

The SCHIP program is intended to cover healthcare costs for parents who earn too much for Medicaid but can not afford to buy health insurance. Graeme’s father and mother combine to make less than $50,000 a year and cannot afford to purchase insurance.

In an effort to convince a reluctant President Bush not to veto a bill set to drastically increasing funding for SCHIP, the Democrats turned to Graeme to give the party’s weekly Radio Address. Since then, Graeme and his family have come under scathing attack, simply for utilizing a government program which saved them hundreds of thousands of dollars and their children’s lives.

The Baltimore Sun chronicles how the Frosts have been the recipient of right-wing vitriol labeling them too rich for government healthcare and implying that they are socialists for accepting it. Mark Steyn of the National Review refers to Graeme, a seventh-grader, as “fair game,” maintaining a sense of righteousness as he attacks the political sensitivities of a 12-year-old who supports a program which saved his life.

E.J. Dionne of The Washington Post and others have extensively detailed the miscalculations and wrong assumptions which have led to what many liberals are calling the “swiftboating” of Graeme and the Frosts, referring to the questionable campaign to smear Sen. John Kerry’s record in Vietnam. Dionne answers the criticisms methodically, pointing out that the family does not pay for the private educations that Graeme and Gemma receive, as Graeme is on scholarship and Gemma’s tuition is covered by SCHIP, as the school is designed to serve her special needs. Referring to a blogger’s claim that homes in the Frosts neighborhood sell for over $400,000, Dionne reveals that Graeme’s father paid $55,000 for the family house seventeen years ago.

Delving fully into the intricate finances of the Frost family might be a fun little game for gotcha journalists and trigger-finger bloggers to play, but in the end it is really a meaningless gesture. Graeme’s and Genna’s procedures have already been paid for, and the government has already determined that they qualify for SCHIP coverage. The debate about whether or not to extend the program, or how far to stretch it, is really the only thing that should matter.

There is really no need to lower important legislative debate to the level of “If you don’t vote my way, kids like this will die!” The statistics on children without healthcare in this wealthy nation are, or should be, staggering enough to make the Democrats argument. Harry Reid and Nancy Pelosi could rightly be criticized for using Graeme’s story in an effort to demonize their opposition in congress and the White House, so why aren’t they the ones being bombarded?

The answer, as it usually is in Washington, is hypocrisy. Or in this case, a fear of being charged with it. Those Republicans who attempt to assassinate the character of a hard-working small-business owner’s son do so because they can not criticize the practice of making politics personal. They do it too often themselves.

Why should the estate tax be repealed? Because Farmer X is about to lose the family farm because he cant pay off the taxes. Why should stem cell research be halted? Because we can possibly create more babies with them and give them to people. Never mind that there are plenty of orphans waiting to be adopted, you wouldn’t want to search for a cure to Parkinson’s if it meant killing babies, would you? Just look at all these babies.

Every bill, no matter how well-intentioned, has effects that negatively impact the lives of certain citizens. A legislator has to weigh the balance, and should not be haunted with the visages of people whose lives he has altered. It is the only way he or she can do the job right. Let’s leave the 12-year-olds to Little League, and have Congress debate on the issues.

John Everett is a senior English major. He is thought to be somewhere between 21 and 45 years of age. He is armed only with a sharp wit and is considered cantankerous. If you have any information regarding his whereabouts, please contact jeverett@nd.edu

The views expressed in this column are those of the author and not necessarily those of The Observer.