Read What Georgia’s Michelle Nunn Actually Said About Obamacare

Reporting on Politics and Policy.
May 19 2014 12:36 PM

Read What Georgia’s Michelle Nunn Actually Said About Obamacare

Former President George H.W. Bush walks onstage with Points of Light Institute CEO Michelle Nunn for a speech on October 16, 2009, in College Station, Texas.

Photo by Dave Einsel/Getty Images

Earlier today the GOP oppo group America Rising sent out a series of clips from MSNBC's Morning Joe in which Georgia Senate candidate Michelle Nunn dodged an Obamacare question. They helpfully included this transcript.

NBC’S KASIE HUNT: Would you have voted for the Affordable Care Act?
MICHELLE NUNN: At the time the Affordable Health Care Act was passed, I was working for Points of Light. I wished that we had more people who had tried to architect a bipartisan legislation.
HUNT: So yes or no?
NUNN: So I think it’s impossible to look back retrospectively and say, "What would you have done if you were there?"

As AR gleefully reported, the Morning Joe team chewed through that answer, mocking Nunn for lacking a "credible" response to an inevitable question. I didn't think "it's impossible to look back" is a great answer for any question—you can, and plenty of Republican candidates now running for Senate can answer it—but two things confused me. One, I'd talked to Nunn on Saturday for an upcoming story, and she had given a meatier (yet talking point-rich) answer on Obamacare. Two, the video made two obvious cuts—cuts that were not reflected in the transcript passed around by AR. (Typically, if you patch together a quote by removing part of it, you deploy ellipses to tell the reader something was cut.)

I asked the Nunn campaign if it had recorded its own version of the interview, as is typical on the trail. It had. Here's a transcript of the Obamacare section, with the quotes that showed up on air in bold.

NUNN: So, at the time that the Affordable Health Care Act was passed, I was working for Points of Light. So I think it's hard to look back, to go back retrospectively.
But when I look at it, I think of: What do we need to do going forward? I think, you know, I come at it from the perspective of someone who made payroll, who saw rising health care premiums, who believes that we actually need to work together, to make changes where it's not working and to improve the things that already are working. So I think we need to add a more affordable tier of insurance for individuals and families who have high premiums.
I think we need to add a tax credit for small businesses. And I also think we need to repeal the cuts to rural hospitals as a result of our state not expanding Medicaid. At the time time I don't think we need to go backwards. We need to make sure that people who have pre-existing conditions have access to health care. That people who now have children that are under age 26 because of it -- I talked to a constituent not long ago who said I'm so grateful, I sleep better every night because my three sons, age 20 to 26, can be covered by my insurance. So I think we need to move forward and go forward to insure that everyone has quality health care.

At this point, a producer interrupts to move the conversation along.*

HUNT: But you're not sure if you would have voted yes or no?
NUNN: When I look back at what they were doing when this was passed, I think, I wish that we had more people who had tried to architect a bipartisan legislation. And who had worked together across the aisle.
HUNT: So, yes or no?
NUNN: I think it's impossible to look back retrospectively and say, "What would you have done if you were there?" Because I wasn't there, and we now have hindsight. What I can do is say: Here's where we are today, and here's what we should do, which is move forward.
HUNT: So do you think it should be repealed?
NUNN: I do not.

In short, Nunn did dodge the question. But she went into some practiced detail about the ways she wanted to change the law, and she confirmed that she wouldn't vote for repeal. She tried to finesse Obamacare, signaling to Democratic voters that she basically supported it (come on, had she been in the Senate in 2009, she would have voted like any red-state Dem), but mentioned specific changes. Take out all the specifics and you've got a much worse answer. That's not Hunt's fault, at all. She asked better questions than I did, and dug a soundbite out of a long boilerplate answer. It's just dishonest for Republicans to pretend Nunn had nothing more to say.

*Correction, May 19, 2014: This post originally misstated that the Nunn campaign interrupted the interview. It was a producer.

David Weigel is a Slate political reporter. 


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