The Treachery of the ‘Private Option’

MagrittePipePictured to the right is a minor classic of 20th century art: Rene Magritte’s “The Treachery of Images,” a famous example of the Surrealist tradition. If you think this is a pipe, however, think again: the painting’s inscription is French for “This is not a pipe.” Magritte suggested that to call it a pipe would have been lying. “Could you stuff my pipe? No, it’s just a representation, is it not?,” he famously said. This painting all too often comes to mind when I see statements from politicians, which all too often appear to break new ground in Surrealism.
On Monday, Senate candidate Chad Niell posted on his Facebook page that he “does not support” the “private option.” The way Niell put it, however, seemed to keep open the possibility of a pro-private-option vote, so I called him up to inquire further.
I published the results of that conversation yesterday: Niell repeatedly declined to tell me whether he opposes the state’s Medicaid expansion plan known as the “private option.” In fact, he told me:

“I can’t tell you how I would’ve voted before, and I can’t tell you how I’m going to vote right now. We have to get in there and see what we can do.”

(Bear in mind that he told me this after his Facebook statement.)
I don’t think any reasonable person could interpret Niell’s quote just above as taking his future vote for the private option off the table, but that didn’t stop Niell’s campaign spokesman from accusing me of misrepresenting Niell and declaring — as Niell did — that Niell has made “strong statements” on the “private option.” My own view is that a strong statement in this context would tell us how Neill would vote on the “private option” if he got elected in 2014. Strangely, not one of these allegedly strong statements have appeared in the media — or on Niell’s own Facebook page. Or anywhere, for that matter.
Much like Magritte, Niell’s campaign asks the public to believe something other than the obvious. When you see a pipe, it’s not actually a pipe — it’s a picture of a pipe. And when you see Niell being squishy on a defining political issue, it’s not really him being squishy, it’s him making strong statements. Oddly enough, those strong statements seem pretty weak to me. Maybe Magritte might be impressed; maybe Chad Niell’s goal is to run a campaign that looks less like a traditional Republican’s and more like a Surrealist’s. Voters who are looking for “a no-nonsense, honest guy,” however, may be unimpressed.

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7 thoughts on “The Treachery of the ‘Private Option’

  • September 13, 2013 at 2:06 am

    I for one would not have it any other way than no-nonsense , and especially honest !!! I have seen and heard only that from John Cooper !!!

  • September 13, 2013 at 10:57 am

    It would be helpful for me to know exactly how the private-option issue will be presented in the upcoming fiscal session. I’m sure that it will emerge as part of the budget process. But how–specifically–can this issue be isolated? And has there been any effort by sitting senators to do this?

    • September 13, 2013 at 11:51 am

      Keith, thanks for writing! There is certainly a defunding/repeal effort underway. See some of our coverage here:
      The PO funding was coupled with the DHS budget to help its passage in the last session. The process of separating the two is quite simple, as I understand it: all that is needed is a majority of committee votes. If the committee doesn’t comply, 26 members in the House and 8 members in the Senate can block the DHS budget bill until the committee agrees to separate the budgets. Mr. Niell and Mr. Sullivan both have been hesitant to express their support for this strategy.

  • September 14, 2013 at 5:04 am

    The author is the illusionist, not Sullivan and Niell. He pretends to be neutral, but he is in the bag for one candidate. So in the bag is he that when a candidate he opposes states their position, he “reports” their position as something different.
    It isn’t enough to be conservative, one must be like Hubbard. If someone doesn’t promise to shut down the government he is a closet Leninist. This ignorant attitude is Obama’s best home nationally and the hope of liberals and democrats in Arkansas. It’s the attitude that put liberals in the senate in AK, DE, MO, IN and NV. It’s the attitude the left Harry Ried in charge of the US Senate. It’s an attitude that will put a democrat in the state senate from Jonesboro.

    • September 14, 2013 at 10:48 am

      Mirror, I’m disappointed that you’re too cowardly to not use your real name. Nonetheless, your accusations are completely ludicrous. I have reported Sullivan and Niell’s positions *exactly* how they have described them to me. As in, word-for-word. As in, I have the audio. If you have a problem with either of these candidates’ positions, you should take that up with them. Toodles.

    • September 15, 2013 at 7:07 am

      This is a classic “hack political consultant” move: my candidate said something I don’t like, therefore I must blame the media.

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