I’m sure you’re familiar with this story by now, but it’s refreshing to see a reasonably accurate portrayal of one of these rightwing hatefests in the mainstream media. (As Atrios notes, “Thankfully, for once the media realized the story wasn’t that people were being mean to poor Michelle Malkin, but instead that Michelle Malkin is in fact an asshole.”) I’m working on a cartoon on the whole thing for next week, and here’s the weird part for me: what I’m really doing is reworking a cartoon I finished before I went on vacation, in which I used the idea of the Republican Hate Machine going after a child as one of those really wacky cartoon examples meant to parody their extremism. Except, in the intervening week, they actually did it. I’ve said this before, but these are difficult times for satirists; there’s almost nothing you can think of that’s more ridiculous or appalling than the things that are really happening.
WASHINGTON, Oct. 9 â€” There have been moments when the fight between Congressional Democrats and President Bush over the State Childrenâ€™s Health Insurance Program seemed to devolve into a shouting match about who loves children more.
So when Democrats enlisted 12-year-old Graeme Frost, who along with a younger sister relied on the program for treatment of severe brain injuries suffered in a car crash, to give the response to Mr. Bushâ€™s weekly radio address on Sept. 29, Republican opponents quickly accused them of exploiting the boy to score political points.
Then, they wasted little time in going after him to score their own.
In recent days, Graeme and his family have been attacked by conservative bloggers and other critics of the Democratsâ€™ plan to expand the insurance program, known as S-chip. They scrutinized the familyâ€™s income and assets â€” even alleged the counters in their kitchen to be granite â€” and declared that the Frosts did not seem needy enough for government benefits.
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The critics accused Graemeâ€™s father, Halsey, a self-employed woodworker, of choosing not to provide insurance for his family of six, even though he owned his own business. They pointed out that Graeme attends an expensive private school. And they asserted that the familyâ€™s home had undergone extensive remodeling, and that its market value could exceed $400,000.
One critic, in an e-mail message to Graemeâ€™s mother, Bonnie, warned: â€œLie down with dogs, and expect to get fleas.â€ As it turns out, the Frosts say, Graeme attends the private school on scholarship. The business that the critics said Mr. Frost owned was dissolved in 1999. The familyâ€™s home, in the modest Butchers Hill neighborhood of Baltimore, was bought for $55,000 in 1990 and is now worth about $260,000, according to public records. And, for the record, the Frosts say, their kitchen counters are concrete.
Certainly the Frosts are not destitute. They also own a commercial property, valued at about $160,000, that provides rental income. Mr. Frost works intermittently in woodworking and as a welder, while Mrs. Frost has a part-time job at a firm that provides services to publishers of medical journals. Her job does not provide health coverage.
Under the Maryland child health program, a family of six must earn less than $55,220 a year for children to qualify. The program does not require applicants to list their assets, which do not affect eligibility.
In a telephone interview, the Frosts said they had recently been rejected by three private insurance companies because of pre-existing medical conditions. â€œWe stood up in the first place because S-chip really helped our family and we wanted to help other families,â€ Mrs. Frost said.
â€œWe work hard, weâ€™re honest, we pay our taxes,â€ Mr. Frost said, adding, â€œThere are hard-working families that really need affordable health insurance.â€
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But Michelle Malkin, one of the bloggers who have strongly criticized the Frosts, insisted Republicans should hold their ground and not pull punches.
â€œThe bottom line here is that this family has considerable assets,â€ Ms. Malkin wrote in an e-mail message. â€œMarylandâ€™s S-chip program does not means-test. The refusal to do assets tests on federal health insurance programs is why federal entitlements are exploding and government keeps expanding. If Republicans donâ€™t have the guts to hold the line, they deserve to lose their seats.â€
As for accusations that bloggers were unfairly attacking a 12-year-old, Ms. Malkin wrote on her blog, â€œIf you donâ€™t want questions, donâ€™t foist these children onto the public stage.â€
Mr. and Mrs. Frost said they were bothered by the assertion that they lacked health coverage by their own choice.
â€œThat is not true at all,â€ Mrs. Frost said. â€œBasically all these naysayers need to lay the facts out on the page, and say, â€˜How could a family be able to do this?â€™ S-chip is a stopgap.â€
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