If all you’re interested in is the spectacle of Kimmel attacking Brian Kilmeade, skip to 3:30 of the clip below. You should watch it all, though, to see him rattling off talking points about the Graham-Cassidy bill like he’s onstage at a Democratic primary debate. Righties have spent the last two days attacking him for not “staying in his lane,” for grandstanding in front of the clapping seals in the media and so on, but you’re all blaming the wrong guy. Kimmel didn’t start this; it was Bill Cassidy who moronically introduced the idea of a “Jimmy Kimmel test” for health-care reform in May after Kimmel talked about his son’s surgery on the air. This was the standard Cassidy volunteered — again, volunteered:
“I ask does it pass the Jimmy Kimmel test,” Cassidy said. “Would a child born with a congenital heart disease be able to get everything he or she would need in that first year of life? I want [our bill] to pass the Jimmy Kimmel test.”
That was political malpractice on two levels. One: You don’t make any single person the moral arbiter of your legislation, especially a celebrity. Whatever Kimmel’s broader ideological leanings, he was destined to come under heavy pressure from his industry to attack any repeal bill the GOP offered. It was especially stupid of Cassidy to hand that power to a comedian, as the odds of a comic defending Republicans in their effort to undo the biggest part of Obama’s legacy were exactly zero. The whole thing is as ridiculous as if Obama had announced an “Adam Sandler test” for whether the Iran nuclear deal passed muster.
Two: The “Jimmy Kimmel test” is in keeping with Cassidy’s wider view of health-care reform, but that view isn’t shared by many members of his own party. He’s the man who said this in March, when the House was struggling to pass a bill:
“There’s a widespread recognition that the federal government, Congress, has created the right for every American to have health care,” he said, warning that to throw people off their insurance or make coverage unaffordable would only shift costs back to taxpayers by burdening emergency rooms. “If you want to be fiscally responsible, then coverage is better than no coverage.”
The people have spoken, says Cassidy: Universal coverage is top priority! But it’s not top priority for many GOPers. More affordable coverage is, and making it more affordable requires undoing some of the mechanisms designed to make it more universal, starting with the mandate. (Which is why, even before Trump was inaugurated, the party began describing its goal as “universal access,” not universal coverage.) The point of Graham-Cassidy is to free states to allow insurers to offer cheaper, less comprehensive coverage if they want, but that comes with a price. People with preexisting conditions could be charged big bucks for premiums and funding for Medicaid would dip by a few hundred billion dollars over the next decade. Does that pass the “Jimmy Kimmel test”? Cassidy and the GOP would have been better off selling their program for what it is, a way to create new coverage options for people who got burned when their ObamaCare plans blew up or became prohibitively expensive, than as some panacea in which everyone magically has the same options as before but cheaper. Obama made the same mistake, infamously, when he told his “if you like your plan” lie. With the “Kimmel test,” Cassidy stepped on a landmine that he planted himself.
Here’s Kimmel followed by Kilmeade’s response, in which he took the high road. Exit question: The 2028 election is going to be Kimmel versus Kid Rock, isn’t it?