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Julie Hirschfeld Davis reports: "A Republican Party Internet advertisement altered the audio of US Supreme Court oral arguments in an attack on President Barack Obama's health-care law."

The Republican National Committee released an attack ad against Obamacare that included doctored audio. (photo: RNC)]
The Republican National Committee released an attack ad against Obamacare that included doctored audio. (photo: RNC)]



Republicans Tampered With Court Audio in Obama Attack Ad

By Julie Hirschfeld Davis and Greg Stohr, Bloomberg

31 March 12

 

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=MXhLtb-NKY0

 

Republican Party Internet advertisement altered the audio of U.S. Supreme Court (1000L) oral arguments in an attack on President Barack Obama's health-care law.

In a web ad circulated this week, the Republican National Committee excerpts the opening seconds of the March 27 presentation by Obama's top Supreme Court lawyer, Solicitor General Donald Verrilli. In the ad, he is heard struggling for words and twice stopping to drink water.

"Obamacare," the ad concludes, in words shown against a photograph of the high court. "It's a tough sell."

A review of a transcript and recordings of those moments shows that Verrilli took a sip of water just once, paused for a much briefer period and completed his thought - rather than stuttering and trailing off as heard in the edited version.

The ad marks a blurring of the line between the law and politics, in which the nation's highest court - and the justices and lawyers who decide and argue cases - are becoming fodder for Republicans' and Democrats' arguments over the validity of the president's signature domestic legislative achievement.

RNC Communications Director Sean Spicer said the video was a "mash-up," condensing and splicing together several separate pauses and stutters by Verrilli during the first two minutes of his argument, produced to illustrate how much difficulty he had defending the health-care law.

Multiple Clips

"Are there multiple clips in that video? Yes," Spicer said. "The point was that he continually had to stop because he was having trouble making the case for why Obamacare was valid."

The Democratic National Committee declined to comment. Obama's re-election campaign also said it wouldn't respond to a query dealing with a matter currently before the Supreme Court. White House spokesman Jay Carney told reporters yesterday that Obama was "pleased" with the presentation Verrilli made, which was criticized by Supreme Court watchers and some media outlets.

Tracy Schmaler, a spokeswoman for the Justice Department, which includes the solicitor general's office, declined to comment.

The RNC said Verrilli's halting performance is evidence that the 2010 law he is arguing to uphold is invalid.

Less Water, Shorter Pauses

"It seems that Obama's lawyer hit a bit of a snag trying to defend the constitutionality of Obama's health-care takeover," the RNC said in a statement accompanying the ad. "Maybe he's beginning to realize something the American people already know: It's hard to defend a law that is indefensible."

Recordings of the court proceedings reviewed by Bloomberg News reveal that the audio has been edited. While Verrilli paused once to drink water during the opening moments of his presentation, he stopped talking for only a few seconds before continuing with his argument. In the RNC ad, he pauses for about 20 seconds, coughs, sips water and stutters.

In the RNC's transcript of its ad, it quotes Verrilli as follows: "For more than 80 percent of Americans, the ah insurance system does provide effective access [pause]. Excuse me. Ah [cough] it ah be-be because the ah the ah the [pause]. Excuse me."

Finishing His Thought

In the actual proceedings, Verrilli finished his thought. "For more than 80 percent of Americans, the, ah, insurance system does provide effective access," Verrilli says, pausing briefly and saying, "Excuse me. But for more than 40 million who do not have access to health insurance, either through their employer or through government programs such as Medicare or Medicaid, the system does not work."

While such unflattering editing isn't unusual for a political campaign advertisement, it is atypical in the legal world.

"Unbelievable," said Walter Dellinger, who served as solicitor general under Democratic President Bill Clinton. "It's a dramatic instance of the politicization that has surrounded this challenge, and totally unfair to one of the most widely admired lawyers in public service."

Peter Keisler, a former Republican federal judicial nominee, said the ad could set back efforts to open the court - which does not allow its proceedings to be televised, videotaped, or recorded by the media or spectators - to camera coverage.

'Selective and Misleading'

"The selective and misleading editing of a Supreme Court argument to make a political point is going to confirm the worst fears of those who oppose cameras in the court," said Keisler, a partner at Sidley Austin LLP in Washington, who served as acting attorney general and was nominated to the U.S. Court of Appeals in Washington by former President George W. Bush.

The RNC ad wouldn't have been possible a dozen years ago - at least not this quickly. Before 2000, the court didn't make its audio recordings available until the beginning of its next term; in this case that would have been in October.

Starting with the 2000 Bush v. Gore ruling, which halted the Florida presidential voting recount and made Republican George W. Bush the winner, the court began releasing its recordings in select cases at the end of the day.

Timothy R. Johnson, a University of Minnesota political science professor who researches and writes about Supreme Court arguments and decision-making, said the ad is the first to use the Supreme Court's audio recordings.

'Worst Nightmare'

"This ad is the justices' worst nightmare," he said. "It's the reason why they don't want cameras in the court."

Spicer said the RNC is proud of the video and the attention it has generated.

"Is it novel? Are we ahead of the curve at the RNC? I hope so," Spicer said.

He said the Republican Party would continue to mine the Supreme Court case for material that can be used in its political attacks on the Obama health-care measure.

"The issue of Obamacare will unequivocally be a major issue for this campaign," Spicer said. "If there are great pieces of the written opinion that talk about what an unbelievable takeover of our health-care system and our economy this has been, I strongly suspect we will use it."

Legal specialists across the ideological spectrum said they expect the health-care case and others dealing with such issues as immigration to figure in the presidential campaign.

"We can be pretty confident no one is going to vote for or against Obama based on how good or bad his solicitor general is at arguing, but the bigger question of Obamacare's constitutionality certainly will play out in the campaign," said Curt Levey, executive director of the Republican-aligned Committee for Justice.

"The attention to this argument and this case around the Affordable Care Act is emblematic of the fact that courts matter," said Marge Baker, executive vice president for Policy and Program at the Democratic-aligned People for the American Way in Washington. "No matter how this particular case comes out, it's very clear that voters understand that."

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+143 # NanFan 2012-03-31 13:47
The Democrats HAVE to respond to this!! They are being slammed by the most vile propaganda and they say NOTHING???

It's so easy.

RETORT AD: 85% of Americans are FOR Obamacare. Republicans are against Americans!

The only tool that Republicans have is fabrication and denial, and they wield it with the worst villainy.

DEMOCRATS MUST NOT BE SILENT ABOUT THIS!

It's only just begun and will get worse and worse from the GOP.
 
 
+35 # Dion Giles 2012-03-31 18:46
[quote name="NanFan"]R ETORT AD: 85% of Americans are FOR Obamacare. Republicans are against Americans!

Retort ad: 85% of Americans are FOR Obamacare. What are the Republicans for? ASK them!
 
 
+1 # LeeBlack 2012-04-01 12:39
see:
http://www.factcheck.org/2009/06/reviewing-polls/
 
 
+108 # Pondering and Pandering 2012-03-31 13:53
This selective use or altering of audio or video is a serious problem. While there are occassions when liberals and Democrats and Progressives engage in it those instances are rare. This is the stuff of the Breitbart school of editing. Further, attack ads for any candidate rarely enlighten but act to mislead. The Super Pacs and all that money out there show us that this will happen a lot this year. Shame on the Republican Party for doing this. Keep pointing out their misdeeds and let's own up to any of ours on the Progressive side. I'm not expecting a whole lot from us in the deception department. The other side is way better at it so we Progressives lose out in the art of deception. We are too wedded to facts and reality. I like that shortcoming we so often display.
 
 
+39 # Lolanne 2012-03-31 17:39
Quoting Pondering and Pandering:
This selective use or altering of audio or video is a serious problem. While there are occassions when liberals and Democrats and Progressives engage in it those instances are rare. This is the stuff of the Breitbart school of editing. Further, attack ads for any candidate rarely enlighten but act to mislead. The Super Pacs and all that money out there show us that this will happen a lot this year. Shame on the Republican Party for doing this. Keep pointing out their misdeeds and let's own up to any of ours on the Progressive side. I'm not expecting a whole lot from us in the deception department. The other side is way better at it so we Progressives lose out in the art of deception. We are too wedded to facts and reality. I like that shortcoming we so often display.


Completely agree, P&P. And also with Nanfan and others who are calling for the Dems to respond to this dirty, slimy ad and others like it. BUT -- with the facts! Not with the same completely dishonest, nasty tactics the GOPigs use. They have hit a new low, even for them. But the FACTS are on our side -- we don't need to make stuff up. We just need to keep repeating the facts, over and over, louder and louder, from the president on down. We MUST do that!
 
 
+16 # KittatinyHawk 2012-03-31 19:49
Must have hired someone top notch as they were never too bright with taps or tapes before!
 
 
+105 # Barbara K 2012-03-31 13:54
What a disgrace the Greedy Old Pigs have become. They will stop at nothing to become the King of America. What a disgusting bunch. We all know that we all lose if this bunch of loonies take over our country. We will not be swayed by their attack ads. Let them waste their money.

VOTE STRAIGHT DEMOCRATIC !!

The alternative is unbearable and a bunch of liars who hate us
 
 
-5 # Stephanie Remington 2012-03-31 17:57
The fact that the Republican Party has become the sleaze of the planet doesn't mean this election is about good vs. evil. It’s about a choice between two carcinogens (one is vile, oozing, green scum and the other has a slick, sugar-coated surface) and about rejecting that choice as the exclusive option.

No matter what we choose, our constitutional republic still has cancer and needs to recover. Chances for recovery are much less if one of the two toxins prevails, especially if all those who chose that option go home cheering for a job well done and continue to either ignore or excuse the inevitable consequences.
 
 
+3 # Erdajean 2012-03-31 22:28
Thank you, Stephanie. What you say is precisely true. If we go with the sugar-coated poison pill -- and stay on top of its nominee every breath in his next term, we may survive, but not without a long hard recovery.
If we go with the oozing green scum, we'll all soon know what captivity under Hitler and Mussolini was about.
The worst part is, going either way we are first at the mercy of the appallingly ignorant who will turn out en masse to vote their stupidity, and of the machines we all vote on.
 
 
+3 # Stephanie Remington 2012-03-31 23:20
Thank you Erdajean. If more of the people who advocate voting for Obama at least acknowledged this truth, I wouldn't dread what's coming as much, because the focus would be primarily on how to best get ourselves out of this horrible mess and because our strength is in numbers.

The irony is that one of the reasons that the Republican candidates present such a danger is because of the groundwork laid by Obama (the NDAA, the FRBIG Act, renewed PA...).

The whole issue of the machines has been pushed to the back burner even though the same problems with them persist. I haven’t even noticed Brad Friedman posting on this lately. 
 
 
+81 # The Voice of Reason 2012-03-31 14:03
They should have the wherewithal to call political ads what they are: legalized vote rigging.
 
 
-128 # cypress72 2012-03-31 14:03
Who's naieve enough to believe any ad produced by a PAC, whether it's pro Republican or pro Democtrat? I think that the electorate on average are very gullible and easily manipulated. That's how Obama got elected in the first place.
 
 
+80 # Billy Bob 2012-03-31 14:24
They wouldn't spend billions on those ads if they didn't believe (through research) that millions of people are every bit that naïve.
 
 
+116 # tjg 2012-03-31 14:29
That's how Obama got elected? No, Obama got elected because, not only was he intelligent and capable, but you repubs had an old man running who was in the early stages of dementia and a woman running as VP who was actually dumber than W. I think the GOP decided they didn't want the job of repairing the mess W did to this country and deliberately nominated these two misfits so their party wouldn't have to deal with it.
 
 
-52 # Stephanie Remington 2012-03-31 17:04
That's part of the picture, but the main reason he got elected was because he sold out to corporate interests.

I don't know whether he never intended to fulfill his campaign promises or if he, once in office, decided that doing so would be too much skin off his nose.

The bottom line is he lied. Those lies got him in office.
 
 
+90 # jimbo 2012-03-31 14:30
In other words, it is ok to expect lies and similar republican responses to cover up their failures for the last 40 years. Personally I left the republican fold after nixon precisely for that reason. My expectation is that I am not lied to, and if you do then I will avoid you. republicans have no way forward unless they lie, there is nothing for republicans to rely on except to lie.
 
 
+89 # lcarrier 2012-03-31 14:34
Are you kidding me? After 8 years of GWB, the electorate desperately wanted a change--any change--and in voting for it they got far better than the alternative.
 
 
+72 # lcarrier 2012-03-31 14:36
What can you expect from a floundering minority party? Just attack the president's men with good old-fashioned dirty tricks. They're designed, not to influence anyone, but to energize the rabid Republican base (and they really are base).
 
 
+21 # Erdajean 2012-03-31 14:15
How much more notice do we need that whatever is honorable and good in America is under diabolical assault, without law or conscience?
Considering the basic nature of the court itself, and the utter refusal of our President to meaningfully resist, what is our outcome? I shudder,and beg God's mercy for my children.
 
 
+95 # Billy Bob 2012-03-31 14:23
Obviously the health of the uninsured is a joke to the right wing.

We don't need insurance. We need health care.
 
 
+60 # cynnibunny 2012-03-31 14:30
Why is it legal for either party to use the Supreme Court's proceedings in any campaign commercial? If the court allows such use, then isn't there a mandate to stay true to the exact wording, the exact audio?

It's bad enough when a candidate's words are twisted and decontextualize d. But when the Supreme Court's official proceedings can be edited and essentially made to make an opposing point, or made to look stupid - that sounds like it should be against the law.

The Democrat's response is lame. So what if the RNC is insulting a lawyer? So what if people from former GOP administrations are crying foul?

Political campaigns are determined in the court of public opinion, I've heard said. Right now that court is the media. The President MUST either respond or begin a campaign of his own initiative against the abuse of the truth. Doing the silent treatment is no campaign. It just gives the impression that the president doesn't care at all.
 
 
+18 # KittatinyHawk 2012-03-31 19:55
Possibly this is proof how elephantized the supreme nothings are
 
 
+73 # peterjkraus 2012-03-31 14:35
They´re REPUBLICANS, for chrissake! Republicans lie, that´s what they do. So of course they tamper with audio, of course they make up "facts", of course they rely on the racism and stupidity of their voters.

What else is new?
 
 
+37 # James Marcus 2012-03-31 14:39
It is time to realize, completely, how our Information Based system is breaking down before our eyes. Humans have always been dishonest. The 'Means of Deception', however, continue to progress....to the point of 'I saw it with my own eyes' now no-longer-prove s 'what you see is What you get'.
Amazing. Technology's ability to 'edit stealthfully' both audio and video. Talk about Propaganda Potential!
All Information is now vulnerable to deliberate distortion.
 
 
+63 # RickMaart 2012-03-31 14:43
ObamaCares and The Republicans don't. That's easy to see.
 
 
+82 # Vardoz 2012-03-31 14:47
That's not why we voted for Obama. We had suffered through the Bush years and Obama was such a breath of fresh air. But with all his faults the he has had to struggle through the GOPs agenda to defeat him no matter how much it hurts the American people and our economy. They are cut throat corporate gangsters who will do anything to take all the power because they want it all at any price to anything. Why do you think they are spending so much to defeat Obama?
 
 
+37 # dick 2012-03-31 14:53
Given enough rope, the GOPACs may hang themselves. If they undermine their own credibility now, they'll have problems in the fall. Obama should focus on the positives of the ACA, the GOP destruction of business activity in the House, indicting banksters, promoting the Dallas Fed critique of Too Big & Too Intertwined to Fail, but not jail. He has to find the backbone to say of GOPers, "They're willing to sabotage your economy, you & your children, to try to keep me from getting re-elected." Focus on the Big Stuff. Remind US that Ct. STOLE election, replaced "We the people" with GLOBAL CORPORATIONS.
Keith, Come back Keith! We need you.
 
 
+45 # giraffee2012 2012-03-31 14:55
I think we should go after the GOP like we did the Brits to get our Democracy back.

Where's Paul Revere, G. Washington, and other heroes to drive out the bad!

Trouble with these TP/GOP is that a huge segment of citizens listen to FAUX (etc) and believe every word.

BarbaraK is right Vote Dem/ Vote Obama - and please get out and VOTE in 2012 (Wouldn't hurt to call your local Dem Headquarters to get lists to call people to get out and vote also)

I'm going to participate in gathering/count ing votes = don't trust GOP to give an honest count (remember in OHIO in 04 where votes showed up in garbage dumpsters?) But Kerry had already conceded.

One laugh is how Mitt is getting endorsed but that too goes over heads of the FAUX viewers.
 
 
-12 # minkdumink 2012-03-31 15:20
''Where's Paul Revere, G. Washington, and other heroes to drive out the bad''?
ans: stuffing themselves at the nearest all you can eat place.When food becomes an issue, the americans will jump to it.
 
 
0 # minkdumink 2012-04-01 18:27
Quoting minkdumink:
''Where's Paul Revere, G. Washington, and other heroes to drive out the bad''?
ans: stuffing themselves at the nearest all you can eat place.When food becomes an issue, the americans will jump to it.

its sarcasim people!!
 
 
+56 # PABLO DIABLO 2012-03-31 14:55
Newt Gingrich gained power in 1984 by presenting dirty politics as a path to Reagan's re-election (landslide). Liberals continue to try to be the "nice guy". Politics is dirty business. Just look objectively at our past. Counter attack. Counter attack NOW.
 
 
+25 # Dion Giles 2012-03-31 18:47
Quoting PABLO DIABLO:
Newt Gingrich gained power in 1984 by presenting dirty politics as a path to Reagan's re-election (landslide). Liberals continue to try to be the "nice guy". Politics is dirty business. Just look objectively at our past. Counter attack. Counter attack NOW.


Lies can be defeated only by truth, not by trying to outdo the liars. The truth about health care in the USA is that millions are denied it. Obamacare is an attempt to make it available. If the court knocks it back there will be new attempts, revised schemes, maybe much better schemes. But what have the Republicans done to bring care within reach of the millions who face a precarious life without it? What do they propose as an alternative to Obamacare? Where is the Romneycare, Santorumcare, Gingrichcare, Foxcare, Murdochcare? So far all that comes across is Don’tcare. THAT’s the point at issue.
 
 
+22 # minkdumink 2012-03-31 15:15
ah yes, tampering Joseph Goebbels would have applauded.
 
 
-31 # seeuingoa 2012-03-31 15:24
The Reps are dirty, the Dems are useless,
don´t vote for any of them, they have let
us down totally.

Vote Independent, Green, Alternative.

Better to vote for a loser than against
your principles.
 
 
+32 # PatriotPaul 2012-03-31 15:39
Progressives need to act like sheep ONCE IN AWHILE and establish some pat lines such as, "Would Jesus lie and be deceptive?" This line must be used every time the right wingers who claim to be good Christians pull this kind of thing. You know if roles were reversed Fox "News" would be jumping all over this.

Paul Harris
Author, "Diary From the Dome, Reflections On Fear and Privilege During Katrina"
 
 
+31 # carp 2012-03-31 16:39
RNC Communications Director Sean Spicer ought to change his name to Sean Splicer.
 
 
+27 # Kootenay Coyote 2012-03-31 17:37
Campaign ‘Dirty tricks’ are one thing, & disgusting & immoral to boot; but this is another nasty Republican slash at fundamental law. Heil!
 
 
+19 # reiverpacific 2012-03-31 18:34
Just an affirmation that this is a death culture and all who are unable or unwilling to contribute to the corporate state's profits, including health non-care, should just fuck-off and die in some remote field or corner 'cause there ain't no place for them -kinda like these Nazis and minions of the Rising Sun your fathers fought against (and some elites of whom were snuck into this country by the Dulles bro's as they were "of interest" in as scientific manipulators of humans and potential producers death-dealing weapons for the new rising Empire of the mushroom cloud.
And that's the attitude of all who are happy with the status-quo including the reactionary plants who dribble onto the screens of RSN at times.
As Billy-Bob put it succinctly, we don't need insurance we need health-care; insurance is not a "system", it's a con-game and a lottery for the increasingly few who can afford it!
This is just an example of the right-wing dirty tricksters swinging into action with "any means necessary" and you ain't seen nuthin' yet a Ronnie R' was wont to exclaim.
Wonder how Mrs "Ten per cent" Thomas is doing workin' hard against health care reform while her husband sits in mute "supreme" judgement on it before he votes it down?
 
 
+13 # jwb110 2012-03-31 18:52
As they sew, so shall they reap.
 
 
+19 # Willman 2012-03-31 19:49
We will have to wait to see if the supremes will continue releasing audio asap.This instance might sour them on it. As far a cameras go I feel as if the repugs might have contributed to the negative outcome of televised proceedings.

Romney money cannot be able to appoint anyone to the supreme court. Hell the bushes are plaguing us to this day.
 
 
+18 # Rick Levy 2012-03-31 20:40
This shows that the rethuglicans will stop at nothing to achieve their ends.
 
 
+7 # Jane Gilgun 2012-04-01 14:51
Right wingers are geniuses are raising a ruckus. If the democrats edited something of theirs, there would be incessant howling. The media aree delighted and broadcast 24/7 in every outlet possible. The result? The far right have center stage and huge influence. They can do whatever they want, and they do. Ethics and fairness don't matter. The ends justify the means. Who cares about truth? They only care about power and dominating others. They want everything for themselves and nothing for the rest of us.

The media and the rest of us are complicit. We simply don't know how to howl and whine and complain and be indignant. The editing of tapes this way is a high form of cheating and dishonesty. We need to bone up on howling.
 
 
+10 # gnusman 2012-04-01 15:32
Actually, it bolsters the argument to put cameras in the courtroom, not the other way around. The Supreme Court needs full disclosure now more than ever before ... in this digital, instant news world which seems less and less about truth and more about winning by any means necessary.
 
 
+7 # ericlipps 2012-04-02 08:09
There's a word for this kind of thing: fraud.

If a lawyer tampered with a video (evidence) in a court proceeding the way the GOP did this one, he'd be looking at disbarment and perhaps prison time. Of course, Republicans, as we all know, are above the law.
 
 
+3 # USA2012??? 2012-04-02 09:52
What are the real numbers for or against President Obama's Healthcare initiative, and who do the numbers represent? The media promotes far more discourse regarding this program so am I to assume more Americans "don't" want health care than those that do?
 
 
+2 # ShelleyLaysi 2012-04-03 08:28
VOTING YOUR OWN BEST INTEREST IS WISE!
GOP WANTS TO TAKE AWAY THIS HEALTH PLAN AND LEAVE AMERICA IN THE SAME PLACE THEY HAVE BEEN FOR THE LAST 60 YEARS???

NOT OK AMERICA KEEP THEM AWAY FROM THIS HEALTH CARE PLAN THAT TOOK US 60 YEARS GET IT DONE.
TELL THE GOP TO COME UP WITH A BETTER OPTION BEFORE THEY CAN TALK ABOUT TAKING THIS ONE AWAY & SET US BACK 60 YEARS?!! HELL NO WE WON'T VOTE FOR THAT, ARE YOU CRAZY GOP!!!
OBAMA/BIDEN 4-MORE YRS!
 
 
+2 # John Briggs 2012-04-03 14:17
Ah, a Democratic campaign slogan emerges from all this: Obamacares, and the Greedy Old Pigs don't.
 
 
+2 # tm7devils 2012-04-03 19:15
It's hard to find...uh...exc use me...a person...excuse me (sip of water)... who is more morally (cough) repugnant than...uh...Spicer.
Somebody, PLEASE! Tell me that a major political party wouldn't actually hire someone who lacks any redeeming moral or ethical fiber...and what critically thinking, emotionally stable and moderately intelligent person would actually be associated with such a party that did?
 

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