My Fellow Democrats

Okay Democrats, put away your false outrage, and stop crying wolf on Bush over his WMD joke at the correspondents' dinner. It was a joke, it was funny, and the President is allowed to poke fun at himself once in a while. Save your outrage for something truly outrageous, like what Bush appointee Thomas Scully pulled in getting the Medicare Prescription Drug bill passed. Threatening to fire the accountant in charge of coming up with the cost estimates for Congress if he revealed the true cost of the program, rather than the fictitiously low numbers the administration was feeding Congress in order to get the bill passed:

But there was an even bigger question raised about the program's looming cost; one raised by Medicare actuary Richard Foster.

Foster is a 30-year veteran of the Medicare process, relied upon by both Democrats and Republicans for his unbiased accounting. He calculated the cost of the bill and the number he came up with it was much higher than the $395 billion touted by the Bush administration and the Republican leadership. Foster "had projections that were between $500 and $600 billion over 10 years for the drug benefit," Moffit said.

Cybele Bjorklund, a top health-care staffer for House Democrats, had relied on Foster's numbers for years. At least until last June.

"I had asked [Foster] for information on the effect and cost of particular proposals," Bjorklund told ABCNEWS, "and he said that he had at least part of the information ready, but that he was not allowed to give it to me. I asked him why, because under the law we are entitled to access this information and he had prepared it, and he was clearly unhappy with telling me that he couldn't give it to me. And he said that he'd been threatened."

Bjorklund said Foster told her that Medicare Adminstrator Thomas Scully - a Bush political appointee - had called him into his office and told him he couldn't give cost estimates to Congress anymore without Scully's prior appoval.

"I was not happy about that," Foster told a congressional committee Wednesday. "I could ignore orders, but I knew I would be fired."

That night, Bjorklund said, she caught up to Scully and confirmed Foster's story. "I said, 'How can you do that? You need cause, he's protected'. And he said, 'If he gives that to you, I will fire him so fast his head will spin.' "

"It struck me as a political basis for making that decision," Foster said Wednesday. "I considered that inappropriate and, in fact, unethical."