Saturday, August 01, 2009

Attacking From Both Ends

It's no surprise that opponents of health care reform have attempted to use abortion as a wedge issue to kill it (so much irony there). At the same time, they are also using a part of the bill that encourages people to consider end-of-life planning to kill the bill, including raising the specter of euthanasia. It isn't just "right-leaning radio programs", however; as the report by Ceci Connelly makes clear, Republican Congressional leaders are hopping on a wagon whose drivers include domestic terrorist Randall Terry.
House Minority Leader John A. Boehner (R-Ohio) and Republican Policy Committee Chairman Thaddeus McCotter (Mich.) said they object to the idea because it "may start us down a treacherous path toward government-encouraged euthanasia."

This is part of a pattern of irresponsible behavior that stretches back, at least in contemporary political history, to the silent acquiescence of Republican Congressional leaders to Sen. Joe McCarthy's ridiculous theatrics on communism. Infamously, Ohio's Robert Taft, who knew better and despised McCarthy, nevertheless gave consent through silence, encouraging increasingly reckless behavior on the part of Wisconsin's junior alcoholic Senator. When Rush Limbaugh was made an honorary member of the 104th Congress for his role in mobilizing conservative voters, this same pattern emerged.

It doesn't help that it isn't just right-wing radio and right-wing politicians.
Why is Chris Matthews carrying water for the "deathers" -- as Rachel Maddow aptly called them on her show -- and conflating end of life counseling with abortion, and something to fear, while his network has allowed Maddow to do a thorough debunking of both those talking points and where they came from?

Matthews went so far as to conflate end-of-life counseling with the government paying for abortions, and called them both "social policy". So Chris, are you now trying to find a nice way to call the President a "socialist" without coming right out and saying so? And why is it something to be afraid of if someone under the age of 65 is allowed to get some help with making a living will?

Whether it's "the government is going to kill your fetus", or "the government wants you to die when you get too old", we have this odd, fact-free attack on both ends of life. It has been effective not only because the airwaves are flooded with this nonsense (and, as the Matthews clip shows, it isn't just the usual right-wing nutjobs who are pushing this; had Matthews done just a little bit of research this entire segment would not have been produced), but, as Connelly points out, some Democrats have been reluctant to push back against it.
Democratic strategists privately acknowledged that they were hesitant to give extra attention to the issue by refuting the inaccuracies, but they worry that it will further agitate already-skeptical seniors.

Since the entire thing is false, it would be nice if someone simply pointed out that the entire campaign is a lie. That word is just not present in our discourse as much as it should be. When John Boehner says we are on a slippery slope to government-endorsed euthanasia, he is lying (whether he is aware of it or not). When Randall Terry says the government wants to kill old people, he is lying. When Chris Matthews says end-of-life counseling reimbursement is nothing more than a major policy initiative hidden as a cost-saving measure, he is lying.

If just a few members of Congress who know what's going on would speak out, and call this what it is, while it might increase some attention on the lying, it will expose it as lying. Connelly's piece is a good description of the nature of the lying campaign without actually spelling out in the words of the proposed legislation, what is at issue (although she does quote a bioethicist on the benefits of early planning for end-of-life care).

In many ways, health care reform could die, if it does, not from overwhelming opposition to the principle, but through all sorts of little wounds inflicted through misinformation, lack of clarity, and conflicting interests embedded in the bill itself. I'm not happy with Congressional acquiescence to Big Pharma's insistence that government power to negotiate lower drug prices (since, under such a plan, it would be the chief purchaser of pharmaceuticals, it would have the power and leverage to do so) as it does, say, in the health coverage for members of Congress and Congressional staffers. Yet, unlike many on the left, I believe even an imperfect bill is better than no bill at all (after all, it can be improved over time).

If only we could get someone to stand up and call not just Randall Terry and Glenn Beck, but John Boehner and Chris Matthews liars.

Virtual Tin Cup

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