Editore"s Note
Tilting at Windmills

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August 11, 2009

CONSERVATIVE SENATOR CALLS PALIN ARGUMENT 'NUTS'.... The health care reform bills working their way through Congress include a provision that shouldn't be controversial. Medicare would pay for voluntary counseling sessions on advance care planning between patients and physicians. It's a sound investment for the government, and is an idea that has traditionally drawn Republican support.

Now, however, a wide variety of right-wing voices want to convince people that the idea will lead to the government euthanizing seniors and the disabled. Sarah Palin is warning of "death panels," an idea that's been endorsed by Newt Gingrich, Glenn Beck, and assorted Fox News personalities, including Brian Kilmeade.

Ezra Klein asked Sen. Johnny Isakson (R) of Georgia, a long-time advocate of expanding Medicare end-of-life planning coverage, to help explain why this common-sense idea has suddenly become an attack against reform. Isakson responded:

"I have no idea. I understand -- and you have to check this out -- I just had a phone call where someone said Sarah Palin's web site had talked about the House bill having death panels on it where people would be euthanized. How someone could take an end of life directive or a living will as that is nuts. You're putting the authority in the individual rather than the government. I don't know how that got so mixed up.

"It empowers you to be able to make decisions at a difficult time rather than having the government making them for you.... And it's a voluntary deal."

Good answer. Actually, it's more than a good answer; it's the truth.

Isakson said he doesn't know how this "got so mixed up." I think I have some idea -- professional liars decided that deception was the easiest way to destroy health care reform, so they latched onto this vile nonsense in the hopes of conning Americans who might not know better.*

I should add that Isakson is not a moderate. When I noted over the weekend that David Brooks called Palin's argument "crazy," some responded that Brooks isn't conservative enough to count as criticism from the "right." Isakson, however, is a genuine, Grade A, far-right senator from the Deep South, and he thinks Palin's argument is "nuts." Assorted wingnuts and Tea Baggers may not believe the administration, Democrats, objective news sources, or the plain black-and-white text of the legislation, but they should at least be willing to consider reality from one of the Senate's most conservative members.

So, it's time to put Republicans on the spot, starting with Newt Gingrich. Sarah Palin thinks voluntary advance care planning creates "death panels"; Johnny Isakson thinks that's "nuts." Who do you think is right?

* edited for clarity

Steve Benen 8:30 AM Permalink | Trackbacks | Comments (29)

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Comments

Isakson is also the man who proposed the death panels.

I think we can safely conclude that he's a RINO, don't you?

Posted by: Mlke K on August 11, 2009 at 8:40 AM | PERMALINK

Primary challenge in 5... 4... 3...

Posted by: inkadu on August 11, 2009 at 8:50 AM | PERMALINK

Who do I believe? Johnny Isakson or Sarah Palin?

A member of the Washington elite or a woman who was governess of a state that's eye-to-eye with Putin?

I know who I believe.

Posted by: aL on August 11, 2009 at 8:50 AM | PERMALINK

"professional liars decided the truth could destroy health care reform..."

It's one thing to just spell badly, but....

Posted by: theAmericanist on August 11, 2009 at 8:50 AM | PERMALINK

The "Hurry-Up-And-Die" Obamacare Plan, explained by Phyllis Schlafly.

Posted by: MissMudd on August 11, 2009 at 9:00 AM | PERMALINK

Steve: I think I have some idea -- professional liars decided the truth could destroy health care reform, so they latched onto this vile nonsense in the hopes of conning Americans who might not know better.

I don't think this says what you meant it to say.

Posted by: chrenson on August 11, 2009 at 9:04 AM | PERMALINK

I would like to see interviewers demanding right wing hacks point to the alleged "death panel" provisions in the bills. So far the crazies have been allowed to simply say "death panel provisions are in the bill" without any demand that they point out where. We are losing the message war on this because we aren't demanding the other side point to it's location.

Posted by: Ron Byers on August 11, 2009 at 9:11 AM | PERMALINK

This stuff may all be untrue, but one has to give one thing to the conservative propagandists, they really know their base. They know exactly how to trigger their paranoia, and they are playing them like a Stradivarius.

Posted by: davidp on August 11, 2009 at 9:13 AM | PERMALINK

MissMudd - I watched that video of Phyllis Schlafly yesterday and couldn't get over her hair. One would think that she could afford a better wig. As for her remarks - nothing original. Just parroting all the right-wing lies.

Posted by: Sheridan on August 11, 2009 at 9:21 AM | PERMALINK

It is limbo for health care reform and snakes have the easiest passage. The low road of the right will not be forgotten or easily forgiven. They think they are doing a number on Obama but in undermining any remaining democracy in America they pave the path toward what they say they hate.

Posted by: lou on August 11, 2009 at 9:24 AM | PERMALINK

* edited for clarity

...in the hopes of conning Americans who are dirt stupid.

Clearer still.

Posted by: raff on August 11, 2009 at 9:24 AM | PERMALINK

"Actually, it's more than a good answer; it's the truth."

Exactly. And if congress drops the public option out of fear and seeing who can yell the loudest at town halls then the lies win, truth loses - now and from this Democratic proposal forward.

Posted by: Bartender on August 11, 2009 at 9:31 AM | PERMALINK

The wingnuts aren't refering to the Medicare provision for end of life planning. They are all taking about this one sentence taken out of Context from Ezekiel Emanuel's Hasting Center paper, "Where Civic Republicanism and Deliberative Democracy Meet"

"Conversely, services provided to individuals who are irreversibly prevented from being or becoming participating citizens are not basic and should not be guaranteed."

From the context of the paper it is obvious he is talking about expanded sevices such as liver transplants and other high cost treatments not now coverd by Medicare and other insurance, but the wingnuts are playing like he is talking about all health care for the disabled. Dr. Emanuel needs to write something like a "Parade" magazine piece to more clearly and simply lay out his thoughts on health care to stop this.

Posted by: Bill K on August 11, 2009 at 9:31 AM | PERMALINK

I'm a Protestant pastor who regularly talks with my church members about end-of-life directives. I encourage them to have wills, durable health care powers of attorney, advanced directives, funeral service plans, and other documentation about their preferences. It's the best practice legally, medically, and ethically. Young people should have them, too, as soon as they are legally emancipated from their parents, certainly when they marry.

Completing these documents does not require a lawyer or doctor. Standard forms are widely available from hospitals, funeral homes, hospices, lawyers, clergy, and other groups.

I'm not convinced that making such conversations Medicare reimbursable is necessary. I think it has potential for fraud. That's a sound public policy reason to oppose the provision. But I won't because I want to encourage end-of-life conversations and documents.

Posted by: revchicoucc on August 11, 2009 at 9:37 AM | PERMALINK

Congressman Hank Johnson, as meek and mild mannered as you will find in Congress, held a town hall last night in his metro-Atlanta district. 2000 showed up at a 500 seat auditorium so the rest went to the gym to watch on closed circuit. Campus police were everywhere. Crazies slithered in from surrounding counties, Alabama and SC. Local coverage was positive and everyone patted themselves on the back about how well behaved they were. Hank managed to pull it off fairly well. Kudos to his staff, Perimeter College police, HCAN who were all over the place and easily identified by their tags, Democratic Party of Ga. who finally got off their asses and sent an email to pump up supporters and the crowd who actually did behave themselves in the 90+ heat. I'm starting to feel a little better.

Posted by: Th on August 11, 2009 at 9:47 AM | PERMALINK

Likely Isakson will be given a talking-to by members of the Repub establishment, who will explain to him that he's "helping Democrats" by simply saying what is plainly true. I've mentioned before that Palin is not likely lying, per se, so much as whatever comes out of her stupid gob is truthiness to her. She just doesn't know any better, is a living testament to the premise that even the irredeemably airheaded can rise to public office in America (where they will have decision-making power over their much smarter fellow Americans; remember how proud Bush was of having risen so much higher than his professors?).

Palin is a halfwit who is so proud of the attention she is getting from nuts and fringe groups that she doesn't see the damage it is doing to her long-term political interests, if she has any. In turn, her more rational colleagues are happy to stand behind her big mouth and push her forward like a big trojan horse.

Posted by: Mark on August 11, 2009 at 9:51 AM | PERMALINK

Th -

Good to hear that a meeting can still be held in a civil manner. I think the operative sentence in your description is "Campus police were everywhere."

It just amazes me that people are still holding these events without adequate security. If you can't enforce the peace, you won't have it under these charged circumstances.

Posted by: bdop4 on August 11, 2009 at 9:55 AM | PERMALINK

It's easy really- skim the info, get the barest gist of the idea, and form an opinion. It's called Spin. Factcheck.org has a book they recommend- and it should be required reading for any policy studies wonk/politician.

Posted by: johnnymags on August 11, 2009 at 10:00 AM | PERMALINK

Actually the book's name is "UnSpun" and here's where you can get more info and buy a copy.

Posted by: Dr. Morpheus on August 11, 2009 at 10:42 AM | PERMALINK

Death Panels is a bridge too far for the Republicans. It is patently ridiculous and not supported by any interpretation of the facts. It is also memorable and can fit on a bumper sticker. It is hard for all but the most wingnutty to support so it seems to be dividing the GOP. Palin looks either stupid, or unbelievably venal. This is a a fault line the Dems should be exploiting for all it's worth.

Posted by: jomo on August 11, 2009 at 10:48 AM | PERMALINK

You quote Isakson (who was previously unfamiliar to me): "...an end of life directive or a living will (is) ... putting the authority in the individual rather than the government. It empowers you to be able to make decisions at a difficult time rather than having the government making them for you.... And it's a voluntary deal."

It will be interesting to see how he responds to his "outing" on this issue.

On the one hand, the Repubs have always claimed to be for empowering the individual and for protecting the authority of doctors and patients to control medical decision-making. On the other, Sarah and Rush have decided -- by simply lying about what is in the bills -- that this can be interpreted as "death panels" and "fascism" and used as a club to beat Obama.

Based on your characterization of Isakson, this is going to be a really interesting test for him: will he stand up traditional conservative values (shared, in this case, by liberals), or will he go with the current party line?

Posted by: CMcC on August 11, 2009 at 11:20 AM | PERMALINK

A vote against cloture is a vote in solidarity with deathers.

Posted by: Christopher on August 11, 2009 at 11:23 AM | PERMALINK

Of course republicans think that health care will be used as a political tool, it's what they would do once back in power (you think you're getting a new liver with that Obama sticker on your prius?) but they know that no one will buy that from Democrats, so they have to create bogeymen. Standard fare. They'll use it against you, so they assume you'll use it that way, too.

Posted by: Northzax on August 11, 2009 at 11:56 AM | PERMALINK

I used to think that informed Americans could resolve their issues in a civil way. Silly me. We do it now by uninformed boobs and rubes screaming via YouTube. How patriotic.

Posted by: Audeamus on August 11, 2009 at 12:03 PM | PERMALINK

I've noticed that everyone (Isakson, Howie Kurtz ..) likes to agree that Sarah Palin was way over the line. But I haven't heard major media and political figures saying that Newt Gingrich is way over the line for agreeing strongly and publicly with her - and he's on the news shows every week.

Posted by: Jinchi on August 11, 2009 at 1:14 PM | PERMALINK

If Republicans will lie to you about "death panels" they are probably lying to you about everything.

Posted by: Th on August 11, 2009 at 2:00 PM | PERMALINK

Reality has no meaning for these critters. They seem to have issues with the truth. They seem to have issues with "loving their fellow man", they have no compassion or ability to look at the long term.

They should be shunned and ridiculed!

Posted by: Doug W on August 11, 2009 at 5:01 PM | PERMALINK

Nicely done, Mr. Benen.

Posted by: Conrads Ghost on August 11, 2009 at 5:03 PM | PERMALINK

Death Panels: Smoke screens behind which some "righty-right" GOP'ers dared to go for hysterical support, but got historical defeat.

Posted by: sundancekid on August 11, 2009 at 5:42 PM | PERMALINK




 

 

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