Editore"s Note
Tilting at Windmills

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August 14, 2009

REPUBLICANS LOVED THEIR DEATH PANELS.... If our political discourse were in any way sane, the "death panel" nonsense would be a punch line, evidence of ridiculous people making up pathetic lies. The very phrase would be evidence of a bankrupt, comically desperate movement. It would be, to borrow a phrase, the right's "Waterloo."

And yet, conservatives not only take this insanity seriously, they're actually using it as the basis to oppose health care reform. Given this, Monthly alum Amy Sullivan raises an observation that would, in theory, effectively end the conversation.

You would think that if Republicans wanted to totally mischaracterize a health care provision and demagogue it like nobody's business, they would at least pick something that the vast majority of them hadn't already voted for just a few years earlier. Because that's not just shameless, it's stupid.

Yes, that's right. Remember the 2003 Medicare prescription drug bill, the one that passed with the votes of 204 GOP House members and 42 GOP Senators? Anyone want to guess what it provided funding for? Did you say counseling for end-of-life issues and care? Ding ding ding!!

Let's go to the bill text, shall we? "The covered services are: evaluating the beneficiary's need for pain and symptom management, including the individual's need for hospice care; counseling the beneficiary with respect to end-of-life issues and care options, and advising the beneficiary regarding advanced care planning." The only difference between the 2003 provision and the infamous Section 1233 that threatens the very future and moral sanctity of the Republic is that the first applied only to terminally ill patients. Section 1233 would expand funding so that people could voluntarily receive counseling before they become terminally ill.

Chuck Grassley, who yesterday pulled the measure on end-of-life counseling from consideration, voted for the '03 bill. John Boehner, the first GOP leader to raise the specter of "government-encouraged euthanasia," also voted for the '03 bill.

Greg Sargent noted that Rep. John Mica (R) of Florida voted for the 2003 bill, "and last week he denounced the current House measure for creating Medicare-funded 'death counselors.'"

If reality had any meaning in modern politics, these "death panel" clowns would be laughed out of the building, and humiliated for life. Instead, they're not only taken seriously, they're getting media attention, they're influencing GOP activists, and in Grassley's case, they're shaping health care reform policy.

There will be no consequences for their reckless stupidity. There never are.

Steve Benen 12:30 PM Permalink | Trackbacks | Comments (28)

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you think the truth is going to help?

Posted by: mr. irony on August 14, 2009 at 12:36 PM | PERMALINK

a better plan of attack might be to accuse grassley of drinking babies blood...

Posted by: mr. irony on August 14, 2009 at 12:40 PM | PERMALINK

But the Republican death panels will be nattily dressed.

It makes all the difference in the world.

Not a FUBU sweatshirt in sight.

Posted by: catclub on August 14, 2009 at 12:42 PM | PERMALINK

This is because the Democrats are incompetent at politics. Why is it that you only see bloggers and Rachel Maddow making this kind of point? Why is it that elected Democrats come across as completely unprepared, with a deer-in-the-headlights look, unwilling to give as good as they get?

Posted by: Joe Buck on August 14, 2009 at 12:43 PM | PERMALINK

I agree with Joe Buck... This should have been a national media buy at the first sign of all this nonsense. As Barney used to say... " Nip it. Nip it in the bud."

Posted by: kanopsis on August 14, 2009 at 12:46 PM | PERMALINK

"The only difference between the two..."
No. The former received a vote. The latter was pulled by spineless Donkeys before it got a vote.

Posted by: Chopin on August 14, 2009 at 12:50 PM | PERMALINK

Yeah, rarely do the Regoofs have to suffer consequences for their stupidity, dishonesty, inconsistency, whatever. What I want to know is, when "our " Reps and Senators pay the consequences for their recent cowardice about the coverage of EOL counseling?! I am outraged that some "Democrats" pussied out and moved to remove that measure. Steve already said, it was pitiful and like giving lunch money to a bully etc.

Well, just saying that isn't good enough. We need to punish those worms for that capitulation. Write letters, call, and have an edge in your voice. If they think those bullies at the townhall meetings are scary, give them something to really be scared of. This Reid/Blue Dogs**t regime must be stopped in its tracks. Anyone who doesn't pile on, is an enabler.

Posted by: ♪ on August 14, 2009 at 12:50 PM | PERMALINK


Untwist your knickers.
The only bill it was removed from so far is the one Grassley is stalling, right?

That bill will never exist.
Removal from a non-existent bill (when Grassley says so) is a higher level of non-existence.

Posted by: catclub on August 14, 2009 at 12:59 PM | PERMALINK

What we need is a political death panel.

Posted by: The Galloping Trollop on August 14, 2009 at 1:01 PM | PERMALINK

This is where leadership comes in. Not just to have the courage to promote the things you believe in and know that a fairly large majority of the public supports (public option and possibly even single payer) but the courage to push very hard for it, by, say, privately laying down the score to recalcitrant folks in your own caucus (Landrieu, Nelson, LIEberman, and the like in the Senate in particular I am looking at you)--time to play hard-ball with these folks and show that there will be consequences for their actions (funding of things in their districts, committee placements, whatever it takes). Not that all of them have to vote for the eventual bill, just that they will vote for cloture on any bill, regardless if it contains items they claim to find offensive for whatever reason. The Dem leadership in the House and Senate, together with Obama, must lead here. Once proper reform is in place all of these heckling, bed-wetting, pants-pooping screeches will eventually realize their fears were misplaced. They might not admit it, ever, but who cares.

Posted by: bubba on August 14, 2009 at 1:05 PM | PERMALINK

There will be no consequences for their reckless stupidity. There never are.

And that is what is so maddening.

And then the Rovian tactic of lamenting "Liberals are so angry./i" Rovian politics has got us coming and going, doesn't it. Just as planned.

Posted by: terraformer on August 14, 2009 at 1:06 PM | PERMALINK

Excellent work. Now if only MSM picks it up and rips these bastards to shreds...

...Oh that liberal media is so fucking incompetent.

Posted by: Ajay on August 14, 2009 at 1:09 PM | PERMALINK

The Dim-Dems have no right to call themselves a party. We have a president who wants to lead, but as anyone who has ever been in elected office knows, people only want you to lead until you do.

2010 may well see a resurgence of the Rethugs, although how would anyone know.

Posted by: rrk1 on August 14, 2009 at 1:17 PM | PERMALINK

There could be consequences for their reckless stupidity, if Democrats at all levels took this and flew with it. We now know that there were 204 GOP House members and 42 GOP senators who voted for this provision in 2003. We know Newt Gingrich and Sarah Palin advocated end-of-life counseling in the past. All Democrats have to do is pound out the meme that "Republicans were for end-of-life counseling before they were against it". Push it, people!

Posted by: walker on August 14, 2009 at 1:34 PM | PERMALINK

I agree with Joe Buck. Here in the light, light, baby blue state of colorado, Radio Republican 24/7 has now been given the legitimate go-ahead to rant against the Death Panels because Senator Grassley said it is so. And the democrats do nothing...we have the ballless wonders right here...bennet,udall and ritter....not a peep, nada.

Posted by: JoanneinDenver on August 14, 2009 at 1:43 PM | PERMALINK

Problem is, the prescription drug bill has now become the poster child for George-Bush-was-a-liberal-in-conservative's-clothing wingnut revisionism. Even, I imagine, for a lot of Republicans who actually voted for the thing.

Posted by: Tom Hilton on August 14, 2009 at 1:54 PM | PERMALINK

There will be no consquences for their reckless stupidity. There never are.

That's because, in general, we are a recklessly stupid nation.

Joe Buck has it right; until the Democrats become agressive in delivering a powerful and consistent smarter message, the Republican stupidity will prevail.

Posted by: qwerty on August 14, 2009 at 2:04 PM | PERMALINK

Seems like the only Dem who has any balls at all is Howard Dean. And let's remember what the Corporate Media did to him. Imagine right now if he were Obama's VP ? He would in fact be lighting up the score boards with his 'straight talk'. Which is why, of course, that Zarathustra pigs like Lou Dobbs can't change their Depends fast enough.

Posted by: stormskies on August 14, 2009 at 2:11 PM | PERMALINK

Catclub, I hope that's all it is. But AFAICT that isn't the way it was reported - or was it?
More scoop, anyone?
And to a large degree I'm right anyway, considering the big picture.

PS not everyone sees as a note, dep. on settings.

Posted by: ♪ on August 14, 2009 at 2:37 PM | PERMALINK

Howard Dean commented yesterday that Grassley didn't kill the possibility of end-of-life provisions in legislation because he doesn't have the authority. I hope that's the case because, if not, it shows how utterly incompetent the Dems have become. Pull such legislation because of lies being bandied about by the GOP and you'll see all of this reform go down the tubes.

Posted by: whichwitch on August 14, 2009 at 3:01 PM | PERMALINK

There is much to what Joe Buck says, but I recall during the election campaign thinking how great it would be to finally have a president that could speak coherently. I see now that Obama is a good communicator, but the problem is he expected rational, interested people who would listen to him explain HC reform. Then somebody opened up the Death Panel and a sudden apocalyptic flood of dumb began to gush from every screen.

I mean what would Wm. F. Buckley have done if he started making a speech and the crowd started screaming at him, asking for his birth certificate, calling him a liar and a marxist?

Posted by: Capt Kirk on August 14, 2009 at 3:07 PM | PERMALINK

When people say the dems are not good at getting the message out, let us remember this is not an even fight, the financial might of the health care and corporations is behind the scenes with lobbyists, money and lots of race baiting. This is why dems must use their numbers to counter the town hall mobs, who are probably being paid for their services.

Posted by: JS on August 14, 2009 at 3:07 PM | PERMALINK

Catclub, I think you are wrong. See at Kos:

Posted by: ♪ on August 14, 2009 at 3:56 PM | PERMALINK

Okay - so who is correct? Is the end-of-provision dead or not? What was Howard Dean referring to yesterday then?

Posted by: whichwitch on August 14, 2009 at 4:30 PM | PERMALINK

end-of-life provision that is....

Posted by: whichwitch on August 14, 2009 at 4:31 PM | PERMALINK

"Untwist your knickers.
The only bill it was removed from so far is the one Grassley is stalling, right?
That bill will never exist.
Removal from a non-existent bill (when Grassley says so) is a higher level of non-existence."

Posted by: catclub on August 14, 2009 at 12:59 PM |

That is completely and totally irrelevant, an absolute non-issue.
What matters here is that the Dem's have once again demonstrated to everyone -- most specifically to their political opposition and to the corporate powers that drive them -- that there is literally nothing that they will actually fight for, or even stand for (let alone stand up for), if the Rethugs, a Villager or two, or a half-dozen psychotics who show up on teevee screens, will say "boo."
When they were in the minority, it was because they were in the minority. When they got a majority, but didn't have a supermajority, it was because they didn't have a supermajority. And now?
It's because they're fucking useless.
And guess what? They will continue to be fucking useless.
it's becoming increasingly clear that it really will take a revolution to change anything.
The Rethugs are right on this one: buy guns and ammo, and learn how to use them.

Posted by: nobody you know on August 14, 2009 at 10:23 PM | PERMALINK

First appointment to Death Panel.



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