It's getting tiresome hearing political hit-men like Paul Begala and others mocking Sarah Palin for suggesting on her website that the Democrats' health reform proposals would include "death panels" that would decide whether people suffering from severe disabilities, terminal illness, or advanced age would be eligible for major medical care.
Yesterday morning our Sunday paper carried a piece by a staff columnist calling people who believed such things "bat-guano insane," "charlatans," "nuts," and "lunatics." According to this writer the idea of death panels is "idiocy," and Sarah Palin is suffering from a "paranoid delusion rattling around in her empty skull." Of course, the only counter he offered to Palin's claim, when he wasn't shooting off personal insults like a fireworks finale, was to cite a minor error of fact by a misinformed writer at Investor's Business Daily and one or two fuzzy questions and accusations that emerged among the many town hall meetings held over the last couple of weeks. In other words, our columnist denied vehemently and viciously that the proposed legislation really provided for Palin's "death panels," but he never gave his readers any reason to believe that it didn't.
Maybe this was because the fear that the legislation would allow for such panels is grounded not in paranoia but in the President's own words. In an interview last April with the New York Times the President was talking about the story of his terminally ill grandmother who had hip replacement surgery so that she would not be bed-ridden for the last year of her life. Here's what he said:
PRESIDENT: So that's where I think you just get into some very difficult moral issues. But that's also a huge driver of cost, right?
I mean, the chronically ill and those toward the end of their lives are accounting for potentially 80 percent of the total health care bill out here.
NYT: So how do you - how do we deal with it?
PRESIDENT: Well, I think that there is going to have to be a conversation that is guided by doctors, scientists, ethicists. And then there is going to have to be a very difficult democratic conversation that takes place. It is very difficult to imagine the country making those decisions just through the normal political channels. And that's part of why you have to have some independent group that can give you guidance. It's not determinative, but I think has to be able to give you some guidance. And that's part of what I suspect you'll see emerging out of the various health care conversations that are taking place on the Hill right now.
As of last April the President certainly seemed to be talking about some sort of group (Okay. He didn't use the words "death panel") which would make the kind of decisions that Ms Palin was concerned about. Why is it "bat-guano insane" to think that the President meant what he said?
Other commentators, no friends of Sarah Palin in particular or conservatives in general, have come to the same conclusion:
Lee Siegel at The Daily Beast, Charles Lane, editor of The Washington Post, and columnist Eugene Robinson at the WaPo have all held their noses and acknowledged that Palin was right. Are they also insane?
Indeed, the writers of the bill were so concerned that the language of the legislation was compatible with Palin's interpretation that they decided to strike it from the original bill. Were they crazy?
It would be helpful in this very important matter if the defenders of the current health reform legislation would just answer the many incisive questions that are being asked about it and address the problems being raised by it. It's harder than just calling them names, it requires more effort, but it'd also be a lot more instructive and persuasive.RLC