In order to defend his aggressive embrace of the false notion that health care reform would create "death panels" -- 2009's lie of the year -- Glenn Beck engaged in a bit of revisionist history, claiming that death panels were not related to consultations with physicians about end-of-life care. Beck's latest effort to push the completely discredited notion came during a particularly vicious attack on Keith Olbermann, who, in a recent "special comment" on his MSNBC show, cited his own experience with his hospitalized father to debunk the death panel falsehood. At one point, Beck stated, "Here's a guy -- he's either so twisted inside that he really, truly doesn't get it." Beck further stated that under death panels, Olbermann's father would already be dead.
But I digress. After repeatedly noting Olbermann's special comment, Beck purported to refute the connection between death panels and end-of-life consultations:
OLBERMANN [audio clip]: And as I left the hospital that night, the full impact of these last six months washed over me. What I had done -- conferring with the resident in ICU, the conversation about my father's panicky, not-in-complete-control-of-his faculties demand that all treatment now stop, about the options and the consequences and the compromise, the sedation, the help for a brave man who just needed a break.
That conversation, that one, was what these ghouls who are walking into Blair House tomorrow morning decided to call death panels. Your right to have that conversation with a doctor, not the government, but a doctor, and your right to have insurance pay for his expertise on what your options are when Dad says "kill me" -- or what your options are when Dad is in a coma and can't tell you a damn thing.
BECK: No, that's not --
OLBERMANN: Or what your options are when everybody is healthy --
BECK: That is not what a death panel is, Keith Olbermann. You have the right right now to do that. You just did it. What a death panel is, is not allowing your father to have the access to health care that your father just had. A death panel picks and chooses based on their age, based on, "Well, we just need to -- we just need to be able to -- your father has had a good life. He was 25 once, now we've got 25-year-olds that need this medical attention, and your father, he's had a good life." That's what a death panel is -- not being able to conference with his doctor.
In fact, that's exactly what a "death panel" was, as it was originally conceptualized by Sarah Palin, who coined the phrase on her Facebook page with the statement that under Democratic health care reform, "my baby with Down Syndrome will have to stand in front of Obama's 'death panel.' " Palin's spokeswoman later clarified that Palin was specifically referring to the House bill's "Advance Care Planning Consultation" provision. Her spokesperson issued that clarification days before Beck adopted the claim:
A death panel for her son Trig. That's quite a statement. I believe it to be true, but that's quite a statement.
Now, Beck either knew what a death panel was, or he aggressively promoted its existence out of ignorance. Either way, he's completely wrong on the substance of his latest attack -- death panels were directly connected to end-of-life counseling from the outset.
In his special comment, Olbermann went into great detail about the conservative effort to portray a Democratic proposal that would have reimbursed doctors for periodically discussing treatment options with their patients and creating living wills and treatment plans (transcript from Nexis):
OLBERMANN: Your right to have that conversation with a doctor, not the government, but a doctor and your right to have insurance pay for his expertise on what your options are when Dad says "kill me" or what your options are when Dad is in a coma and can't tell you a damn thing, or what your options are when everybody is healthy and happy and coherent and you're just planning ahead your right to have the guidance and the reassurance of a professional who can lay that out for you that's a quote "death panel."
That, right now, is the legacy of the protests of these sub-humans who get paid by the insurance companies, who say these things for their own political gain or like that one fiend or money. For money Betsy McCaughey told people that this conversation about life and death and relief and release, and also about no, keep treating him no matter what happens, until the nation runs out of medicine, she told people it's a death panel and she did that for money.
It's a life panel. A life panel, it can save the pain of the patient and the family it is the difference between you guessing what happens next, and you being informed about what probably will, and that's the difference between you sleeping at night or second-guessing and third-guessing and thirtieth-guessing. And it can also be the place where the family says 'we want you to keep him alive no matter what, we believe in miracles' and the doctor saying yes.
No matter how hard conservatives try to change its meaning, that provision is exactly what brought forth the "death panels" smear.
At yesterday's health care summit, Rep. Louise M. Slaughter (D-NY-28) related this story from one of her constituents:
I even have one constituent -- you will not believe this, and I know you won't, it's true. Her sister died, this poor woman had no dentures. She wore her dead sister's teeth, which of course were uncomfortable and did not fit. Do you believe that in America that that's where we would be?
What was the reaction from leading members of the conservative media?
What Michelle Obama has overlooked, thus far, is the potential of poorly fitted teeth. Children, as well as adults, could benefit greatly by a few extra teeth pulled, fillings that fall out, or dentures from the dead.
When criticized for such comments, media conservatives always claim they were joking and chastise their detractors for lacking a sense of humor. But they aren't kidding. Leading conservatives, especially those in the media, don't believe that the United States faces a health care crisis. And in one sense, they are right: their America doesn't.
Conservative media leaders have made fortunes peddling such blatant callousness. Consider the fact that Rush Limbaugh, Sean Hannity, and Glenn Beck have all vehemently denied the urgent need for health care reform. Unsurprisingly, all three are inordinately rich and can afford the best health care money can buy.
And so, when Rush had a heart scare in Hawaii, he simply paid his emergency room bills out-of-pocket. As to the cost, he wasn't phased, describing it casually as less than half the "average SUV" of the "average American family."
He then shuts his eyes to the uninsured and under-insured Americans driven to bankruptcy by illness and injury. And he closes his ears to the estimated 45,000 Americans who die needlessly each year because they can't afford access to reliable care. After all, this is not the America that people like Limbaugh, Ingraham, Beck, and Fox News CEO Roger Ailes live in. Limbaugh makes an estimated $50 million per year. Beck made $23 million in 2009.
Politics aside, the real question is this: Why do ordinary Americans continue to listen to conservatives who don't even pretend to care about the senseless indignities and horrors experienced by countless citizens of this country?
In a February 26 post on Andrew Breitbart's BigJournalism.com, titled, "Palin v. Obama: 'Real' American v. the 'Citizen of the World,'" Kyle-Anne Shiver bashes President Obama for proclaiming himself a "citizen of the world":
Barack Obama, in keeping with international socialists throughout the last century, has proclaimed himself loudly-and-clearly a "citizen of the world." He conducted his entire campaign as a lecture to greedy, over-consuming Americans on the necessity of propping up the lagging third world and the inherent goodness of his redistributive plans for government.
At present, with a "post-American" president at the helm, Sarah Palin carries the torch of liberty and American exceptionalism in the palm of her lovely hand. She is the surviving embodiment of the spirit of 1776 and the Reagan reformation.
Who else "has proclaimed himself loudly-and-clearly a 'citizen of the world'"? None other than Shiver's hero and apparent international socialist Ronald Reagan:
In a July 2008 speech in Berlin, Germany, Obama described himself as "a citizen -- a proud citizen of the United States, and a fellow citizen of the world." In a June 17, 1982, speech to the United Nations General Assembly, Reagan similarly said, "I speak today as both a citizen of the United States and of the world."
From the Fox Nation (accessed on February 26):
Whenever a Democratic Senator runs for president, National Journal comes along with a deeply flawed scheme purporting to rank members of congress. In both 2004 and 2008, National Journal just happened to announce that a frontrunner for the Democratic presidential nomination was the "most liberal" member of the Senate. In order to call Barack Obama the "most liberal" in 2008, National Journal changed the system they had previously used. Nothing suspicious there!
Worse, National Journal's PR operation then sent out promotional materials hyping the findings by touting the impact the 2004 rankings had on that year's presidential campaign -- conveniently ignoring the fact that, according to National Journal itself, the system used to declare John Kerry the "most liberal" Senator in 2004 was flawed.
And it's pretty obvious what happens next: Republicans start shouting the results from the rooftops, and the media eat it up with a spoon.
The important thing to know about the National Journal ratings -- the only important thing to know about them -- is that they are pretty much worthless. A 2007 vote in favor of implementing the 9/11 Commission's recommendations, for example, was counted as a "liberal" vote. Norman Ornstein of the American Enterprise Institute -- certainly nobody's idea of a liberal -- called NJ's ranking "pretty ridiculous."
National Journal's just-released new rankings should remove any lingering suspicion that they might have some validity. That's because the magazine has concluded that Dennis Kucinich is the 160th most liberal member of the House of Representatives. 160! Kucinich's rating is presumably a result of votes he cast against legislation that he didn't think was liberal enough -- among NJ's "key votes" is the passage of the House health care bill, which Kucinich voted against.
So, basically: National Journal vote ratings should not be taken seriously. Unless you think Dennis Kucinich is really the 160 most liberal member of Congress and that opposing legislation from the left makes you less liberal and that implementing the 9/11 Commission's recommendations makes you liberal.
If media absolutely must refer to ideological rankings of members of Congress*, they would do well to take a look at the rank ordering done by political scientists Jeff Lewis & Keith Poole. Unlike National Journal, they don't cherry-pick a handful of votes; they looked at 694 votes for their current House rankings. And they conclude that Kucinich had the 7th most liberal voting record in 2009.
That seems a bit more reasonable than National Journal's rankings, doesn't it?
* Which, weirdly, they only seem to want to do when discussing Democrats. Maybe because if they actually looked at reasonable ranking systems, they wouldn't be able to call Lindsey Graham a "moderate."
CPAC Shills for Islamic Terrorists
The key culprit? Grover Norquist! The arch-conservative activist has "troubling ties to Islamic supremacists and jihadists" and has been "on the jihad payroll." (He also has a Palestinian wife, Geller stresses.)
Where else but Front Page would you find that kind of scoop?
And keep in mind this was in a news article. Yet more proof that Rupert Murdoch is slowing turning the Journal's once-sterling newsroom into Fox News Lite.
Picking up the right-wing blogosphere trend, which was to mock personal anecdotes told at yesterday's health care forum (shared mostly by Democrats), here's the straight-down-the-middle WSJ news headline:
Talks Suffer An Outbreak of Anecdotes
Gee, nothing loaded in that language, right?
Check out the lede [emphasis added]:
Thursday's health-care summit revealed a new malady: call it anecdote-itis.
Squeezed around a square table at Blair House, President Barack Obama and about 40 members of Congress scratched around for stories that would score political points.
And here's a nice tough, as the news article openly mocks the president:
The president, playing the part of Patient Zero, sparked the epidemic, recounting the time his daughter Malia was rushed to the ER with asthma after coming into the kitchen and telling her father, "I can't breathe, Daddy."
UPDATED: There's something deeply revealing, I think, by the media's tendency to mock yesterday's anecdotes, which of course were personal illustrations about people suffering serious health problems, and their struggle to deal with today's health care system.
In a sense, the so-called health care debate that's taken place over the last year or so should have always focused on those sorts of illustrative stories, but the press never really went there. The political press never had any interest in humanizing the story. The Beltway press much preferred to make health care reform a process story. (Who's got the votes? What's the latest polling data.)
So I guess it shouldn't be surprising that when some Democrats tried to use anecdotes to shed some light on health care reform, one media reaction was to mock the move.
One of the lingering questions about Andrew Breitbart's dishonest attempt to help spread the falsehood that James O'Keefe was dressed as a pimp inside the ACORN offices, is was Breitbart himself duped by the masquerade?
Did he, in fact, not know that O'Keefe wasn't dressed as a pimp while meeting with ACORN workers? Instead, was Breitbart mislead by his protégé's undercover videos and only found out the truth much later? And is that why Breitbart's so reluctant to come clean about the hoax, because he'd have to admit that even he got duped, and that as the editor of the site that published the ACORN videos, even he didn't know the truth about their contents?
Any such an admission by Breitbart would be devastating. Because remember that for months he personally vouched for the videos. He's claimed that he's told "the truth" every step of the way about the ACORN clips. But what if we find out that Breitbart himself didn't actually know what was on the tapes. What if we find out that Breitbart, like everyone else, got fooled by the ACORN pimp hoax and mistakenly assumed, after watching O'Keefe's deceptively edited clips, that O'Keefe strolled into ACORN offices wearing the outlandish pimp outfit.
If we find out Breitbart himself was duped by the ACORN clips -- if he, as the chief promoter, didn't even know the truth about the contents -- then I think we can close the books on the whole ACORN video caper, as well as Breitbart's credibility.
UPDATED: The exit question: If Breitbart was fooled by O'Keefe, did he ever get an apology?
From Gerson's February 26 Washington Post column headlined "TR: The conservatives' new demon":
So Glenn Beck, speaking recently at the Conservative Political Action Conference, identified a great enemy of human freedom as . . . Teddy Roosevelt. Beck highlighted this damning Roosevelt quote: "We grudge no man a fortune in civil life if it is honorably obtained and well used."
Ah, you don't discern the scandal in this statement? Look closer. "This is not our Founders' idea of America," explained Beck. "And this is the cancer that's eating at America. It is big government -- it's a socialist utopia." Evidently, real conservatives defend wealth that is dishonorably gained and then wasted.
The problem with America, apparently, is not just the Great Society or even the New Deal; it is the Square Deal. Or maybe Beck is just being too timid. Real, hairy-chested libertarians pin the blame on Abraham Lincoln, who centralized federal power at the expense of the states to pursue an unnecessary war -- a view that Ron Paul, the winner of the CPAC presidential straw poll, has endorsed.
Lincoln doesn't need defenders against accusations of tyranny -- the mere charge is enough to diagnose some sad ideological disorder. But the Rough Rider also does not deserve such roughing up.
TR picked a number of fights with conservative Republicans, fight-picking being his favorite sport. But Roosevelt hated socialism. "It would spell sheer destruction," he said.
After stating that "few today would wish to return to 19th-century labor, health and antitrust standards," Gerson added:
All those few, however, seemed to be in attendance at CPAC, determined to sharpen an ideological debate. In the name of constitutional purity, they propose a great undoing. Not just the undoing of Obamaism. Undo Medicare and Social Security. Undo the expansive American global commitments that proceeded from World War II and the Cold War. Undo progressive-era economic regulations. Undo the executive power grab that preserved the union. Undo it all -- until America is left with a government appropriate to an isolated, 18th-century farming republic.
This is a proposal for time travel, not a policy agenda. The federal government could not shed these accumulated responsibilities without massive suffering and global instability -- a decidedly radical, unconservative approach to governing.
From an editorial in the February 26 edition of the Las Vegas Review-Journal:
Canadians who are not independently wealthy still struggle to raise the cash to avail themselves of superior medical care "south of the border" whenever they consider the problem serious enough. Why is that, if the Canadian system is so good that we should emulate it, as Barack Obama insists?
Medical innovation continues in the United States because it's profitable. Medical innovation has stagnated in Canada because it's not, and because the best doctors and researchers have fled to countries where they can still make money at their trade -- most notably, the United States.
If the United States adopts a Canadian-style, rationed, inferior medical system in which more people die while waiting in line, where will Americans go in pursuit of better care? Where will Canadians go? And won't that lead to precisely the "two-tiered" system -- better care for those with enough money to hop a plane -- that Democrats claim to oppose?
Or will they just refuse to let us leave?