Tuesday, August 25, 2009

The fingerprints on the Republican "death panel" fear tactic

The Republicans are in an all-out battle to prevent the Democrats from passing health care reform, and since they have no rational reasons for opposing it, they are spreading as much fear as the media will bear. The most recent is the line that the health care reform includes what they call "death panels." Talking Points Memo traces the development of that meme in the media.

Notice that it starts with a lie told by the whacked out loon Betsy McCaughey. Then it is picked up by House Minority Leader John Boehner. Then Rep. Virginia Foxx (R-NC) presented the meme on the House floor. Then Sarah Palin posted the idea on her Facebook page and spread the label "death panel." Then Newt Gingrich appeared on ABC's "This Week" and pushed the meme even further.

Next Senator Johnny Isakson reversed his previous position on end of life counselling and put out a statement distancing himself from it. Sen. Grassley (R-IA) worked to spread teh fear when he told a Republican town hall crowd, "You have every right to fear....a government-run plan to decide when to pull the plug on Grandma." This was the same day RNC Chairman Michael Steele told Neil Cavuto that panels were going to be imposed to make life-and-death decisions. Sen. Tom Coburn (R-OK) added to the story with more of the "pull the plug on grandma" rhetoric to a local Oklahoma TV station.

Of course, nothing the Republicans lie about is complete unless Rush Limbaugh bloviates about it. He has been all over the "death panels" fear-mongering. Rep. Broun (R-GA) who is also an MD sent a letter to the American Conservative Union making the statement which he cannot support: "When mama falls and breaks her hip, she'll just lie in her bed in pain until she dies with pneumonia because her needed surgery is not cost efficient."

John McCain must have been concerned that he was being left out, because he rather belatedly echoed the by now full-throated Republican fear-mongering lie. So did the NRO writer Jonah Goldberg.

Several common things run through this. First, this is fact-free fear-mongering spread throught the mass media. Second, the Republican Party is pushing it. They completely avoid talking about the problems Americans have with the failed health care system, and they offer no solutions. This is pure obstructionism.

Steve Benen explains what happens next.
The right's "death panel" attack was thoroughly and completely debunked. It didn't matter -- lots of Americans believed the lie anyway. It has, however, started to lose some of its salience, which means it's time for the new health care reform lie.

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