Betsy McCaughey is a famous liar who famously lied about the Clinton health care bill back in the 1990s, who has returned to lie just as famously in the aughts about the Obama health care bill. Last night, she made an appearance on The Daily Show in a two(plus)-part interview with host Jon Stewart, which centered on her latest, greatest distortion: that the current health care reform package wending its way through the House contains provisions that would enforce draconian consultations imposing conditions upon both patients in end-of-life circumstances and the doctors treating said patients. This falsehood, first promulgated by McCaughey, later came to be colloquially referred to as "death panels." Not a jot of it was true.
McCaughey brought to the interview tactics old and new in an attempt to snow the viewers. As James Fallows points out in his sobering essay on McCaughey (linked to above), "Her unvarying pose is that of the objective researcher who has, selflessly, pored through the pages of a bill and emerged to warn us about what she has found."
Keeping to this shtick, McCaughey came to the stage carrying a binder, which she said was the first half of the House health care reform bill. In addition, she came prepared to do whatever she could to ingratiate herself with the audience and with Stewart, plying him with saccharine compliments. Watching these tactics unfold, one couldn't help but recall the last great ingratiator who'd made an appearance on The Daily Show hoping that buttering up Jon Stewart would pay off on easy treatment: CNBC buffoon Jim Cramer.
If there was anything disappointing about the way the Daily Show approached this McCaughey interview, it was that Stewart's pushback lacked the "spare no expense, leave no stone unturned" research job that had been done for the Cramer interview.
Stewart, who was quick to point out that McCaughey was not the person who coined the phrase "death panel," conceded little else during the interview. That said, the interview went basically like this: McCaughey would say the bill said something, only it would turn out that different words were used, or that it actually wouldn't say that at all, and Jon Stewart would gently point this out, and she'd insist otherwise, and then start flipping through the bill, not really finding the proof or the documentation she was talking about. Stewart, at one point, contended that McCaughey's take on the matter was "hyperbolic" and "dangerous."
I don't want to get too deep in the weeds, because the interview is the thing, but the concept that McCaughey seems to be unable to get her head around -- or that she believes she can manipulate voter opinion over -- is the idea of adherence in end-of-life planning. She seemed to clearly indicate that she thought "adhering" to a living will means that the patient can't change his/her mind at any time during the course of his/her life; that once it's written, you've had your one crack and there are no "backsies." This is, in a word, crazy, because:
a) A living will only goes into effect once a patient is permanently incapacitated to the extent that no amount of medical care will bring the patient back into a state where they can proffer consent to attempt further life-saving procedures.
b) When the bill talks about adherence, this refers to the medical professionals adhering to the instructions in the living will, including, as Stewart points out again and again, adhering to any calls for "life sustaining medical procedures."
McCaughey insists at one point during this interview that the proof of her claims can be seen in the fact that the section in question was stripped from the bill. They took it out! THIS HAS TO HAVE BEEN A DASTARDLY PLOT, FOILED BY BETSY MCCAUGHEY. Yes. That must have been it.
Also: she believes that the government has a grand plan to literally end the lives of senior citizens. SURELY, THIS PLAN IS FOOLPROOF.
The interview ran long, and The Daily Show decided to run it as is until they were out of time. The entire interview was placed online to watch, with Stewart cautioning that one should only view it in the company of someone capable of navigating you through a "bad trip."