There appears to be a simple two-pronged strategy for killing health care reform.
One of those prongs involves, of course, delaying reform until it's too late. If it's not passed by the end of the year, there won't be the political balls to do so because of the fast approaching 2010 midterms when members of Congress will be much more focused on raising money (health care industry money) and pandering to voters.
Another reason for delaying health care reform is it gives the Republicans and Blue Dog Democrats plenty of extra time to inject their special cocktail of mind-bending crazy into the discourse and make it stick, furthering both the current delay while also eroding any voter impetus to pick up the issue again after the midterms. That'd be prong number two.
Not a single dose of the aforementioned "mind-bending crazy" actually holds up when run through even the most cursory fact-checking scrutiny, and, in every statement, the obstructionists trafficking in these lies further underscore their already obvious contradictions and ideological hypocrisy.
Regarding the latter, I can't recall, for example, this degree of nipple-twisting from Republicans and Blue Dogs about spending and fiscal responsibility when the Bush administration was pitching a blank check invasion and occupation of Iraq on the heels of invading Afghanistan -- all during a recession -- while also passing a $1 trillion tax cut for the wealthiest one percent the year before.
Yet affordable, accessible health care for everyone is a bridge too far, right? (My blood pressure kicks up into the red zone whenever I hear Republicans today suggesting that they were against the Bush administration's spending habits when, in fact, they supported each program individually. After all, opposing the commander-in-chief in wartime emboldened the enemy, no? Not any more apparently since we're still at war and the heretofore "patriotic" far-right won't even admit the president is an American citizen. Consistent of them.)
Back to the mind-bending crazy. I detailed some of these attacks last week, and my friend Michael J. Elston (Washington, DC radio's "Buzz Burbank") hit some of the arguments in his new Huffington Post blog as well. But who knew they would top themselves this week with an attack so simultaneously absurd and shameless that it easily fits comfortably in the Birther/Truther wackaloon syllabus.
This is of course the notion that the president's health care reform plan includes a mandate to kill old people.
First, here's Rep. Virginia Foxx (R-Cuckoo's Nest) on the House floor:
It'll make sure we bring down the cost of healthcare for all Americans, and that ensures affordable access for all Americans, and is pro-life because it will not put seniors in a position of being put to death by their government.
And the de facto leader of the Republican Party, Rush Limbaugh:
Sean Hannity believes it. So does House Minority Leader John Boehner. Talk show host Fred Thompson calls it "the dirty little secret" of the health care reform debate.
Yes, if you believe what these cranks are selling, the Obama administration is engaged in an elaborate plot to rid the nation of its burdensome population of old people. All this fluff about a public option, all the debate about reducing costs and making health insurance more affordable is merely subterfuge in the White House's scheme to impose a final solution to the nation's obvious elderly problem.
Seriously, this is a legitimate argument being used in mainstream Republican circles right now. This is an idea being circulated by the same party that Max Baucus, Harry Reid, Joe Lieberman, Evan Bayh and Mary Landrieu want to negotiate with and capitulate to, all in the name of their fetishistic obsession with bipartisanship porn.
How many more examples of GOP insanity must we enumerate before the aforementioned Democrats stop taking seriously the nincompoopery on the right? Is there no level of ridiculousness too intolerable before enough is enough? At what point does Harry Reid finally overcome his low-T, call bullshit on these jokers and figuratively pummel their soft skulls using a sledgehammer with the number 60 burnished into the handle? Soon, I hope.
House bill that would provide Medicare coverage for an end-of-life consultation once every five years. If a person falls ill with a life-threatening disease, more frequent sessions would be allowed.
Put another way, the bill would actually provide an additional and very optional benefit for senior citizens to consult with their doctors about end-of-life decisions -- decisions we'll all have to make. It's a consultation which is usually an out of pocket expense for the elderly, but now it'll be covered under Medicare. Again, it's an optional benefit for Medicare recipients to meet with their doctor. I repeat: optional benefit. Optional, as in "choice." Benefit, as in something "good" or "helpful." O-p-t-i-o-n-a-l. B-e-n-e-f-i-t.
"This measure would not only help people make the best decisions for themselves but also better ensure that their wishes are followed," AARP Executive Vice President John Rother said in a statement. "To suggest otherwise is a gross, and even cruel, distortion -- especially for any family that has been forced to make the difficult decisions on care for loved ones approaching the end of their lives."
Why do the old-people-haters at the AARP want to kill old people?
Despite overwhelming evidence to the contrary, House minority leader John Boehner and most other congressional Republicans are taking this wingnut conspiratorial position outlined by Rush Limbaugh. Because naturally they're a very serious political party -- so much so that the Blue Dog Democrats want to work with them rather than laughing them off the floor. Oh the relationships $1.3 million-a-day in healthcare industry lobbying can buy.
You know what this is? The Republicans are trying to trick senior citizens into buying Old Glory Robot Insurance.
The GOP is lying to senior citizens by convincing them that the Obama administration is going to strangle them with their robotic Obama claws -- and when President Obama grabs you with his metal claws, you can't break free. Because he's made of metal. And President Obama is strong.
I can't emphasize enough that this is an actual argument from the mainstream of the Republican Party.
And they're getting away with it because, despite their utter lack of seriousness, they continue to be granted untold latitude and legitimacy through this inexplicable Democratic bipartisanship deference (not to mention a wide berth from the establishment press), while peddling an obvious lie. And then, next week, there will be another one. And another one. Until healthcare reform is dead in the water.
UPDATE: ThinkProgress assembled a compilation video documenting this deception:
Another serious question here is: Are the Republicans knowingly lying to senior citizens, or are they just morons who believe anything they hear on the Rush Limbaugh show? (Answer: Both.)