After his predictable experience with unified Republican obstructionism on the stimulus bill, President Obama must be high if he thinks there's a glimmer of hope for bipartisan cooperation on health care reform. Not because Sarah Palin is doubling-down on her "death panels" lie or Newt Gingrich is now fear-mongering over end-of-life care for the elderly he staunchly advocated just months ago. No, Obama's latest bad trip is thanks to Iowa Senator Chuck Grassley. One week after meeting with the President at the White House to discuss a "compromise" bill in the Senate, Grassley repeated the same euthanasia myth while announcing his role is to be a "finger in the dike" of health care reform.
10 days ago, Ted Kennedy's close friend Orrin Hatch (R-UT) dropped out of the health care negotiations with the White House and announced he would be "shocked" if Senator Grassley signed onto any bill which emerged. Almost on cue, Grassley just three days later used Hatch's ailing dear friend as the poster child for a UK-like government health care system no one is proposing:
"In countries that have government-run health care, just to give you an example, I've been told that the brain tumor that Sen. Kennedy has -- because he's 77 years old -- would not be treated the way it's treated in the United States. In other words, he would not get the care he gets here because of his age."
(For its part, the British Medical Association on Wednesday denounced jaw-droppingly untruthful attacks" by American critics like Grassley. "That's just wrong," a British Health Department spokesman said, adding, "The NHS in England provides health services on the basis of clinical need, irrespective of age or ability to pay.")
But like the grandstanding Palin, Obama's negotiating partner Grassley also doubled-down on the inescapably false euthanasia charge so thoroughly debunked by ABC News, Politifact and so many others. On Wednesday, he declared:
"There is some fear because in the House bill, there is counseling for end-of-life. And from that standpoint, you have every right to fear. You shouldn't have counseling at the end of life. You ought to have counseling 20 years before you're going to die. You ought to plan these things out. And I don't have any problem with things like living wills. But they ought to be done within the family. We should not have a government program that determines if you're going to pull the plug on grandma."
Not content to end there, President Obama's ersatz moderate brought England - and the Almighty - back into the discussion to scare the bejesus out of America's senior citizens:
"When you couple this with all the other fears that people have, and you have what they do in England, then you get the idea that someone is going to decide grandma's lived too long.
I think the best thing to do if you want to get people to think about end of life, number one Jesus Christ is the way to start. But after that, in the physical life as opposed to your eternal life, it ought to be done within the family and considered a religious and ethical issue and not something that politicians deal with."
Of course, in 2005, Chuck Grassley felt differently about the role of politicians and government in the perhaps the most painful choice a family could make, announcing, "I support the effort to protect Terri Schiavo." (In that sense, he was little different than his Republican colleagues Tom Delay and Fred Thompson, who actually made the same end-of-life decisions for loved ones they would deny other Americans.)
Back in January, the New York Times' Paul Krugman warned President Obama about the dangers of his dalliance with Capitol Hill Republicans on the stimulus bill:
"Look, Republicans are not going to come on board. Make 40% of the package tax cuts, they'll demand 100%."
As Charles Grassley made clear this week, Krugman's Law applies to the health care debate as well. That reality is apparently starting to sink in even for President Obama. As the New York Times reported last week, "Mr. Obama has warned that Democrats may eventually need to press ahead without Republican support if it appears that the opposition party is simply stalling in an effort to block the overhaul."
He'd have to be high not to.
** Crossposted at Perrspectives **