Thursday, August 13, 2009


Yesterday, as you know, Chuck Grassley, the supposedly very serious and reasonable Republican senator, endorsed the notion that health-care reform could include "death panels." After reading this New York Times story today, I think I know why.

To put it simply, President Obama is being too conciliatory -- apparently he'll compromise on just about anything. To you and me, that means Obama's working to produce a bill that's hopelessly watered down -- but to Grassley, who obviously has no intention of voting for any health-care bill, it's a threat: if the bill is watered down, he'll need a reason to vote no, because he's one of those Republicans who claim to want some sort of reform. So if a watered-down Obama bill won't give him an excuse to vote no, he'll make up his own excuses -- or second the made-up excuses of others.

How watered down is the bill likely to be? Let's go to the Times story:

... Behind the scenes, ... Mr. Obama and his advisers have been quite active, sometimes negotiating deals with a degree of cold-eyed political realism potentially at odds with the president’s rhetoric.

Early last month, for example, hospital officials were poised to appear at the White House to announce a deal limiting their industry's share of the costs of the overhaul proposal when a wave of jitters swept through the group. Senator Max Baucus, the Finance Committee chairman and a party to the deal, had abruptly pulled out of the event. Was he backing away from his end of the deal?

Not to worry, Jim Messina, the deputy White House chief of staff, told the hospital lobbyists, according to White House officials and lobbyists briefed on the call. The White House was standing behind the deal, Mr. Messina told them, capping the industry’s costs at a maximum of $155 billion over 10 years in exchange for its political support....

The Finance Committee ... appears to be coalescing around the idea of nonprofit insurance cooperatives instead of a government-run plan....

Asked whether the president would accept the weaker co-op, [White House chief of staff Rahm] Emanuel declined to comment. "I am not going to fast-forward the process," he said.

Industry lobbyists and moderate Democrats in both chambers, though, argue that the White House's actions behind the scenes show a recognition that the finance panel's anticipated compromise is the most likely template for any final legislation.

Wow -- no public option, no further cost savings from hospitals. And Grassley clearly knows this:

Mr. Obama and his top aides have immersed themselves in the Senate Finance Committee process. The president talks to [Senator Max] Baucus several times a week, people briefed on their conversations say. Mr. Obama has also held a few calls with the panel's ranking Republican, Senator Charles E. Grassley of Iowa.

(The story makes clear that the White House is all but ignoring what's going on in the House of Representatives.)

And this story appears a week or so after we learned that the Obama White House affirmed a sweet deal with the drug companies:

Pressed by industry lobbyists, White House officials on Wednesday assured drug makers that the administration stood by a behind-the-scenes deal to block any Congressional effort to extract cost savings from them beyond an agreed-upon $80 billion.

... the industry successfully demanded that the White House explicitly acknowledge for the first time that it had committed to protect drug makers from bearing further costs in the overhaul....

Republicans, when pressed, pretend to want some kind of reform -- they just say they don't want the really liberal stuff.

But if Barack Obama is negotiating away all the liberal stuff, and what they (and their corporate masters) really want is no bill at all, how do the self-styled reasonable Republicans vote no?

They vote no by lying about "death panels" and the like. That gives them the cover they think they need with the public.

And the more Obama compromises, the more outrageous the lies are going to get, and we'll hear them more frequently from more and more mainstream Republicans.


UPDATE: As you probably know, Grassley and the other members of the GOP bucket brigade of liars have managed to get the end-of-life non-"death-panel" provision removed from the Senate health-care bill, a victory for stupidity Grassley now boasts about:

"On the Finance Committee, we are working very hard to avoid unintended consequences by methodically working through the complexities of all of these issues and policy options," Sen. Chuck Grassley (R-Iowa) said in a statement. "We dropped end-of-life provisions from consideration entirely because of the way they could be misinterpreted and implemented incorrectly."

Ah, but is this a victory? Partly. It makes Democrats look weak -- always a good thing if your prime directive is destruction of the opposition. But now what will Grassley find unacceptable so he has an excuse to vote no?

Oh, plenty. From Grassley's statement:

The bill passed by the House committees is so poorly cobbled together that it will have all kinds of unintended consequences, including making taxpayers fund health care subsidies for illegal immigrants. On the end-of-life issue, there’s a big difference between a simple educational campaign, as some advocates want, and the way the House committee-passed bill pays physicians to advise patients about end of life care and rates physician quality of care based on the creation of and adherence to orders for end-of-life care, while at the same time creating a government-run program that is likely to lead to the rationing of care for everyone.

So see? The Democrats are still doing things in the health-care bill-drafting process that are eeeevil, EEEEEVIL I tell you! Those sneaky atheist homosexual pornographers will surely slip in something nasty in conference committee, just you wait! So stay afraid, teabaggers. Stay very afraid.

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