Saturday, March 20, 2010


I knew about the right-wing attacks on Marcelas Owens, an 11-year-old backer of health care reform whose mother lost insurance and then died in 2007 of pulmonary hypertension, but I wasn't aware of another bit of right-wing nastiness until I read the following about an undecided Democratic House member in a sidebar to a New York Times story published today:

Representative Kathy Dahlkemper of Pennsylvania won her district by just 2.5 percentage points. An anti-overhaul television ad questioned her commitment to fighting cancer, even after she lost both parents to the disease in the past month.

What's more, the ad, from the group Americans for Prosperity, blatantly twists the truth:

The ad features a breast cancer survivor who criticizes a federal advisory panel's recommendations that some women postpone routine mammograms until age 50.

The pending bill in Congress specifically rejects that recommendation. But the ad strongly suggests otherwise. "What are your odds if the government takes over your health care?" says the woman in the ad.

The nonpartisan group denounced the ad for its "sheer number of falsehoods." Politifact, another independent group, gave the ad its lowest rating for truthfulness and accuracy: "Pants on Fire."

AFP has refused to pull the ad. And NewsBusters sneers at Dahlkemper for complaining ...

How dare citizens subject Members of Congress to political advocacy and arguments with which they disagree!

... and implies that an ABC news report featuring the story of her parents' death constitutes some sort of media bias:

Complete with a photo of her late parents, ABC's Jonathan Karl concluded his Friday night story on undecided Democratic House members by conveying the complaint of Pennsylvania's Kathy Dahlkemper, who contended a TV ad about how further government control of health care will lead to delays in cancer treatment as has occurred in Britain, is inappropriate because her parents recently died from cancer.

"Perhaps the most powerful personal story belongs to Pennsylvania's Kathy Dahlkemper," Karl intoned, pointing out "her father died of leukemia in February, and her mother died just two weeks ago, and now she finds herself among the undecided Democrats targeted by this ad." Viewers then saw a very brief clip of an ad from Americans for Prosperity in which a woman maintained: "If you find a lump, you could wait months for treatment and life-saving drugs can be restricted."

Karl relayed Dahlkemper's indignation: "She says the group that made the ad is wrong, and takes it personally."

Yeah -- the nerve of her!

Dahlkemper is politically vulnerable, but why this disgraceful attack doesn't provide her more than adequate cover to vote yes, I don't know. I'd say it's because the country is in a state of denial about the sheer viciousness of the modern right. It's as if we have a need to believe that "they're all alike" and no moral distinctions can be made between the sides in our politics.

But they can, and we have to start making them.

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