Wednesday, August 12, 2009

Mischievous

Senator Chuck Grassley (R.- IA.) held a town meeting in Winterset, Iowa on Wednesday, August 13. Radio Iowa reports "Audience members occasionally quarreled with one another, but none shouted Grassley down."

And why would they, when the host is in full pander mode?

The ranking Republican on the Senate Finance Committee has taken the lead role in negotiating with committee Democrats on the shape of the health care bill the committee would report out, and President Obama has spoken kindly of the Iowa senator, as recently as August 11 saying

Now, I think that there are some of my Republican friends on Capitol Hill who are sincerely trying to figure out if they can find a health care bill that works — Chuck Grassley of Iowa, Mike Enzi of Wyoming, Olympia Snowe from Maine have been — yes, I got to admit I like Olympia, too. They are diligently working to see if they can come up with a plan that could get both Republican and Democratic support.

But in Winterset the following day, Grassley showed his gratitude by claiming

You shouldn't have counseling at the end of life. You ought to have it done 20 years before you're going to die. You ought to plan these things out. 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 you're going to pull the plug on grandma.

Grassley wasn't lying- he didn't actually say the federal government is considering "pulling the plug on grandma." But of course Grassley strongly implied, intentionally, that Democrats are trying to pull the plug, a scurrilous rumor thoroughly debunked.

This is no ordinary Senator, but one who may know as much about health care negotiations as anyone in the United States Senate. And there is another clue Grassley knew he was making things up.

Note the Senator's language- "to pull the plug on grandma." At the President's town hall meeting in Portsmouth, N.H. the day before, Obama noted "The rumor that's been circulating a lot lately is this idea that somehow the House of Representatives voted for ‘death panels' that will basically pull the plug on grandma because we've decided that we don't--it's too expensive to let her live anymore. (Laughter.)"

Decrying the right's effort to scare the elderly, Obama and others left of center have sometimes used the phrase "pulling the plug" and consistently used the term "grandma." It is telling, then, that the Iowa Senator would not try to make a reasoned argument about end-of-life care, but rather employ the phrase "going to pull the plug on grandma."

This charge was originally cooked up by Betsy McCaughey, a former board member of biotechnology company Genta and current board member of Cantel Medical, a device company from which she recently received 750 shares of stock options worth approximately $11,250.00. Grassley is a member of Congress frightened by his base.

On Sunday's Meet The Press, three days prior to Grassley's meeting, a tape of Rush Limbaugh was played in which the talk show host claimed "There are far more similarities between Nancy Pelosi and Adolph Hitler than between these people showing up at town halls to protest a Hitler-like policy." Though conceding "I hadn't seen the Rush Limbaugh thing," New York Times columnist David Brooks commented "That is insane. What he's saying is insane."

No, what Rush Limbaugh says is no more insane than what Betsy McCaughey or Chuck Grassley say. It is all rather calculated- financial gain for McCaughey, political survival for Grassley, audience share and political influence for Limbaugh. They are not "insane," crazy, demented, ignorant, or stupid. It is at once patronizing and overly generous to view them, and others similarly rhetorically inclined, as somehow lacking the mental or emotional stability of those who have at least a passing concern for the public interest. They ought not to be underestimated; their radical claims are merely a part of a broader strategy, harmful to the interests of the broad spectrum of the American people.

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