Tuesday, August 18, 2009

Andy McCarthy and Mark Steyn Slap the Handwringing Girly Boys in Charge Over at National Review: Palin Was Right On the "Death Panels"

Andy McCarthy writes at The Corner:
Monday's NRO editorial, "Rationing and Rationality," is fine insofar as it takes aim at the disaster that would be bureaucratic healthcare rationing — particularly, Obamacare's likely (I'd say inevitable) accelerator effect on the drive to euthanasia when added to the already "baleful trends among bioethicists" that the editors cite. But I respectfully dissent from this passage:
To conclude from these possibilities to the accusation that President Obama’s favored legislation will lead to “death panels” deciding whose life has sufficient value to be saved — let alone that Obama desires this outcome — is to leap across a logical canyon. It may well be that in a society as litigious as ours, government will err on the side of spending more rather than treating less. But that does not mean that there is nothing to worry about. Our response to Sarah Palin’s fans and her critics is to paraphrase Peter Viereck: We should be against hysteria — including hysteria about hysteria.
I don't see any wisdom in taking a shot at Governor Palin at this moment when, finding themselves unable to defend the plan against her indictment, Democrats have backed down and withdrawn their "end-of-life counseling" boards. Palin did a tremendous service here. Opinion elites didn't like what the editors imply is the "hysteria" of her "death panels" charge. Many of those same elites didn't like Ronald Reagan's jarring "evil empire" rhetoric. But "death panels" caught on with the public just like "evil empire" did because, for all their "heat rather than light" tut-tutting, critics could never quite discredit it. ("BusHitler," by contrast, did not catch on with the public because it was so easily refuted.)

The editors implicitly concede that Palin is on to something. Indeed, from an Obamaesque perch, they find themselves admonishing both "Sarah Palin’s fans and her critics." With due respect, there's a right side and a wrong side on this one. Above the fray is not gonna cut it...
McCarthy later follows up:
... In my response to the editorial, I said exactly what I meant: Specifically, that "the bureaucrats . . . will gradually restrict your access to various forms of treatment while you wither away prematurely." A process of foreclosing grandma from care (in contrast to what the president so very sensitively describes as "pulling the plug on grandma") will produce the effect of premature death. Such a process is thus a death panel. Its proponents tendentiously dispute this, claiming that the idea is to figure out who should get what treatment, not decide who should be saved. But I think our function is to call the opposition on such hair-splitting nonsense, not to make the fog harder to pierce...
Finally, Mark Steyn adds:
On the matter of McCarthy vs the Editors, I'm with Andy. I think Sarah Palin's "death panel" coinage clarified the stakes and resonated in a way that "rationing" and other lingo never quite did. She launched it, and she made it stick. So it was politically effective.

But I'm also with Mrs. Palin on the substance. NR's editorial defines "death panel" too narrowly. What matters is the concept of a government "panel." Right now, if I want a hip replacement, it's between me and my doctor; the government does not have a seat at the table. The minute it does, my hip's needs are subordinate to national hip policy, which in turn is subordinate to macro budgetary considerations.

You're accepting that the state has jurisdiction over your hip, and your knee, and your prostate and everything else. And once you accept that proposition the fellows who get to make the "ruling" are, ultimately, a death panel. Usually, they call it something nicer — literally, like Britain's National Institute for Clinical Excellence (NICE).

And finally I don't think this is any time for NR to be joining the Frumsters and deploring the halfwit vulgarity of déclassé immoderates like Palin. This is a big-stakes battle: If we cross this bridge, there's no going back. Being "moderate" is not a good strategy. It risks delivering the nation to the usual reach-across-the-aisle compromise that will get Democrats far enough across the bridge that the Big Government ratchet effect will do the rest.

After my weekend column recounted the experience of a recent British visitor of mine, I received an e-mail from a gentleman in Glasgow who cannot get an x-ray for his back — because he has no sovereignty over his back. His back is merely part of the overall mass of Scottish backs, to which a government budget has been allocated, but alas one which does not run to x-rays.

Government "panels" making "rulings" over your body: Acceptance of that concept is what counts.

Jonah Goldberg joins the fray:
... in the arena of a vital political contest, I think M&S are right that it distilled some important issues down to an important truth: if Obama, Pelosi, Waxman et al get their way, the relationship between the citizen and the state is profoundly, and perhaps permanently, altered and down that path lurks death panels. Oh, they won't be called death panels, but that function will lurk like the ghost in the machine of the federal bureaucracy. Back when the health-care debate was abstract and liberals were sure they would win the day, they were far more comfortable talking about this sort of thing. Barack Obama talked about rationing care for people like his grandmother and seeking guidance from a super-smart panel of experts in this regard. Just a month ago, the New York Times magazine saw nothing wrong with running this unabashed love-letter to a health-care system, in effect, ruled by death panels (See my post on this last Friday, or Tom Maguire's Sunday item for more). Now, suddenly, to even suggest such a possibility is McCarthyism — now called Palinism — according to Richard Cohen.

What drives me crazy about liberal complaints about conservative tactics these days is how selective they are. Obama, Barney Frank, Jacob Hacker, and others have said that they want these reforms — specifically the public option — to lead to single payer. But when conservatives take them at their word, suddenly it's outrageous misinformation and "fishy" stuff. When the wind is at their backs, liberals look way off to the horizon, like Obama at a podium, dreaming of a future of European-style statism. But when conservatives use this to their advantage, suddenly it is outrageous to even consider the possibility of a road to hell being paved with good intentions. Suddenly liberals bleat that it is scare-mongering to look beyond what they are proposing in this exact moment, outrageous to ask "Where will this lead?" I agree entirely with Andy that conservatives are under no obligation to unilaterally agree to liberal terms or definitions but rather, as he puts it, "Our function is to call the opposition on such hair-splitting nonsense, not to make the fog harder to pierce."

And this raises what I think is part of the problem. As Mark says, this is a massive political fight — one that conservatives are winning, by the way — and there's a natural tension between wanting to argue the finer points of policy and win the battle over the politics. I don't begrudge NR's attempt to get this balance right by erring on the side of describing the policy correctly and in good faith. But, also in good faith, I don't see it quite the same way, and I don't think Palin's contributions are part of the problem with the health-care debate...

UPDATE #2 (19 August)
R.S. McCain's take is priceless (Hat tip: The Cranky Conservative):
Accusing Sarah Palin (and her supporters) of "hysteria" over health care?

Once again, as I said two weeks ago, National Review contributes more evidence for the prosecution in the continuing case of Why Rich Lowry Should Have Been Fired No Later Than 2001.

Replacing Lowry with Goldberg would produce an immediate 47% reduction in the Effete Douchebag Index at National Review. Lowry's stayed too long at the dance, and people are getting sick of NR being the official Mitt/Jeb 2012 campaign journal, repeatedly slagging Palin and the grassroots.
And I hope they send K-Lo packing, too. This commenter expresses my views better than I ever could.

Previous Pro Ecclesia posts on this subject:
Sarah Palin Right About Obama "Death Panels"

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At 8/18/2009 12:43 PM, Blogger LargeBill said...

There is very little fight in most Republicans on the national stage. What does NR do? They attack the one high profile Republican with any backbone. Ridiculous.

As far as the death panels go, Obama is half right when he says they wouldn't pull the plug on grandma. The truth is they would never bother plugging her in in the first place.


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