Palin for “Death Panels” Before She Was Against Them

So, it turns out that while Sarah Palin is now claiming the section of proposed health care providing for counseling patients in end of life care means there will be “death panels” deciding whether Trig or your grandma lives or die, as Governor she signed a proclamation supporting the same kind of services be available to Alaskans (two days before Trig was born, as someone pointed out).

So was then Governor Palin for “death panels” and she’s now against them?  Or – is she lying to terrify her far right supporters into opposing real health reform? 

According to Think Progress:

However, on April 16th 2008, then Gov. Sarah Palin endorsed some of the same end of life counseling she now decries as a form of euthanasia. In a proclamation announcing “Healthcare Decisions Day,” Palin urged public facilities to provide better information about advance directives, and made it clear that it is critical for seniors to be informed of such options:

WHEREAS, Healthcare Decisions Day is designed to raise public awareness of the need to plan ahead for healthcare decisions, related to end of life care and medical decision-making whenever patients are unable to speak for themselves and to encourage the specific use of advance directives to communicate these important healthcare decisions. […]

WHEREAS, one of the principal goals of Healthcare Decisions Day is to encourage hospitals, nursing homes, assisted living facilities, continuing care retirement communities, and hospices to participate in a statewide effort to provide clear and consistent information to the public about advance directives, as well as to encourage medical professionals and lawyers to volunteer their time and efforts to improve public knowledge and increase the number of Alaska’s citizens with advance directives.

Of course, former Governor Palin isn’t the only conservative apparently for “death panels” before they were against them.  As Think Progress points out “At a conference in April of this year, Gingrich said advance directives can ‘save money’ while also helping to ‘decrease the stress felt by caregivers.’”

According to the Huffington Post, Sen Chuck Grassely, who is also now railing against “death panels” voted for counseling for end-of-life issues in the 2003 Medicare prescription drug bill. He wasn’t the only one. “Reps. John Boehner (R-Ohio) and Thaddeus McCotter (R-Mich.), who both claimed end-of-life consultations could result in “government encouraged euthanasia,” also voted for similar policy in 2003.”

So either Republicans were for death panels in 2003 before turning against them now–or they’re lying about end-of-life counseling in order to frighten the bejeezus out of their fellow citizens and defeat health reform by any means necessary. Which is it, Mr. Grassley (“Yea,” 2003)?

As Oregon Congressman Earl Blumenauer notes in article in Crosscut, the most disturbing part of this is the outright lying.  Apparently, with the Republicans, no good deed goes unpunished.  It was Blumenauer’s amendment made to help make sure dying patients’ wishes would be respected that some of the far right Republicans have been making dire “death panels” warnings about.

Blumenauer, who joined the powerful Ways and Means Committee only in 2007, placed his amendment in HR 3200 as it passed the committee. His intent, which he says was shared by Republicans on the committee, is to improve patient-doctor communication when the end of life nears, to be sure patients understand all the options. Specifically, the language authorizes Medicare to pay doctors for counseling patients about end-of-life care, if the patient wishes. The Blumenauer language prohibits payment for counseling that involves physician-assisted suicide, which has been legalized by popular vote in Oregon and Washington.

So, physician-assisted suicide, the right-to-die legislation we passed in both Oregon and Washington (I voted for it both times), will not be covered.  It’s a non-issue as far as national health care (and if it’s something you’d never consider, it’s a non-issue for residents of Oregon or Washington; it’s there for those of us who would consider it if the pain is bad enough and there’s no hope and our choice, not yours).

Claims by Betsy McCaughey that “the elderly would be required to have counseling on assisted suicide” were “quickly debunked by the Pulitzer-Prize-winning independent fact checker, PolitiFact.com.”  Palin’s claims “envisioning ‘death panels’ for the disabled and elderly” were quickly proven false by fact-checkers for the Associated Press. That wasn’t enough to stop Palin, though.

Palin on Thursday refused to retreat, causing Blumenauer to say he was “astounded” that Palin had not withdrawn her comments. “If she wasn’t deliberately lying at the beginning, she is deliberately allowing a terrible falsehood to be spread with her name.”

What is happening here?

This willingness to spread outright false statements, the Oregon Democrat told Crosscut, is one of the most disturbing aspects of the new political climate. “This would never have happened in the politics of our youth,” he observed. “This is not just a philosophical or policy dispute,” he continued; “it’s outright lying and then refusing to admit it when caught. They are fighting to stop the conversation [with disruptive acts at some healthcare forums].”

This is a disturbing continuation of the type of lies that started during the election. McCain deliberately misunderstanding Obama’s use of the common “lipstick on a pig” expression as being a personal attack on Palin instead of directed at McCain’s policies. Ads claiming Obama wanted to teach in depth sexual education to kindergarten students.

On the one hand, the lies are so blatant that it’s tempting to just laugh at the lies and discredited liars.  Given the amount of screaming and shouting and threats of violence these lies are stirring up, I can’t help but find the lies of Palin and others a bit more sinister, though.  I recall other big lies that worked – Nazi Germany, Rwanda. 

Yes, it’s ironic because some of these right wing nuts are bringing signs with Obama as Hitler (and other, more obviously racist signs).  That’s the idea, though – to demonize those you oppose, to make them less than human.  Instead of trying to get fair and equal health care for everyone including and especially children and the elderly, those of us on the left are allegedly really pushing for “death panels,” even though people are really dying under the current system.

There’s still the underlying racism, too, that these lies are appealing to.  Just witness the “birthers”.  Obama isn’t one of us.  No matter that a birth certificate, closely examined by FactCheck.org had been produced.  No matter that there are copies of newspaper announcements from Honolulu papers at the time.  Some how, these must all be fake and the President was, what, secretly born in Kenya or maybe Mars?

True, the birthers are the right wing fringe and we still have those on the left who claim Trig isn’t Sarah Palin’s son.  Some of the “death panels” claims are coming from elected and formerly elected Republican officials, though, including former Governor Palin.  Many of whom, including Palin, obviously know they are telling lies, yet willing to stir up hatred and anger anyways. 

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