August 14, 2009

Sarah Palin: Whipping Girl of Left AND Right

Hatched by Dafydd

Proving yet again that literacy may be overrated, now it's the Washington Times -- not the Post, the Times! -- which absurdly misinterprets what Sarah Palin said about ObamaCare "death Panels"... even after she explained, very clearly, exactly what she meant (incidentally vindicating the last two posts in this series by Big Lizards):

Like Mr. Dick's obsession with "poor king Charles' head" in Dickens' David Copperfield, the Times cannot break free from the patently erroneous conclusion that Palin could only have been talking about the "end of life care" counseling... as if that were the only possible way that health-care rationing could enter the equation.

Worse, the writer, Jon Ward, uses deliberately misleading rhetoric to falsely imply that Palin accused Dr. Ezekiel Emanuel (Rahm's older brother) of espousing literal "euthanasia" -- a charge so easily dismissed that its only function is to discredit the target... like accusing Palin of believing there's a Boogieman under her bed:

Mrs. Palin has been widely panned by independent fact-checking groups for her talk of "death panels." Her attacks on Dr. Emanuel have led to charges that he is advocating euthanasia.

Claiming that Palin said the House ObamaCare bill includes provisions for "euthanasia" is more or less like claiming -- well, like claiming she said that she can see Russia from her house: It's not a serious charge; it too is just a punchline.

Note the sly phrasing -- Palin's attacks "led to charges;" charges by whom? I've seen nobody accuse Emanuel of euthanasia; I have only seen people accuse Palin of accusing Emanuel of euthanasia. And now TWT joins that disreputable, accusatory brigade.

Mrs. Palin derives the idea of "death panels" from a provision in a bill under consideration in the House that would give doctors financial incentives to give counseling sessions on end-of-life care to older patients. Mrs. Palin's charge is that while the sessions are technically voluntary, physicians can and will initiate the conversation and senior citizens will be pressured to accept "minimal end-of-life care" because the sessions are "part of a bill whose stated purpose is 'to reduce the growth in health care spending.' "

Oh, the damage caused by that dolt, Sen. Johnny Isakson (R-GA, 76%), who listened to his inner "anonymous phone caller," rather than simply reading what Palin actually wrote.

That said, Ward's error is partially mitigated by bringing a new admission from Emanuel to the story: Ezekiel Emanuel now admits that he did indeed advocate a deliberate policy of rationing in the past, though he says he no longer believes that today:

Dr. Ezekiel J. Emanuel, the White House official targeted by Sarah Palin and other conservatives as an advocate for health care rationing and "death panels," said Thursday his "thinking has evolved" on the need to decide who gets treated and who does not.

"When I began working in the health policy area about 20 years ago ... I thought we would definitely have to ration care, that there was a need to make a decision and deny people care," said Dr. Emanuel, a health care adviser to President Obama in the Office of Management and Budget, during a phone interview.

"I think that over the last five to seven years ... I've come to the conclusion that in our system we are spending way more money than we need to, a lot of it on unnecessary care," he said. "If we got rid of that care we would have absolutely no reason to even consider rationing except in a few cases."

This is important to highlight, as is the fact that Newt Gingrich -- and even more important and thoughtful philosophers, such as Big Lizards -- agrees with Palin that the House bill inevitably leads to health-care rationing. But let's return to those thrilling days of yesteryear (rather, yester-day) and see what, exactly, Mrs. Palin really said...

In her first Facebook posting, she made it quite clear what she was actually saying -- Sen. Isakson notwithstanding:

The Democrats promise that a government health care system will reduce the cost of health care, but as the economist Thomas Sowell has pointed out, government health care will not reduce the cost; it will simply refuse to pay the cost. And who will suffer the most when they ration care? The sick, the elderly, and the disabled, of course. The America I know and love is not one in which my parents or my baby with Down Syndrome will have to stand in front of Obama’s “death panel” so his bureaucrats can decide, based on a subjective judgment of their “level of productivity in society,” whether they are worthy of health care. Such a system is downright evil.

One might argue that by personalizing the "death panel" claim to include the phrase "stand in front of Obama's 'death panel'," Palin contributed to the misunderstanding; obviously, Medicare patients do not literally stand in front of a MedPAC (Medicare Payment Advisory Commission) panel today, nor would ObamaCare patients literally stand in front of an "ObamaPAC" panel. This might have been a (feeble) excuse before yesterday; but after Palin's widely reported and circulated (and heavily footnoted!) second Facebook post explaining her earlier post, there is no excuse for misunderstanding. Its substance begins and ends thus:

Yesterday President Obama responded to my statement that Democratic health care proposals would lead to rationed care; that the sick, the elderly, and the disabled would suffer the most under such rationing; and that under such a system these “unproductive” members of society could face the prospect of government bureaucrats determining whether they deserve health care....

Of course, it’s not just this one provision that presents a problem. My original comments concerned statements made by Dr. Ezekiel Emanuel, a health policy advisor to President Obama and the brother of the President’s chief of staff. Dr. Emanuel has written that some medical services should not be guaranteed to those “who are irreversibly prevented from being or becoming participating citizens....An obvious example is not guaranteeing health services to patients with dementia.” Dr. Emanuel has also advocated basing medical decisions on a system which “produces a priority curve on which individuals aged between roughly 15 and 40 years get the most chance, whereas the youngest and oldest people get chances that are attenuated.”

In addition to making sure folks understood her original point -- that ObamaCare leads inexorably to medical rationing (triage!) -- she also responded to President Barack H. Obama's dismissal of the "end-of-life" counseling provisions of the House bill. She had to... because in the process of misunderstanding her original point (intentionally or un-), Obama also told some whoppers about the very provision that he falsely connected to Palin's point.

This part of Palin's argument occupies the middle section of her second Facebook post; I excerpt a bit here:

The provision that President Obama refers to is Section 1233 of HR 3200, entitled “Advance Care Planning Consultation.” With all due respect, it’s misleading for the President to describe this section as an entirely voluntary provision that simply increases the information offered to Medicare recipients. The issue is the context in which that information is provided and the coercive effect these consultations will have in that context.

Section 1233 authorizes advanced care planning consultations for senior citizens on Medicare every five years, and more often “if there is a significant change in the health condition of the individual ... or upon admission to a skilled nursing facility, a long-term care facility... or a hospice program." During those consultations, practitioners must explain “the continuum of end-of-life services and supports available, including palliative care and hospice,” and the government benefits available to pay for such services.

Now put this in context. These consultations are authorized whenever a Medicare recipient’s health changes significantly or when they enter a nursing home, and they are part of a bill whose stated purpose is “to reduce the growth in health care spending.” Is it any wonder that senior citizens might view such consultations as attempts to convince them to help reduce health care costs by accepting minimal end-of-life care? As Charles Lane notes in the Washington Post, Section 1233 “addresses compassionate goals in disconcerting proximity to fiscal ones.... If it’s all about obviating suffering, emotional or physical, what’s it doing in a measure to “bend the curve” on health-care costs?”

These are all excellent points, and almost unanswerable; but they are ancillary to her original post, and Palin makes that very clear in her follow-up post. Clear, that is, to everybody except those who insist upon opining about posts they have never even read -- Isakson -- and those who give undue deference to subliterate slanders slung by Palin critics who never met an accusation they didn't repeat... even when its provenance is some unnamed telephone caller at some undisclosed venue.

Even when the original is still there, on Palin's Facebook page, where anyone who is willing can read it.

Hatched by Dafydd on this day, August 14, 2009, at the time of 6:54 PM

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The following hissed in response by: BD

Sad to say too many people are too invested in "Palin is an idiot" to actually read what she wrote "for comprehension."

The above hissed in response by: BD [TypeKey Profile Page] at August 14, 2009 7:24 PM

The following hissed in response by: JimK

On BOR with Laura Ingraham, Amanda Carpenter makes the same error. Conflating 'health care rationing' with end-of-life issues. Sheesh, you'd think some of the Right would actually read her piece on Facebook before commenting. But, you'd be wrong.

The above hissed in response by: JimK [TypeKey Profile Page] at August 15, 2009 4:43 AM

The following hissed in response by: Fritz

I can understand the left distorting her words, but I am appalled that the right is unwilling to check and see what she actually said. After all, what she said was correct and the left has no way to discredit her other than distorting her words.

On a more amusing note, I find it funny that the left--which so frequently rails about people taking their words out of context or ignoring nuance--is totally unwilling to extend the same to those who disagree with them.

The above hissed in response by: Fritz [TypeKey Profile Page] at August 16, 2009 5:21 AM

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