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August 11, 2009

Health Care and the Party of Death Panels

Hey, remember the "Angry Left"? Throughout the Bush years, one got the impression from our friends on the right that the biggest threat to America as a nation was a group of angry, hateful, dishonest activists with an irrational hatred of the president.

I remembered those days watching the last couple of weeks of the health care debate, as angry, screaming Republicans have yelled incorrect "facts" at Democratic members of Congress, while at the same time right-wing pundits have taken to Fox News and their Facebook pages to spread significant misinformation about the Democrats' health care plans. And it made me realize: Everything the right said about the left during the Bush years is now true of the right, only tenfold.

The yelling. The irrational hatred of the president. The shouting down of speakers. The comparisons to Hitler. The fringe taking over the mainstream of the party. The difference is, in the Bush years this was only a caricature of the left. For the right, it's happening before our very eyes.

What's especially amusing is that the protesters at the town halls, egged on by the Tea Party movement and by faux-grassroots groups like FreedomWorks, are adapting tactics often put into use by left-wing college students. Normally when one hears about organized attempts to shout down debate with which the group disagrees, we're talking about a bunch of college activists taking on Ann Coulter or something. Had he lived to see this, Abbie Hoffman would be proud, or perhaps horrified.

Ever since the debate began on health care, Obama's plans have been wildly mischaracterized, from the idea that any horror stories taking place in other countries with universal health care would instantly be replicated here, to the notion, based on a highly dubious reading of one of the bills under consideration, that Obama's plan would euthanize old people.

But this all reached a new low, as is often the case, when Sarah Palin entered the discussion. Writing on her Facebook page, Palin opined on Friday that Obama's health care regime will establish "death panels," so that "his bureaucrats can decide, based on a subjective judgment of their 'level of productivity in society,' whether people such as the elderly, or Palin's own son with Down Syndrome, would be worthy of continuing to live.

Nothing even remotely resembling any such idea has ever been proposed or even considered for a second by anybody in the debate. But hey, it's the media who should "stop makin' stuff up!"

That was the worst part, at least until the Hitler stuff started. Protesters at several of the town halls were shown holding posters with swastikas on them, as if to compare Obama's proposed health care regime with Nazi Germany (because when I hear the word "Nazi," the first thing that comes to mind is "affordable health care.") Nancy Pelosi quickly denounced this, leading to accusations that Pelosi was actually comparing the protesters themselves to Nazis. This, of course, led Rush Limbaugh to say that "there are a lot more similarities between Nancy Pelosi and Adolf Hitler" than Hitler and the protesters. This, in turn, caused Jewish groups to denounce Limbaugh.

(A side debate quickly emerged over whether a logo used by Obama for health care looked like a Nazi symbol if you add a swastika to it. But isn't that true of every logo?)

The answer to all this should be: When arguing American politics, don't compare people to Hitler. Unless someone is committing genocide, they're not "like Hitler." Period. Hey, Obama is known for giving speeches to large crowds! John Bolton has a mustache! Therefore, they're both JUST LIKE HITLER!

There are plenty of legitimate reasons to object to Obama's health care plans. But to just make stuff up, and throw it all the wall to see if it sticks, is nothing short of irresponsible. It's part of the
Republican pattern, in the nascent Obama era, to fight not with the real Obama but a scary, fictional caricature of Obama. He's not a socialist, or a communist, or a Nazi, and he doesn't want to kill your grandparents or your baby.


Once the right realizes those things, we can have a legitimate debate on health care.


2009 North Star Writers Group. May not be republished without permission.


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