Wednesday, September 09, 2009

Sarah Palin's New Health Care Editorial

So Sarah Palin has an editorial in today's Wall Street Journal. I don't plan to read it.

Sarah, let's talk...

I love your style. You've got a great campaign presence and you say good small-government phrases. And sometimes act upon them.

But the "death panels" post was far, far over the line of acceptable political discourse. I mean, it just wasn't true.

I'm going to guess that you got an email forward that said various inflammatory remarks about Obamacare, got angry, logged into Facebook, started typing, and clicked on "Publish" before either calming down or verifying the information.

I've done that, too. It's embarrassing and hard to live with, but it happened. And you need to take responsibility for it. Just apologize and recant the post. It's okay -- we all make mistakes. It's just important to own up to them.

After you do so, I'd be interested in knowing what you think about public policy issues effecting our country. But not until then.


gavin richardson said...

ahhh, the sarah.

Earl said...

Perhaps she does not care if you call her "darling." Perhaps as much as you take umbrage with her "inflammatory" remarks, when it comes to crossing over the line, you need to consider the sexism of your own remarks.

John said...

Eh, okay. I see your point, Earl. I've removed the word "darling".

John said...

Actually, Earl, since she uses the word "darling" as a term of address, I doubt that she would be offended. But, whatever.

Charles Mana said...

If Sarah Palin is such a non-sequitor then what is all the hub bub about. Why does it bother you boys soooo much when Palin says something. Why is the left so upset just by seeing her somewhere like a ballgame, STUPID LETTERMAN AND HIS PUBERTY STAGE JOKE?
Sarah Palin has power over you people because she has such a devastating effect on you poor boys, you are boys aren't you? Sarah just has to show up somewhere and the Bolsheviks send out the dogs of war trying to shoot her down with any kind of garbage they can drag up against her. I think that you boys should apologize to Palin for being disrespectful. The lady did put herself on the line for her beliefs and not by just sitting at a computer key board in the comfort of home like you chicken shits. Get off your asses and do something constructive and help your country with a positive attitude or are you too sophisticated for that. You boys will never be able to stand up to Sarah Palin. Her charisma alone would blow you away.
Could be you have a problem with women who are stronger than you.
See you cats on the firing line, a fights coming and it's coming soon.

Allan R. Bevere said...


You are certainly correct that Palin's death panels comment was certainly over the top, but if we have to wait until politicians apologize for their stupid over-the-top comments, we won't be reading or listening to any of them on both sides of the aisle.

Wait a minute... maybe that's a good idea after all. :-)

Ed said...

Sarah Palin has been brilliant. If I were in her place, I would have given some long, fretful argument about how all government solutions to social problems become politicized and how small details regarding fiscal incentives in the current plans could, some day, become problematic or even dehumanizing.

She used two words, "Death Panels," and actually got people thinking about these dangers. She understands politics in a way I never will.

Her op-ed in the WSJ was, apropos for that publication, thoughtful and circumspect, although she did defend her use of the phrase hated by those on the left for its efficacy with the great unwashed.

I suppose, John, that you are anxious to avoid looking unwashed yourself. More power to you. So you skipped her op-ed. Your loss.

John said...

She used two words, "Death Panels," and actually got people thinking about these dangers. She understands politics in a way I never will.

She fabricated a quote. That's not acceptable. Brilliant? Maybe. Dishonest? Definitely.

Ed said...

There are no direct quotations in Palin's Facebook page at all except one of Ronald Reagan. Was that fabricated? There weren't even any indirect quotations.

No, John, it's you who are being dishonest here. The quotation marks around "death panels" on Palin's Facebook page were obviously meant to indicate a characterization. Even voices generally unsympathetic to Palin have expressed queasiness about the incentives given to doctors concerning end-of-life counseling. You only need to read the news from countries where the government has taken over funding for health care to know where it could lead.

So was "death panels" inflammatory? Definitely. Palin would say appropriately so. Dishonest? Only to people who are looking to score political points, or those who might agree deep down, but operate under the illusion that the entire political process can be done with "reason alone." I believe that second characterization is where your post is coming from.

I stand by what I wrote.

John said...

Ed, here is Palin's post. She specifically quotes "death panels" and "level of productivity in society".

Here is the bill.

Where in the bill do those phrases appear?

Only to people who are looking to score political points, or those who might agree deep down, but operate under the illusion that the entire political process can be done with "reason alone."

I know that slandering an opponent is a common political tactic. Are you saying that it is a morally acceptable one?

Jeff the Baptist said...

Using quotes means she quote somebody, especially considering that the term "death panel" was in use prior to anything she has published. Does she ever falsely attribute those words language in the bill? I rechecked her post and she does not. She's probably using the quotes to distance herself from terms and language she did not create or initiate.

Now you can certainly consider that language inflammatory, but you're essentially accusing her of doing something she never did.

John said...

If she's quoting something other than the bill, then she should say who. She's had the opportunity to clarify who she's quoting, but never has. Given that she's talking about the content of the bill, I think that it's reasonable to conclude that she quoting the bill. And I think that's what the average reader would conclude, too.

Jeff the Baptist said...

"If she's quoting something other than the bill, then she should say who."

I agree, but I don't require Facebook posts to be MLA compliant. Ideally she should have linked those quotes to something, but she didn't. I considered her usage to be similar to someone using air quotes in a conversation. I tried tracking down the source of those quotes but I get swamped by commentary on her post. "Death Panels" is definitely a right wing buzzword. "Usefulness to society" is probably something a foolish lefty associated with the Administration or Congress said that was latched onto by the right.

On the other hand I find no evidence to lead me to believe she is quoting the bill. Especially since there is no single definitive version of the bill. At the time 3 versions were floating through House Committees and at least one more was going through the Senate. All have significant substantive differences.

John said...

I think that if a writer is analyzing one document and refers to the document with certain phrases in quotation marks, then it's reasonable to conclude that the writer is quoting the document.

Air quotes are, in my experience, used to expression sarcasm or euphemism, so I don't see how they would fit into what Palin seems to be trying to convey. To the contrary, she is being serious, rather than sarcastic, and sharp, rather than euphemistic.

There are multiple versions of the bill, but I haven't seen any that contain these phrases.

bob said...

Even the Democrats aren't stupid enough to use the actual words death panel in a bill. But if they have a board making life and death decisions what would you call said board.

John said...

But if they have a board making life and death decisions what would you call said board.

I've read that section of the bill, and I don't see any board like that described.

Anonymous said...

I agree that the use of quotes wasn't meant to imply an actual word for word quote.

And I think that that doesn't make it any less a lie.

The intent of the message, clearly, was to convince people to believe that Democrats want to use health reforms to euthanize old people and disabled children. The message she was trying to convey was a lie.

I find Ed's comments to be deeply cynical. I'm one of those people that thinks that truth-- Truth, even-- matters. That words have meaning and how we use those words makes a difference. That saying something that is not true just because "it could possibly be in a way true if you think about it from a certain creative point of view" is wrong.

Are "death panels," or any equivalent of death panels, on the agenda? No. Is Sarah Palin aware of this? Yes. Does this make Sarah Palin a liar, regardless of quotations marks? Um... yes. Yes it does.

Let me illustrate.

"Ed beats his children."

Is this true?

"Well, you know, it's a good tactic to use, because it cuts right to the heart of things, because whether Ed beats his children or not, I think we need to realize human frailty and I'm uncomfortable giving anyone too much power or too much responsibility, so that, you know, it's possible that Ed would do that sort of thing some day if he had the power, like he might not always handle it responsibly, so I stand by that statement."

When did just plain old truth stop mattering? When did convservatives stop believing in plain old right and wrong, stop thinking that bearing false witness was bad stuff?

Ed said...

Jockeystreet, call me cynical if you like, but you are being a little too simplistic about truth or Truth yourself. In Isaiah 44, the prophet, speaking under divine inspiration (as I believe, anyway) characterizes idolators as people who don't realize that they are worshiping a block of wood. Now, we know from archaeology and what we can piece together of ancient thought that no one felt that way; the ancients were much more sophisticated than that in their thinking. So, is God a liar in Isaiah 44? I doubt very much that the prophet could have produced the equivalent of 'death panels' in contemporary thought about gods. But then again, maybe there was a larger truth he was trying to draw people's attention to with his heated poetry.

In our day, one could write long articles (as have been written) with lots of hand-wringing about how government incentives even in developed countries have moved inexorably toward euthanasia under socialized medicine. One could write articles reading the tea leaves in VA documents like "Your Life, Your Choice" or, in fact, the bill at hand.

Or, if you wanted to get people's attention, you could talk about "death panels."

Using John's standard of "apologize or I'll never read another thing you write," there must be a very long list of the quarantined. As I wrote to him, it's his loss.

And my children are doing quite fine, thank you.

Anonymous said...

Not there with you, Ed. Not even close.

Is there rational reason to believe that anything in the proposed health care reforms is going to lead to killing old people and disabled children?


Did Palin suggest otherwise?


Is that a lie?

Probably. I'm assuming she knew better. I am not overly impressed with Palin's intellectual fitness, but I'm giving her the benefit of the doubt here.

Is this a pattern? Has Palin often said things that one would assume she probably knew to not be true?


For me, that puts her pretty much on the unacceptable, unfit-to-lead, best-left-ignored list. I may in fact be a little simplistic, but I am an enthusiastic supportive of honesty, decency, basic human integrity, that kind of stuff. Exaggeration, figures of speech, slight twists to make a point... that's part of politics. I get that. Telling people that your political opponents want to kill their grandmothers and their retarded children is either true (which in this case it's not), or else it's terribly indecent.

Again, call me old fashioned, I'm against bearing false witness.

bob said...

Jockeystreet wrote The intent of the message, clearly, was to convince people to believe that Democrats want to use health reforms to euthanize old people and disabled children. The message she was trying to convey was a lie.

No one believes any one wants to euthanize old or disabled people. People do believe that the bill will bring about these results

What people intend is irrelevent it's what actually happens. As we analyze the bill we need to look several steps ahead to see where it might lead.

John said...

Bob wrote:

No one believes any one wants to euthanize old or disabled people. People do believe that the bill will bring about these results

If Palin had said, "This bill will lead to the development of death panels that will euthanize or deny medical treatment to people on the basis of their contributions to society. Here is my reasoning...." Then she should at least be heard. She may even have a point.

But that is not what Palin said. This is:

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.

Ed said...

I'd like to think better of a self-described old-fashioned [conservative] than you leave me with your supercilious dismissal of Sarah Palin.

The mask has dropped a little when you say you are unimpressed with her intellect (determined from what? Interviews with Charlie Gibson? Chain emails?) and convinced that she has "often" knowingly spoken untruths. You know, I heard that she loves burning books, and that her last pregnancy might have been faked, too.

Thus might the faux conservative intellectuals early in the last century dismissed the populist W.J. Bryan, sipping their brandy with H.L.Mencken and making smart comments about how "no one ever went broke underestimating the intelligence of the American public." You know, a majority of Americans still believe, with Bryan, that human origins don't involve a natural descent from monkeys? What idiots. We all know what happened millions of years before we were born, don't we?

Sorry, your appeals to morality are starting to seem a little affected to me.

Anonymous said...

I'm sorry Ed, I remain unimpressed with her intellect. But you're right that it's not a nice thing to say. I don't think she has the intellectual stamina to be a leader, and I think that was made very clear in the campaign. I think she hid behind catch phrases and a certain sort of "sincerity" or "emotion" or whatever as often as possible, and I think that in interview after interview, in speeches and debates, there was something missing on the intellectual side. I don't think that my paragraph was too terribly mean-spirited. I think that she is not intellectually fit to be president, but I think that she is definitely smart enough to know that the things she is saying are simply not true. If I thought she didn't know, I couldn't call it a "lie." But I think that she does know.

That said, I can see how that line could have been a little less snotty.

I don't at all see how a "mask" is being dropped when I say that this isn't the first time that Palin lied. Is it impolite to call a lie a lie? Immoral, even? I don't buy that. Comparing actual complaints and objections to crazy talk about burning books and faking pregnancies is a little unfair, don't you think?

Ed said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Ed said...

OK, thanks for yielding a bit in your reply. It definitely lowers my hostility down a notch or two.

You and I must agree to disagree about Sarah Palin. One man's populist is another man's demagogue, I suppose. The jury is still out on how things will work out, but I would be far less surprised than you, if I read you correctly, if she goes far on the national stage eventually.

But I do have one quibble still. What specific untruths were you referring to, to say she has "often" lied? I mentioned email slurs because I honestly don't know what policy-related untruths you would claim--besides the 'death panels' one, obviously. Another chance to agree to disagree.

Anonymous said...

Off the top of my head...

I think there was an awful lot of stuff that crossed the line regarding character attacks during the campaign. I get that in a campaign you're supposed to question the abilities of your opponent and whatnot, but the "palling around with terrorist" stuff got to be far too much. Not because I didn't like to see Obama criticized, but because the way that whole attack was framed was a distortion, a deliberate distortion, that got people fired up in a very unpositive, scary sort of way. I would put that in the ballpark of "lying," but you could "deliberately misleading" or "grossly exaggerating" because she never actually said "Obama supports people who want to blow you up at your church." The spirit of it was beyond the normal distortions, the spirit of it was a lie.

The "Bridge to Nowhere" stuff was just pretty demonstrably untrue. I mean, I don't see that as much of a question. It was on the level of Hillary landing under sniper fire, which completely disgusted me. Just plain old fiction. I have the (slightly) bigger problem with Palin because at least Clinton, when called out on it, admitted that she "misremembered" or whatever, whereas Palin just kept repeating that untruth.

Then there's her strange interpretation of the report that came out saying that while she had violated ethics Alaskan ethics laws in that whole trooper deal, she hadn't done anything that was prosecutable. Her interpretation of this was "the report said that I was innocent of any and all ethics violations" (my paraphrase, but close to word for word, I think), which is a strange interpretation of "you violated ethics laws," and could be construed by some as a distortion, or, more bluntly, a lie.

I think that the constant cries of "socialism," on the campaign trail and since, verge on lies, but I can't say that as an absolute. It's quite possible that Palin and many of the others who are this riled up either don't have a full understanding of what constitutes real socialism, or are too fired up to look at their opponents' ideas objectively, and so actually believe that they are battling socialists. In that case they would be guilty of poor judgment and a lack of clear thinking, but not lies. If I'm generous and think that Sarah Palin does have a real grasp of socialism and that she has calmly evaluated the things she's crying out against, I lean toward a little toward "she's lying," but there's wiggle room there.

And so on.

And, of course, "death panels."

This stuff creates the impression for me that Palin has a less than rock solid relationship with the truth, and is willing to distort facts and throw ugly smears on her opponents for her own political gain.

Couple this with a deep disdain for the things she says that aren't lies, and I have a very low opinion of the woman.

You're wrong on that one piece, though. I won't be surprised at all if she goes very, very far on the national stage. Disappointed, disillusioned with my fellow citizens, but not remotely surprised. Going far on the national stage doesn't require decency or intellectual savvy or competence as much as it requires the ability to get people riled up and chanting catch phrases. "Drill, baby, drill!" is what we've settled for for political discourse. Subtly, intelligence, and calm leadership get shouted down. To some degree, on both sides of the aisle, though I would argue that in recent years the right has gotten this down to a dark science.

Anonymous said...

It's been a long day. I hope that the above is readable what with all the typos, run-ons, and such. Reading over it, I got confused myself once or twice.

Ed said...

Thanks for the comment. I understand where you're coming from better now.

Most informative to me were your words, "to some degree on both sides of the aisle, but I...." It is an inescapable human weakness to see the sins of those with whom we differ ideologically as worse than those with whom we agree. I am hardly immune from this phenomenon as well, and while it is something assiduously to be guarded against, like water in a leaky basement it is a never-ending struggle.

I had been assuming that you something of a right-winger yourself, but your general statement about how the right is worse than the left about shouting down calm discourse leaves me with no doubt that, however you might characterize yourself, you are not in sympathy with the right deep down. That's just fine with me. I spent a decade living in progressive New England and I've got loads of good friends who are progressive. I am not.

My anger with your comments came from a misunderstanding. I apologize for that--if I understood where you were coming from, I would have said things differently if at all.

The one thing I will say in specific response to your last comment is to cheer up. No country has ever had people, on balance, smarter and more sensitive to political matters than the USA. Is there still idiocy? Loads of it--and how will it ever not be so? You and I might not see idiocy in the same places, and that's a rub. But based on my reading of political and religious history, which is not inconsequential, the US has never been a place of "[Subtlety], intelligence and calm leadership" as a trio. There is plenty of intelligence here anyway. All our greatest leaders have seen it.

Anonymous said...

I appreciate the response, Ed.

And it's funny. No one has ever mistaken me for a conservative before. I am generally considered "far left." Not, I hope, the crazy left, but certainly subscribe to what most would consider more radically left philosophies. And a good number of my closest friends are libertarians and Glenn Beck fans, so go figure.