Sarah Palin Claims "Death Panels" Will Kill Son; Gingrich AgreesS

By all accounts, Sarah Palin's recent comments that health care reform would bring her son Trig before a "death panel" should be recognized as lunacy. Instead, Newt Gingrich is backing them up.

For those of you not yet familiar with this particular bit of Paliniana, on Friday, Palin wrote on her Facebook page,

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.

Says Time's Karen Tumulty, "Yes, such a system would indeed be downright evil. Which is why no one is proposing anything like it." Palin appears to be basing this latest bit of batshittery on a Republican-backed (and AARP-endorsed) portion of the health care reform bill that would require Medicare to pay for seniors to receive counseling on such issues as living wills. According to the bill, these optional counseling sessions would include,

An explanation by the practitioner of advance care planning, including key questions and considerations, important steps, and suggested people to talk to; an explanation by the practitioner of advance directives, including living wills and durable powers of attorney, and their uses; an explanation by the practitioner of the role and responsibilities of a health care proxy.

They would not include, say, death by firing squad, or the forced euthanasia of kids with Down's Syndrome. CNN's David Balz implies that Palin's claims are simply stupid, saying, "It's not the way to debate this bill, and it's another example of Sarah Palin having difficulty figuring out how to enter into a serious debate about issues." But Palin may well know exactly what she's doing. Here's her oh-so-sober message (also via Facebook) to followers to quit disrupting town hall meetings on health care:

There are many disturbing details in the current bill that Washington is trying to rush through Congress, but we must stick to a discussion of the issues and not get sidetracked by tactics that can be accused of leading to intimidation or harassment. Such tactics diminish our nation's civil discourse which we need now more than ever because the fine print in this outrageous health care proposal must be understood clearly and not get lost in conscientious voters' passion to want to make elected officials hear what we are saying. Let's not give the proponents of nationalized health care any reason to criticize us.

This makes her sound like a wise statesman, not a lie-spreading demagogue, but Timothy Egan at the Times asks,

is it any wonder that some are moved to violent threats, given the level of misinformation being injected into the system? If you really believed that Obama was going to kill your baby and euthanize your parents, well - why not act in self defense?

Dropping an incredibly disturbing and baseless allegation into the national discourse, then urging your supporters not to get too mad about it, sounds a lot like the tactics the McCain campaign used when it darkly hinted that Obama "palled around with terrorists" — then acted all shocked when people said he was a Muslim terrorist himself. Inflaming your base and then pulling back isn't stupid politics, it's smart — as long as you only care about spreading misinformation, and not about debating the actual issues.

Palin's even getting some help with her lies from none other than Newt Gingrich, who had the following conversation on ABC with George Stephanopoulos yesterday:

GINGRICH: I think people are very concerned, when you start talking about cost controls, that a bureaucracy — we don't — you're asking us to trust the government. Now, I'm not talking about the Obama administration. I'm talking about the government. You're asking us to decide that we believe that the government is to be trusted.

We know people who have said routinely, well, you're going to have to make decisions. You're going to have to decide. Communal standards historically is a very dangerous concept.

STEPHANOPOULOS: It's not in the bill.

GINGRICH: But the bill's — the bill's 1,000 pages of setting up mechanisms. It sets up 45 different agencies. It has all sorts of panels. You're asking us to trust turning power over to the government, when there clearly are people in America who believe in — in establishing euthanasia, including selective standards.

Gingrich brilliantly uses both vagueness and fear-mongering here, threatening innocent Americans with "all sorts of panels." One of these has to be a death panel, right? The strangest part of the exchange is when he reiterates the danger of trusting the government, but then references "people in America" who believe in euthanasia. This actually makes it sound like it's voters we shouldn't trust — and after all, they do elect the government, so clearly they're suspect. Clearly, we should put our trust where it belongs — with health care companies.

It shouldn't really be a surprise, though, that Gingrich has hopped on the Palin bandwagon. Nor is it surprising that town halls have turned nasty, "forcing" Palin to calm everybody down with her well-known consensus-building skills. That's kind of what happens when the Republican party plants people to, oh, turn town halls nasty, and keep any actual debate on the issues from taking place.

Sarah, Sarah, Sarah... [Time]
Palin Urges Restraint At Town Halls [Politico]
Palin's Poison [NYT]
GOP Rep. Kingston Separates Himself From Palin: There Are ‘No Death Panels' [ThinkProgress]