National Review’s Circular Firing Squad



I realize that I’m a day late and a dollar short on posting about yesterday’s National Review editorial.  At the end they wrote:

To conclude from these possibilities to the accusation that President Obama’s favored legislation will lead to “death panels” deciding whose life has sufficient value to be saved — let alone that Obama desires this outcome — is to leap across a logical canyon. It may well be that in a society as litigious as ours, government will err on the side of spending more rather than treating less. But that does not mean that there is nothing to worry about. Our response to Sarah Palin’s fans and her critics is to paraphrase Peter Viereck: We should be against hysteria — including hysteria about hysteria. (emphasis is mine)

Have they heard of hyperbole?  Nobody is saying that Government is going to come in and turn off life support after a panel says no.  But the effect of health care rationing will result in deciding what treatment is worth spending money on and whose is not.  They even say earlier in the editorial that…

Even in a mixed system with a large governmental role, the government’s decision not to pay for a treatment — again, a decision that must inevitably be made many times — will have the practical effect of denying care.

They themselves recognize this, but then have to take a shot at those using “death panel” language, in particular, Sarah Palin, a person that most of the NRO writers love to hate.  I understand that Mitt is their guy, but at a time that we are facing this monstrosity of a health care bill should we criticizing those against it because you don’t like the lingo being used?

It worked.  Thomas Sowell points out the seriousness of this bill, and I think that it calls for the hyperbole that was used – “death panels.”  Sowell writes:

The current “health care” bill threatens to take life-and-death decisions out of the hands of individuals and their doctors, transferring those decisions to Washington bureaucrats.

People are taking that personally– as they should. Your life and death, and that of your loved ones, is as personal as it gets.

Shouldn’t we be outraged?  Given the context of the bill, using “death panel” language when discussing the end-of-life consultation that was offered in the bill is appropriate because of the potential of that taking place.  I wrote on August 14th when Senator Grassley announced that Section 1233 of HR 3200:

This issue is far from being debunked, as some would claim.  There isn’t consensus.  No one is saying that “death panel” and euthanasia language exists in the bill, but the implication is there.  There is wiggle room, and it could be interpreted that way.  Don’t think so?  Look at Oregon and see what rationing health care can get you.  So score one for Governor Sarah Palin, she was right on this issue and it needed to be framed in philosophical terms that Americans can understand.

Oregon provides us with yet another example of health care rationing and the state making life and death decisions for those in the program.  Do we really think this wouldn’t happen at the Federal level?

National Review seems to be missing the larger picture as Sowell points out:

As for a “death panel,” no politician would ever use that phrase when trying to get a piece of legislation passed. “End of life” care under the “guidance” of “some independent group” sounds so much nicer– and these are the terms President Obama used in an interview with the New York Times back on April 14th.

He said, “the chronically ill and those toward the end of their lives are accounting for potentially 80 percent of the total health care bill out there.” He added: “It is very difficult to imagine the country making those decisions just through the normal political channels. That is why you have to have some independent group that can give you guidance.”

But when you select people like Dr. Ezekiel Emanuel to give “independent” guidance, you have already chosen a policy through your choice of advisors, who simply provide political cover. The net result can be exactly the same as if those providing that guidance were openly called “death panels.”

Mark Steyn concurs with Sowell when discussing President Obama’s pledge not to “pull the plug on Grandma.”

The problem with government health systems is not that they pull the plug on Grandma. It’s that Grandma has a hell of a time getting plugged in in the first place. The only way to “control costs” is to restrict access to treatment, and the easiest people to deny treatment to are the oldsters. Don’t worry, it’s all very scientific. In Britain, they use a “Quality-Adjusted Life Year” formula to decide that you don’t really need that new knee because you’re gonna die in a year or two, maybe a decade-and-a-half tops. So it’s in the national interest for you to go around hobbling in pain rather than divert “finite resources” away from productive members of society to a useless old geezer like you. And you’d be surprised how quickly geezerdom kicks in: A couple of years back, some Quebec facilities were attributing death from hospital-contracted infection of anyone over 55 to “old age.” Well, he had a good innings. He was 57.

I guess the National Review thinks that Thomas Sowell and Mark Steyn are just being hysterical as well.  Fortunately not all of NRO’s staff believes this, as Andy McCarthy, provided dissent to the editorial:

I don’t see any wisdom in taking a shot at Governor Palin at this moment when, finding themselves unable to defend the plan against her indictment, Democrats have backed down and withdrawn their “end-of-life counseling” boards. Palin did a tremendous service here. Opinion elites didn’t like what the editors imply is the “hysteria” of her “death panels” charge. Many of those same elites didn’t like Ronald Reagan’s jarring “evil empire” rhetoric. But “death panels” caught on with the public just like “evil empire” did because, for all their “heat rather than light” tut-tutting, critics could never quite discredit it. (“BusHitler,” by contrast, did not catch on with the public because it was so easily refuted.)

The editors implicitly concede that Palin is on to something. Indeed, from an Obamaesque perch, they find themselves admonishing both “Sarah Palin’s fans and her critics.” With due respect, there’s a right side and a wrong side on this one. Above the fray is not gonna cut it.

Sure, the editors acknowledge, there’s lots of reason to be worried that we’re speeding down the road toward euthanasia and that Obamacare could make things worse. But it’s somehow “to leap across a logical canyon” to suggest that death panels are imminent or that they are what Obama wants.

Basically, the National Review needs to decide whose team they are playing on.  They put themselves into a position of defending a bill that is indefensible which either makes them an Obamacare lapdog, horribly naive, or worse yet, playing politics trying to knock a potential rival to their beloved Mitt.  All at the expense of letting their guard down in opposing this bill.

The National Review editorial staff killed their own credibility with a circular firing squad.  Time to look for a different standard bearer for conservative values.  If their advice were followed we wouldn’t have seen any progress made on this issue.

Side note: Josh Painter has a good reaction round-up to this editorial.

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