Thursday, August 20, 2009

Joe Klein's Hypocrisy on Palin and Schiavo

Joe Klein has an article in Time Magazine today asserting the Republican party has become a party of nihilists. Klein's allegation is based on his interpretation of Sarah Palin's "death panel" statement and the subsequent failure of the Republican Party to challenge her statement. Having two aging parents himself, Klein reports being in the midst of a difficult end-of-life discussion with his father when he heard Sarah Palin's charge, "the Obama Administration's attempt to include such issues in its health-care-reform proposal would lead to 'death panels'." Klein seems to suffer from the selective hearing disorder some men experience when it comes to listening to women.

Klein never quotes Palin directly because, of course, he can not. Palin simply never made the statement he ascribes to her. Sarah Palin's first statement does not even mention the end of life counseling, her statement focuses on rationing. Her subsequent statement draws a distinction between end of life counseling and rationing:
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.”
Klein addresses none of this, he seems to prefer to conflate the end of life counseling provision that was removed with a rationing board or "death panel" which has not been removed.

Klein's difficulty in discussing end-of-life provisions with his parents appears to be frustrating him. He ascribes his failure to engage in a fruitful discussion on this subject to both a lack of standing and strategic experience. He seems certain an independent authority figure is the solution. He goes on to state:
And this is what the "death panels" are all about: making end-of-life counseling free and available through Medicare. (I'd make it mandatory, based on recent experience, but hey, I'm not entirely clearheaded on the subject right now.)
No, obviously he is not clearheaded because Palin's "death panel" statement had nothing to do with making end-of-life counseling free and available through Medicare as shown above. Nevertheless, is the absence of free counseling through Medicare really what is preventing him from convincing his father to make end-of-life decisions? Assuming high profile journalists who also happen to be best selling authors still make a decent living, does he really lack access to a lawyer? Has his father's doctor refused to discuss these issues because he is unable to be reimbursed? Does anyone really believe that doctors are doing this without reimbursement now? Does Medicare really deny payment to a doctor who answers questions about end-of-life care? Let's be honest, Klein wants someone else to convince his father to make these decisions when he himself cannot.

Klein argues he is being critical of the current crop of GOP pols when he has been critical of Dems on other occasions. This is true, I found the perfect example. In April 2005 during the height of the Terri Schiavo controversy Klein wrote:
Democrats would be wise to stow their satisfaction and give careful consideration to what thoughtful conservatives are saying about the role of the judiciary in our public life because the issue is about to get a lot more contentious.

The Schiavo case has provoked a passionate American conversation, which is taking place on a more profound level than the simple yes and no answers of the polls. Yes, the vast majority disdain the politicians who chose to exploit the case. And yes, a solid majority would not want their own lives prolonged in a similar situation. But the questions that cut closest to home are the family issues. What would you do if Terri Schiavo were your daughter? Why couldn't Michael Schiavo just give custody over to the parents? What do we do about custody in a society where the parent-child bond is more durable than many marriages? The President's solution, to "err on the side of life," seems the only humane answer—if there is a dispute between parents and spouse, and the disabled person has left no clear instruction.
Klein sees things quite differently now, however:
The same people who rail against a government takeover of health care tried to enforce a government takeover of Terri Schiavo's end-of-life decisions. And when Palin floated the "death panel" canard, the number of prominent Republicans who rose up to call her out could be counted on one hand.
Klein seems to forget there was a dispute over Schiavo's end-of-life decisions that was brought into the courts. When Schiavo had no clear instruction, not unlike Klein's father I might add, Klein found President Bush's solution humane. Yet, the same humane parental concern that drove President Bush to urge we "err on the side of life," is the portion of Palin's formulation Klein refuses to hear.

Moreover, there is great concern that the same group that was on the side of pulling Terri's tube, is suddenly going to be erring on the side of life when collective memory suggests they will not. Perhaps Klein is fine with his father being guided through this decision process with decision aids such as the one used with Veterans. This decision aid was dropped during the Bush Administration, but has been resuscitated under Obama's. Suppose Klein's father at age 89 would benefit from a pacemaker as did Jane Sturm's mother, will Klein's father get the surgery or be told he'd be better off with the painkiller? Klein may be fine putting his parents and millions of aging and vulnerable people in the hands of a system that promises to cut costs, " 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." Sarah Palin was not fine with that nor were the other GOP nihilists who refused to call her "canard." If that is what constitutes an obscenity in Klein's opinion, perhaps his father is right to be reluctant to grant him durable power of attorney.

For further discussion see Pundette's post "NICE QALY you got there"

Verum Serum takes Joe Klein's fallacious argument apart as well.

See also Piece of Work in Progress , "Joe Klein Freaks Out"


  1. Klein is like most liberals, and even most so-called conservatives, they did not actually read or comprehend what Palin was talking about.  They just blundered ahead and commented upon what they heard others who neither read or comprehended what she had said.  I actually read the posts she made, and understood perfectly what she was talking about.  It really is a shame that when it comes to Sarah Palin, anything goes, as long as it makes her look bad.  Maybe that is why she felt it necessary to tell the media to "stop making things up."  Unfortunately, they apparently didn't hear or comprehend what she was talking about then either. 

  2. Nice catch on that 2005 statement by Klein. I was too lazy to look that up.

    But seriously, what the hell is he saying? He was for Terry Schiavo before he was against her?

  3. Who knows?  I think you're conclusion was right this was more about his side losing and needing someone to blame.  The supposed Terri Schiavo hyprisy is something they think worked against us before so they trotted it out again.

  4. You're exactly right, they take what she says and twist it to paint whatever picture suits their message of the day.  You must be one of the men who has no trouble with selective hearing disorder 8-)


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