By Lindsay Beyerstein, TMC MediaWire Blogger
By now it's clear that the Senate Finance Committee won't cough up a healthcare bill before the summer recess. As Nick Bauman points out in Mother Jones, the delay is sure to sap momentum for reform. Worse, the break will give healthcare reform's opponents more time to spread fear, uncertainty, and doubt. Disinformation is already running wild.
Dave Weigel of the Washington Independent points to July 31 memo from House Minority Leader John Boehner (R-Ohio) entitled "A Very Hot Summer," in which he announces that the GOP has launched an "entrepreneurial insurgency" against healthcare reform.
And now the National Republican Congressional Committee (NRCC) is openly celebrating the angry mobs of anti-reform protesters that are disrupting town hall meetings and shouting down pro-reform Democrats, as Eric Kleefeld of TPM DC notes. "Roaring Chants Interrupt Healthcare PR Campaign As Dems Lose Their Cool and Town Halls Turn Into 'Town Hells'," gloats one NRCC email message to reporters. This campaign's official logo depicts a donkey being roasted alive.
If the reformers used the NRCC's playbook, reporters would be deluged with retaliatory tweets claiming that teabaggers are killing babies and raping old women, but facts are stubborn things. As of press time, the Pulse is not aware of any ritual sacrifices by teabaggers at townhall meetings.
Steve Benen of the Washington Monthly warns that the GOP's strategy to egg on the wingnuts could have unintended consequences:
"It's probably the one angle the corporate interests and their lobbyists haven't considered: the unintended consequences of rallying confused right-wing activists to shout down policymakers who'll improve their health care coverage. Once you wind up the fanatics and point them in the direction of a town-hall meeting, you never really know what they're going to say, do, wear, or hold. In at least one case at the Doggett event, there really was a sign with Nazi "SS" lettering."
Top Obama adviser David Axelrod denounced groups like Conservatives for Patients Rights for stoking the protesters. Axelrod pledged to aggressively combat misinformation about the Obama administration's reform plan, as Rachel Slajda of TPM reports. Is it a coincidence that Axelrod was abruptly issued a Secret Service detail this week without explanation?
In the American Prospect, Paul Waldman describes how Republican members of Congress are promulgating the urban legend that the healthcare bill includes mandatory euthanasia:
"In some tellings, government bureaucrats will visit the elderly to force them to choose their manner of death. In another, their doctors will be required to "tell them how to end their life sooner" (this one is being popularized by Betsy McCaughey, as despicable a merchant of lies as has ever slithered through our public debate). One GOP member of Congress after another has simply dispensed with all the complexity and said that the Democratic health plan will cause seniors to be "put to death by their government" or some variation thereof."
The rumor grew out of a provision to reimburse doctors for end-of-life care, including discussions of living wills, as Waldman explains.
Speaking of misinformation, Rep. Kent Sorenson (R-Iowa) is tweeting nonsense about a shadowy healthcare commissioner who decide's everything for you, as Jason Hancock of the Iowa Independent reports. "Page 42 healthcare bill 'Health Choices Commissioner' will decide health benefits for you. You will have NO choice," Sorenson breathlessly informed his followers. In fact, according to an analysis by the Pullitzer Prize-winning website PoliFact, the healthcare commissioner would regulate insurance companies to make sure they don't exclude people for preexisting conditions.
At the rate misinformation is mutating, perhaps Republicans will have convinced themselves that the bill will create Health Care Commissar who will involuntarily euthanize you and make your grandmother have an abortion by tomorrow morning.
Congress will return from summer break on September 4. Expect heated rhetoric and increasingly frenzied political theater in the weeks ahead.
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