Conservative senator calls Palin argument ‘nuts’

CONSERVATIVE SENATOR CALLS PALIN ARGUMENT ‘NUTS’…. The health care reform bills working their way through Congress include a provision that shouldn’t be controversial. Medicare would pay for voluntary counseling sessions on advance care planning between patients and physicians. It’s a sound investment for the government, and is an idea that has traditionally drawn Republican support.

Now, however, a wide variety of right-wing voices want to convince people that the idea will lead to the government euthanizing seniors and the disabled. Sarah Palin is warning of “death panels,” an idea that’s been endorsed by Newt Gingrich, Glenn Beck, and assorted Fox News personalities, including Brian Kilmeade.

Ezra Klein asked Sen. Johnny Isakson (R) of Georgia, a long-time advocate of expanding Medicare end-of-life planning coverage, to help explain why this common-sense idea has suddenly become an attack against reform. Isakson responded:

“I have no idea. I understand — and you have to check this out — I just had a phone call where someone said Sarah Palin’s web site had talked about the House bill having death panels on it where people would be euthanized. How someone could take an end of life directive or a living will as that is nuts. You’re putting the authority in the individual rather than the government. I don’t know how that got so mixed up.

“It empowers you to be able to make decisions at a difficult time rather than having the government making them for you…. And it’s a voluntary deal.”

Good answer. Actually, it’s more than a good answer; it’s the truth.

Isakson said he doesn’t know how this “got so mixed up.” I think I have some idea — professional liars decided that deception was the easiest way to destroy health care reform, so they latched onto this vile nonsense in the hopes of conning Americans who might not know better.*

I should add that Isakson is not a moderate. When I noted over the weekend that David Brooks called Palin’s argument “crazy,” some responded that Brooks isn’t conservative enough to count as criticism from the “right.” Isakson, however, is a genuine, Grade A, far-right senator from the Deep South, and he thinks Palin’s argument is “nuts.” Assorted wingnuts and Tea Baggers may not believe the administration, Democrats, objective news sources, or the plain black-and-white text of the legislation, but they should at least be willing to consider reality from one of the Senate’s most conservative members.

So, it’s time to put Republicans on the spot, starting with Newt Gingrich. Sarah Palin thinks voluntary advance care planning creates “death panels”; Johnny Isakson thinks that’s “nuts.” Who do you think is right?

* edited for clarity

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Steve Benen

Steve Benen is a producer at MSNBC's The Rachel Maddow Show. He was the principal contributor to the Washington Monthly's Political Animal blog from August 2008 until January 2012.