ISAKSON REGRETS TELLING THE TRUTH…. At the town-hall discussion in New Hampshire yesterday, President Obama addressed the ridiculous “death panel” argument the right has been carelessly throwing round. He noted, “The irony is that actually one of the chief sponsors of this bill originally was a Republican — then House member, now senator, named Johnny Isakson from Georgia — who very sensibly thought this is something that would expand people’s options. And somehow it’s gotten spun into this idea of ‘death panels.’”
The president’s remark came soon after Isakson told Ezra Klein that Sarah Palin’s attacks on this are “nuts.” Isakson added, “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.”
The problem, from Isakson’s perspective, is that he’s now inadvertently defended reality, when his party is committed to doing the opposite. Republican senators aren’t supposed to debunk nonsensical talking points; they’re supposed to repeat nonsensical talking points.
So, Isakson is left with an awkward task: walking back honest support for his own proposal.
“Isakson vehemently opposes the House and Senate health care bills, and he played no role in drafting language added to the House bill by House Democrats calling for the government to incentivize doctors by offering them money to conduct end-of-life counseling,” Isakson’s office said in a statement.
But Isakson did sponsor a Senate health committee amendment in July, which would allow anyone who participates in a long-term health benefit to receive living will and power of attorney counseling. Isakson offices says the difference with his amendment is that it allows patients to ask for help on these issues instead of incentivizing doctors who take Medicare to provide this counseling.
Isakson is trying to emphasize a difference that hardly exists. As Marc Ambinder explained, “In reality, the Senate language and the House bill pretty much do the same thing. Both expand the information and choices made available to the terminally ill. Both would incentivize the same behavior by doctors. Neither would create a death panel. Neither mandates counseling.”
Isakson defended reality for a few minutes, and Democrats appreciated it. As a result, Isakson now feels the need to backpedal, which in and of itself is a sign of the times.