GRASSLEY WALKS BACK EUTHANASIA CLAIM?…. Last week, Sen. Chuck Grassley (R-Iowa), the leading Republican lawmaker negotiating a “compromise” on health care reform, publicly defended the ridiculous right-wing “death panel” talk. At a town-hall meeting with constituents, Grassley said, “[Y]ou have every right to fear,” adding, “We should not have a government program that determines if you’re going to pull the plug on grandma.”

It was a new low for the conservative Republican. As Joe Klein, who said the remarks represented “sheer idiocy,” noted, Grassley “either (a) hasn’t the vaguest notion of what’s in the bill or (b) he is so intimidated by the ditto-head-brown-shirts that he is trying to fudge a response to keep them happy. Either way, he should be ashamed.”

Grassley’s office seems to have walked the comments back a bit.

Grassley says he opposes that counseling as written in the House version of the bill, but a spokesman said the senator does not think the House provision would in fact give the government such authority in deciding when and how people die. The House bill allows patients to decide for themselves if they would like such counseling.

Greg Sargent added:

Let’s be clear: By clarifying that Grassley doesn’t think the House bill would “give the government such authority in deciding when and how people die,” his spokesperson completely repudiated his widely discussed claim. This goes much farther than Grassley did in a statement released Friday clarifying he’d never used the words “death panel” and was merely worried about “unintended consequences.”

So, either Grassley made his claim about “grandma” to a crowd in his home state last week and didn’t believe it; or he changed his mind since then.

Of the two choices, the prior seems far more likely. Indeed, it speaks to a larger truth — the D.C. establishment considers Grassley a “moderate” precisely because of episodes like this one. The conservative Republican Iowan heads home and plays the role of far-right hack, while his spokesperson winks and nods, effectively telling the political establishment, “Don’t worry; he didn’t really mean it.”

In this sense, there are two Chuck Grassleys. Alas, both are irresponsible and untrustworthy.

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Steve Benen

Follow Steve on Twitter @stevebenen. 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.