SPECULATION BASED ON NOTHING…. OK, just one more item about Michael Steele’s health care op-ed. This argument helps capture the seriousness with which the RNC chairman is approach the reform debate:

[W]e need to prevent government from dictating the terms of end-of-life care. Many of the most significant costs of care come in the last six months of a patient’s life, and every American household must consider how to treat their loved ones. Obama’s government-run health “reform” would pay for seniors’ meetings with a doctor to discuss end-of-life care. While nonthreatening at first, something that is quite normal for a family to do becomes troublesome when the government gets involved…. The government should simply butt out of conversations about end-of-life care and leave them to seniors, their families and their doctors.

A month ago, at a press conference, Steele struggled to even understand the basics of health care reform. Asked about basic details, Steele replied, “I don’t do policy.” He should have stuck to his instincts.

We talked earlier about the errors of fact and judgment in Steele’s op-ed, but this argument about end-of-life care is a special kind of nonsense.

Steele concedes that reimbursing seniors who voluntarily choose to speak to their doctor about end-of-life care is fine. He adds, however, that this could become “troublesome.” How could reimbursements become “troublesome”? Steele doesn’t know. What in the bill leads him to think it might be “troublesome”? Steele doesn’t know. It’s just ridiculous speculation based on nothing.

The kicker is the irony. Steele wants the government to “butt out” of these issues, leaving end-of-life care matters “to seniors, their families and their doctors.” But the surest way to have the government “butt out” is for seniors to have these end-of-life discussions in the first place. Reimbursements help guarantee that government won’t needlessly intervene.

As Sen. Johnny Isakson, a conservative Republican from Georgia, recently explained, having an end-of-life directives or a living will “empowers you to be able to make decisions at a difficult time rather than having the government making them for you.”

Steele has been struggling with this issue for a while. Last week, the RNC chairman said he doesn’t regret “death panel” lies because the confusion is “out there in the grassroots of America.” Asked if the imaginary provision actually exists in the legislation, Steele said, “It may or may not be. I don’t know…. I think that’s a legitimate point. You don’t have to call it death panels if you don’t want to. You can call it a panel. I call it rationing.”

In August 2009, the chairman of a major American political party understands health care policy about as well as a small child. It says quite a bit about the quality of the debate.

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.