Rep. Earl Blumenauer (D-OR) reflects on the history of the “death panel” lie, and names some names:
The Speaker Gingrich I served with a decade ago would have been appalled at the blatant and repeated falsehoods of the Newt Gingrich of 2009.
People like Senator Chuck Grassley, a Iowa Republican, were now parroting these falsehoods in their town meetings and letting it drive their policy decisions. (Mr. Grassley: “We should not have a government program that determines if you’re going to pull the plug on Grandma.”) When the most extreme elements peddling false information can cow senior members of Congress into embracing their claims, it does not bode well for either policymaking or for the Republican Party.
I had dinner recently with a libertarian friend who felt wronged by media accounts portraying the tea-party crowd as a bunch of racist Yahoos. But those events have helped spread the Great Blood Libel of 2009, and – as Blumenauer says – helped cow Republican politicians who know better into embracing that libel.
On a purely short-term, cynical accounting, the tactic has worked; the public has been given a vague sense that health care reform is somehow dangerous and Big-Brotherish. All we can do is hope that Lincoln was right about fooling all of the people all of the time.