Friday, August 21, 2009

The Woman Who Terrified America

In our ongoing debate about health care the term "Death Panels" took root and grew a strange, cancerous life of its own. The woman credited, or more accurately, the person who should be blamed, for spawning that furor is a woman named Betsy McCaughey. Among other things she's the former Lt. Governor of New York State and the current Chairmen of the Committee to Reduce Infection Deaths to the House Committee on Government Oversight Reform. Quite a mouthful, right?

She never used the term "Death Panel", by the way. We have politicians to thank for that choice of words. Still, she claims that there are plans to euthanize the elderly. Yes, if you think that you are going to be forced to put your grandmother to sleep in the same manner you bid your beloved pet goodbye? Betsy McCaughey is the person responsible for introducing that fear into your life.

She's been making the interview rounds of late. Defending herself, claiming that her interpretation of the nearly infamous page 432 is correct. Lugging out an impressively sized folder with her wherever she goes. It's a pity she thinks the term "life sustaining" is interchangeable with "life ending", isn't it? She's got a PhD but somehow I'm thinking that her second grade report card probably mentioned that she struggles with reading comprehension. Ay yi yi.

Yesterday she was on The Daily Show with Jon Stewart. If by some chance you don't know who Jon Stewart is, or what The Daily show is, very briefly, he's a comedian and The Daily Show is a satirical news show. He's a satirist with a decidedly liberal bent. I like him tremendously, and enjoy his humor.

Every now and then he takes on an issue that is rather serious in nature, such as his much publicized battle with Jim Kramer.

If the subject matter was not so incredibly serious the interview with McCaughey would have been hilarious. She desperately fumbles to find page 432 in her oft-toted prop. She sees the word "mandatory" where it doesn't exist. She tries desperately to ingratiate herself with an audience increasingly
taken aback by her bizarre scrambling.

All that could be put down to not being very comfortable on camera, right? I mean, let's be fair, not everyone spends their days being filmed. In McCaughey's case, of late, she has spent a fair amount of time being interviewed and everywhere she goes she lugs her accusatory binder. I guess it never occurred to her that someone would finally say, "Show me where it says that."

Here's a link to The Daily Show's homepage, if you missed last night's show, it's currently featured. Here's a link to the site that will give Canadians access to the same footage.

If you don't have time to watch it, or you don't have the inclination, that's completely understandable. It's fairly lengthy in the unedited version, and it is incredibly strange. This is the person who has helped shape so many views on health care reform?

I'm putting it here because this woman's interpretation of page 432 is one of the reasons that politicians on the conservative side are trying to convince us that there are Death Panels to be convened.

I can't even kindly term what Betsy McCaughey does as being a radical interpretation of the text. It's a dangerous, willful misinterpretation.

Yes, she's very scattered, and it is rather amusing. What isn't funny is that she's one of the reasons people are crying, and sobbing their way through Town Hall Meetings. There are other sources but the buck started with McCaughey and it's rather difficult to escape that she is, in the kindest interpretation I can think up, pulling a Chicken Little.

She's also the person who wrote this piece completely misrepresenting Dr. Ezekiel Emanuel's words. By the time he had a chance to offer this rebuttal in Time much of the damage had been done.


PhilipH said...

I've just read the Time rebuttal and it is unbelievable that this type of twisted argument can be used against Dr. Emanuel. Is there nothing that can be done to stop this McCaughey woman (and I use the term 'woman' loosely) from what could almost be called defamation?

Politics has been defined as "the art of the possible..." - which seems to be "say and do anything to prove that white is black, or that the 'evidence' dictates, blah blah, when the 'evidence' either does not exist or has been manipulated beyond belief."

Something rotten in the state of Denmark (and elsewhere).

Land of shimp said...

McCaughey is a piece of work, isn't she?

I'm not sure if you're familiar with The New York Post, Philip, but it is one of those newspapers that isn't considered to be high on journalistic integrity. Unfortunately, it seems not everyone knows to make sure to find at least one other reliable source saying the exact same thing before trusting that newspaper.

What's really unfortunate is that Dr. Emanuel, for whom I have a ton of sympathy, was far from the only victim of McCaughey's manipulation. In recent days there have been significant efforts to refute the misinformation, and outright manipulation, regarding health care reform.

I wish there was some recourse. Instead it seems that many must strive to put out the fire started by that ninny.

A few posts back I had wondered how anyone came to believe this crap. Betsy McCaughey: Deliverer of the Crap.

The Panorama said...

40 million Americans can't afford health care. Something has to be done...I sincerely hope Obama brings the change with his health reforms.
A very good post. I know it is a hot topic in the US that is why it is good to read it.
The Norwegian conservatives are also itching to change our natiionalised health care and I shudder to think what happens if they pull it through.
I can't believe people are actually buying this kind of propoganda about the American health reforms.

Let's cross our fingers for the reforms. Cheers:)

Land of shimp said...

40 million Americans can't afford health care. Something has to be done.

Yes, something truly has to be done. The numbers vary, sometimes including only the uninsured (that's the 40 million) but can skyrocket when the under-insured are factored in also. The under-insured segment of the population (sometimes only carrying cataclysmic event coverage) does not receive adequate preventive care.

It's simply not to be tolerated, and must be addressed.

In The Daily Show appearance by McCaughey, she said multiple times, "I support providing medical care for the uninsured." Holding that up repeatedly as if it was some sort of shield.

The situation is so bad that even glaring opponents of health care reform are making a pretense of caring about it now.

The problem seems to be that people with insurance find it difficult to relate to people without it. I have health insurance, but I fully understand that we are one unscheduled unemployment and an expiration of COBRA from being in the exact same position.

We talk about the uninsured as if they are some sort of subset, but the truth is, the number isn't 40 million people who are at risk, it's the entire population of the United States of America that is at risk of finding themselves without adequate health care being available. It will continue to be the entire population that is at risk until we make sure that access to private health insurance is not the sole thing that determines access to health care.

Also, Medicaid is frequently talked about as our public option. We should not require that people live in poverty before we are willing to provide aid to our fellow citizens.

Heh, guess I'll hop off this soabox I spend so much time on these days.

I do apologize for that. This is such an important issue. When Bill Clinton tried to address this very same issue back in the 90s, it was defeated.

The situation has gotten nothing but worse since then.

Jo said...

Alane, when I read the blogs of some of the American folks who are against health care reform, I am quite appalled at their lack of knowledge, information and intelligence. As a Canadian, it makes me sad, because American is such a wonderful country and we assume that Americans are as well-informed about issues as Canadians are (and the rest of the world, for that matter). But they aren't.

I read about "death panels" everywhere, and it shocks me that people actually believe that stuff.

In addition to that, someone said that American drugs are so expensive because America spends so much time researching and creating drugs that the rest of us "steal" and use as generic drugs. This was from a person who had been a school teacher! When I posted that the biggest pharmaceutical company in the world is Novartis, which is in Switzerland, and many of the others large pharmaceutical companies are in Germany and the UK, she refused to post my comment.

People in your country are making important decisions based on fear and lies. I feel so bad for you...!

Land of shimp said...

Jo, it is frightening.

There is a sort of jingoistic pride that a lot of Americans are taught. I don't think that's exclusive to America. Truthfully, we're all a little susceptible to programmed responses. regardless of country.

The entire, "We lead the world in medical advancements." The truth is far closer to "We do a decent enough job of keeping pace with the other stable, resource rich countries of the world! The medical world of advancement knows no one location." Medical advancement is a global community.

I was in Canada the day that the Canadian government issued a formal apology to the Native (First Nation) people of Canada for previous policies of government run schools. Over the last couple of years I had read L.M. Montgomery's extensive journals. I bought them from a bookseller in PEI (I figured a bookseller there ought to profit from my interest, rather than Amazon). We had a lengthy correspondence, and at one point talked about how the Canadian government had sought to deter people from emigration back at the turn of the last century.

I bring that up because the Canadian government did apologize, but that wasn't all. Everywhere I went in Vancouver I saw evidence of the Inuit artwork, and culture being honored. It wasn't just a lip service thing. The policy I discussed with my friend in PEI was long disused, and recognized for what it was. Viewpoints changed. I think perhaps other cultures are more comfortable with the concept of change bringing about good things.

We're going through growing pains right before the eyes of the world.

(as per usual, since I'm a stranger to brevity, continued below:)

Land of shimp said...

I wish the issue was just about health care, but it isn't. National pride is tangled in it. A perception of change in a way of life.

Why can't people let go of the bizarre notion the there will be Death Panels now that is has been refuted by multiple sources?

My guess is that it isn't about that any longer. It's been refuted, it's been resoundingly disproved.

But some people feel that it is about changing the essential nature of the U.S. This debate touches on core fears for people.

I think that's why people to the left and the right are demonizing the hell out of the other side. "Liberals want to ruin this country!" "Conservatives want to keep us mired in the outdated past!"

Hopefully we'll grow and realize that to keep pace in this global community, change is needed. Part of what seems to inspire the response of some people is that they are reacting badly to being told, "In this area we're swiftly falling behind the rest of the world."

I referenced the Canadian government's efforts, one hundred years ago, to help dissuade emigration, specifically to the States, where there were more economic opportunities at that particular time. What stopped that was the Canada evolved into a place where there were opportunities. Where staying became far more appealing than leaving.

The need for change hits almost every country, at different times. We're in a period of our history where we are debating that.

We're in one of those cycles, but it is a cycle. I feel sorry for us, too. Even if the thing people are fearing is not real ("Death Panels!" "End of our way of life!") the fear is very real.

Realistically a situation in which tens of millions of people don't have health care in the modern world is unsustainable. We can either set about fixing that or not, but keeping the same system will not stop change.

We are used to being the country that is an immigration destination. Our current medical system has a huge chunk of what essentially constitutes the middle class without access to medical care.

The math on that formula is not difficult to do. We became an industrialized, wealthy nation, thanks in great part to the huge influx of people coming here for more opportunity.

Either way, we're facing change. There will come a point where people begin to leave to find a better life if we do not address this issue.

It's deeply ironic, but the only way to insure a future where we do not fall behind other countries is to start fixing this particular issue.

We call ourselves, "The Land of Opportunity" but at present the opportunity to maintain health is severely limited.

People fear anything that smacks of socialism for weirdly complicated reasons, but if we don't fix health care, we will absolutely begin to lose ground.

People came here looking for a better life. People can end up leaving here for the exact same reasons.

Is that feasible? World history says that it is. Super powers rise and fall. I really do care deeply about my country, I'd prefer that we take steps to better handle the trajectory of change that will happen whether we embrace it, or kick and scream against it.

Jo said...

"Hopefully we'll grow and realize that to keep pace in this global community, change is needed. Part of what seems to inspire the response of some people is that they are reacting badly to being told, "In this area we're swiftly falling behind the rest of the world."

Oh, yes. I think that is the crux of the problem. When you really think about it, America is very isolated, and they think Canada (to the north) and Mexico (to the south) are just little countries that take advantage of being "close to the U.S." The truth is, we are closer to Britain, Asia, Europe even the Middle East. Did you know that in Saudi Arabia they have some of the best hospitals and universities in the world and university education is completely free -- FREE -- to everyone. Some of the best doctors in the world are from Saudi Arabia.

Americans would do themselves such a favor if they took off their blinders and put down their national pride for just a little while, because in our global society, they are becoming more and more isolated from the rest of the world.

You have a brilliant mind and a fabulous blog, and all of your countrymen should read it. Unfortunately, the most-read blogs are the ones that are disseminating the lies and fear. It's sad.