Could all this talk of "death panels" and secret plots for health care reform to kill the elderly really just be a side effect of right-wing panic? Are the Republicans and health insurance lobbyists encouraging these town hall disruptions and scare tactics not to derail legislation, but because they know they have no chance to defeat it?
An interesting theory, one that has received little play in the mainstream media.
But Bill Clinton, the last President to attempt health care reform, seems to think that way. Speaking Thursday at the Netroots Nation convention in Pittsburgh, Pa., Clinton spoke of his own failed attempts at reform, before ultimately offering his theory.
"Right now the Republicans are sitting around rooting for the President to fail," he said. "And one of the reasons people are so hysterical at all these health care town-hall meetings ... is they know they have no chance to beat health care this time, unless they can mortify with rigid fears some moderate conservative Democrats. Why do I know? Because they don't have the filibuster this time."
With Democrats holding 60 seats in the Senate -- thus blocking any Republican filibuster -- the GOP has to find other outlets to oppose the bill. That includes scare tactics, talk of death panels and how something as noble as a living will can suddenly become code for "the government wants to pull the plug on Grandma." Sarah Palin, Iowa Sen. Chuck Grassley, the advocacy group 60plus and right-wing talk show hosts have practically salivated over the notion, treating an incindiary and false claim as legitimate concerns over the bill.
Funny how the Republicans don't want the government to interfere with end-of-life counseling, when that's exactly what they did back in 2005 when they tried to interfere with the end-of-life decisions surrounding Terry Schiavo.
Rachel Maddow discussed the parallel on her TV show Thursday night, along with the hypocrisy of those like Palin and Rush Limbaugh in stoking the fires of fear with their "death panel" talk.
So which is it? Political opportunism, covert racism or panic at the realization that health care reform might actually succeed this time? As is so often the case, the truth most likely encompasses all three theories; there are those in the GOP who would view the failure of health care reform as a political victory, leading to more seats in Congress in 2010 and 2012 (as happened in 1994 when Clinton's plan fell through). There are also those who, even if they won't admit it, can't fathom a black man living in the White House.
So much so, words like "socialist" and "Nazi" are becoming code for another word that begins with 'N'.
Then there's the panic of failure. With 72 percent of the American people in favor of a public option, with sizeable Democratic majorities in both chambers of Congress and with health care costs rising exponentially by the day with almost no increase in the quality and frequency of care, most sensible Americans are finally starting to see a broken system in dire need of fixing.
All these scare tactics do, aside from give the mainstream media more than its share of video to drool and panic over, is serve as a reminder of how needless and pointless the pursuit for bipartisanship is. One would think President Obama would've learned that lesson when he passed his $787 billion stimulus package -- with a whopping three Republican votes in both chambers.
The Republicans are not going to vote for health care reform -- they won't even put forth their own plan. So why is the President trying to get them on board, even after Grassley played the "death panel" card and Sen. Jim DeMint (R-S.C.) spoke of making health care reform "his Waterloo"? Why bother? Why try to appease a shrinking subset of this country's population when they obviously don't want to cooperate?
All bipartisanship will do is weaken this bill, and the President is wasting his time trying to gain Republican support. This is the same party that's tacitly supporting comparisons of Obama to Adolf Hitler, this is the same party that wanted Obama to apologize over the Gates incident and this is the same party that, for whatever reason, still wants to believe the President wasn't born in this country.
So why are you trying to appease them, Mr. President? You're wasting your, and our, time by doing so. You're close to winning, you have sizeable majorities in the House and Senate. The right-wingers are panicking, so it's time to force the issue, hammer this thing home and give us what we all so desperately need:
Health care reform, with a strong public option. The Republicans who keep fighting you? They're the ones who support the death panels -- they're called insurance companies.