WASHINGTON (CNN) -- Congressman Earl Blumenauer says he's just a regular fellow "trying to get things accomplished." As a result, the Oregon Democrat tells me, he spends much of his time "looking for ideas that can bring people together -- simple, straightforward ideas that would help people and their families."
And so he proposed the infamous "death panels."
Before they were Palinized -- and turned into those nasty death panels ready to pounce on Grandma (that "goofy stuff," as he now calls it), Blumenauer had a good idea: help people prepare for the end of life.
As he wrote in The New York Times last weekend, the proposition was simple: "I found it perverse that Medicare would pay for almost any medical procedure, yet not reimburse doctors for having a thoughtful conversation to prepare patients and families for the delicate, complex and emotionally demanding decisions surrounding the end of life."
So, when he began work on health care reform, he included a provision that would allow Medicare to cover a voluntary doctor-patient discussion (only once every five years) about things like living wills, power of attorney and end-of-life treatment.
Oh, the horror.
Talk radio quickly got wind of the proposal when ex-New York Lt. Gov. Betsy McCaughey excoriated the measure as a depraved idea that would somehow counsel people to just go ahead and die faster. The absurd notion metastasized. And since Congress is the great lagging indicator, the bizarre interpretation predictably headed toward the floor of the two Houses. Republican leaders were unwilling to balk at a juicy opportunity to fan the flames -- even though the fire was fake. They courageously took on this great cause.
Really now. Is this the way our public discourse should play out?
- Something is proposed.
- Republicans find a way to twist it into something entirely different and trumpet their "message" to their party faithful.
- Unquestioningly, they accept this as the message, react with righteous indignation, and repeat the message freely, spreading the meme and further obscuring it from its origin. It takes on a life of its own.
- Politicians respond to this 'public outcry', as if it somehow turns this false message into truth.
- The proposal goes down in flames.
Come on, people. We can do better. We must do better. This is counterfeit democracy at its worst.