Here's how the dictionary defines a "red herring": "Any diversion intended to distract attention from the main issue." And a "straw man argument" is one "based on misrepresentation of an opponent's position." Both come to mind as we consider the new Republican "Senior Health Care Bill of Rights."
In a Washington Post Op-ed
, GOP Chairman Michael Steele pledges to protect against the dangerous straw men he and his cohorts have created and nourished with a steady diet of red herrings about health care reform.
There's that old favorite: "we need to prohibit government from getting between seniors and their doctors." It's based on the premise that government bureaucrats will be more intrusive than the ones insurance companies already place between everyone and their doctors.
The most deceptive in this litany of six "rights" is the fourth one: "we need to prevent government from dictating the terms of end-of-life care." Of course, this is based on the straw man Steele's allies have promoted -- that an Obama plan will create some sort of "death panel." It's one of the main distortions that have caused their true believers to lose it all at town-hall meetings.
Steele writes, "Obama's government-run health 'reform' would pay for seniors' meetings with a doctor to discuss end-of-life care." So far, so good. He goes on to argue that "government programs that seem benign at first can become anything but. The government should simply butt out of conversations about end-of-life care and leave them to seniors, their families and doctors." Is he suggesting that seniors will pay for these conversations?
The party chairman has timed the release of this "Bill of Rights" to coincide with a brief lull, as the president and his adversaries recharge their batteries before re-launching all-out war in a couple of weeks. Perhaps while people read it at the beach, they might be more inclined to pay attention to the empty shell that it is.
Steele goes on to contend that the president would do better by "reversing course and joining Republicans in support of health care for our nation's senior citizens." All well and good, until we remember that Steele's partisans are spending most their time doing everything in their power to sabotage the effort -- to make sure the president and his fellow Democrats are denied political credit for such a significant accomplishment. It is their own straw men they're setting afire in the hope that they can consume any chances of reform.