When I began writing for Hot Air, I never imagined I would find myself critical of Charles Krauthammer twice, after only blogging for four months. I’ve followed his work for years, and still eagerly read everything he publishes. He writes brilliantly on many topics, but he just doesn’t get Sarah Palin, or by extension her supporters… which by further extension means he misunderstands the precarious moment America finds itself in, and the opportunities that lie ahead for conservatives.
Let me dispense with the most controversial part of Krauthammer’s recent Town Hall column first: this condescending nonsense about asking Palin to “leave the room” while “we have a reasoned discussion about end-of-life counseling.” There’s only one group of people who needs to leave the room during that discussion, and it’s the socialist zealot in the White House, along with the craven cowards in his party. They’ve already demonstrated a remarkable gift for swiftly leaving the room when people start asking tough questions, so we’ll hardly notice when they slink out. Maybe while they’re gone, they could find the billions in Cash for Clunkers money that vanished into thin air.
Those Facebook pages she’s tossing around like ninja throwing stars are eloquent proof that no one has the right to pat Sarah Palin on the head and send her out of the room, while the grown-ups settle down to serious talk. She isn’t just writing snarky rants. She’s providing both devastatingly effective criticism, and substantial policy alternatives. It’s fairly obvious the White House paid a great deal of attention to her infamous “death panel” column. I haven’t seen that many people turned into nervous wrecks by Facebook since the last time the “Mafia Wars” servers went down.
As many others have noted, Krauthammer begins his latest essay with his bizarrely offensive demand that Palin “leave the room,” then spends the rest of the essay essentially agreeing with her. It seems fair to say that his problem is more with her style than her substance. He misconstrues the “death panel” comment in a manner that suggests he might not have read her original Facebook posting. The “death panel” solar flare occurs in this paragraph:
The Democrats promise that a government health care system will reduce the cost of health care, but as the economist Thomas Sowell has pointed out, government health care will not reduce the cost; it will simply refuse to pay the cost. And who will suffer the most when they ration care? The sick, the elderly, and the disabled, of course. The America I know and love is not one in which my parents or my baby with Down Syndrome will have to stand in front of Obama’s “death panel” so his bureaucrats can decide, based on a subjective judgment of their “level of productivity in society,” whether they are worthy of health care. Such a system is downright evil.
There is no doubt Obama and his allies want to drive the United States toward a single-payer health system. Some of his more colorful co-conspirators, like Barney Frank, aren’t particularly cagey about it when they speak in front of friendly audiences, and Obama himself has expressed that desire in the past. A health-insurance industry dominated by a tax-subsidized public option, whose vampiric “providers” can re-write the laws of the industry to destroy their nominal competitors, will inevitably collapse… leaving only the government. Tossing a shark into your aquarium is not a good way to enhance “competition” among the fish. When America inevitably loses enough blood to lapse into a single-payer coma, there will be rationing, and that means government functionaries will decide how the limited pool of medical resources is allocated. I don’t think “death panel” is an unfair metaphor for the resulting system, and the sense of dread it provokes in the listener is entirely appropriate.
The death panel doesn’t have to take the form of nine robed Sith Lords, stamping your grandmothers’ termination orders with a giant red skull, then handing them to a ghoul in surgical scrubs. It will be no less deadly if it consists of thousands of faceless government drones in cubicles, processing Quality of Life spreadsheets and crossing out the unlucky Social Security numbers with pink highlighter pens. In fact, my only quibble with Palin’s prediction is that, given the style of the current Administration, it is much more likely that we’ll have a Death Czar. Using the same Noonan-swooning judgment that gave us a tax cheat for Treasury Secretary, Obama will appoint a serial killer to the position. The Death Czar’s first official act will be spending $2 billion in taxpayer dollars to hire a Brazilian company, which will extract organs from Americans after they receive their end-of-life counseling, then ship them overseas for use in foreign patients.
What Palin brings to the health-care debate is the energy, wisdom, and wit to make complex ideas understandable to ordinary people. Let me once again restate my admiration for Charles Krauthammer before saying, with regrettably brutal candor, that Sarah Palin had more impact on the health-care debate with one Facebook note than everything Krauthammer has written in the past year. That’s not because people are shallow, and didn’t pay attention until Palin kicked off a media firestorm. It’s because they understandably seek out leadership on complex issues, and leaders have a knack for rendering fearfully complicated issues down to their essential truths. Ordinary Americans are more eager to entertain appealing speech from an engaging personality, than sign up for a long series of dry lectures, no matter how brilliant the lecturer might be… and they don’t view their ballots as comment cards, to be completed on their way out of the lecture hall.
Every political movement needs both academic intelligence, and vital charisma. The Left has always viewed the relationship between its intellectuals and politicians as something like the production and marketing departments in a business – and when it comes to accumulating power, socialists are all business. People like Saul Alinsky and Bill Ayers spent decades weaving the strings that control the Obama marionette. They openly wrote of their understanding that savvy merchandising would be needed to make the public accept their agenda, at least until the public no longer has a meaningful choice about accepting it. When was the last time you heard a leftist intellectual belittle a popular liberal politician, the way Charles Krauthammer treated Sarah Palin?
The challenge for conservatism is to educate the voters in its basic principles, since they received no such education in the public schools. Conservatism always triumphs on the elementary questions of freedom and capitalism. The ideas of the Left are diseased in root and branch – history has shown there is no need to allow them to blossom, in order to see they are poisonous. Conservatives who allow themselves to be dragged into bickering about page 945 of a 1200-page bill have already conceded far too much of the debate. Americans deserve better than being told to sit down and shut up, while Washington plays Jenga with Obama’s obscene health-care proposals. They should be angry and insulted their time and money were ever wasted with this madness.
If Obama were the CEO of a private company, he would have already been “asked to leave the room” by the shareholders, and he’d be driving home in tears, listening to voice mail messages from the company lawyers. Unfortunately, it’s not so easy to dispose of corrupt and incompetent elected officials… which is why they should be provided with the smallest possible operating budget, watched like hawks, and kept out of everything that isn’t their explicit Constitutional duty. We can begin the process in 2010, and finish it in 2012. I’d like to have both Charles Krauthammer and Sarah Palin in the room while we prepare for battle. I know she won’t ask him to leave.