Mild-Mannered Columnist Steven Pearlstein Gets Mad


By Joe Campbell
August 10th, 2009

Steven Pearlstein – normally a mild-mannered columnist – has had enough. Though I can’t endorse his description of opponents of health care reform as “political terrorists,” his overriding point is correct:

The recent attacks by Republican leaders and their ideological fellow-travelers on the effort to reform the health-care system have been so misleading, so disingenuous, that they could only spring from a cynical effort to gain partisan political advantage…There are lots of valid criticisms that can be made against the health reform plans moving through Congress – I’ve made a few myself. But there is no credible way to look at what has been proposed by the president or any congressional committee and conclude that these will result in a government takeover of the health-care system. That is a flat-out lie whose only purpose is to scare the public and stop political conversation.

His piece is probably the best counter to much of the Republican and right-wing spin out there. He chooses here not to defend health care reform against authentic conservatives or against fiscally conservative objections – but only against those extreme views that are taking hold in the imaginations of those inclinded to be opposed to Barack Obama’s success. He explains  the moderation inherent in the plan – seeing the Health Insurance Exchange as the key – rather than the single-payer option which is still being debated. He concludes with the plaintive plea I have seen a number of Democrats make recently:

Health reform is a test of whether this country can function once again as a civil society – whether we can trust ourselves to embrace the big, important changes that require everyone to give up something in order to make everyone better off. Republican leaders are eager to see us fail that test. We need to show them that no matter how many lies they tell or how many scare tactics they concoct, Americans will come together and get this done.

In the past week, the health care reform opponents have grown more strident. Comparisons of Obama to Hitler have become mainstream – made by everyone from Sarah Palin to Senator Jim DeMint to Rush Limbaugh.

As this debate has devolved, the question asked of Americans has become whether you stand with those who believe our system needs to be reformed in a moderate and responsible way or with those who believes Obama is offering nothing but a Nazi-like Final Solution as Americans for Prosperity explains:

Adolf Hitler issued six million end of life orders – he called his program the final solution. I kind of wonder what we’re going to call ours.

There should be a broad middle ground – where Republicans on the right and progressives on the left criticize and attempt to shape Obama’s health care reforms. But the rapid descent into extremism and blatant lies by the Republicans as they attempt to stop Obama for their own political gain has eliminated this sphere of rational commentary.

[Photo by Madi Lussier, used with permission of the creator.]

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