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An Idea For Chuck Norris and Company

A big part of the fight against health reform right now involves the identification of specific provisions in the House bill that are then distorted, taken out of context, or otherwise twisted to create the impression of some scary or monstrous outrage. That's how language authorizing the payment of providers requested by patients to advise on end-of-life treatment options turned into "death panels."

So now, via Todd Gitlin at TPM, we read a column by Mike Huckabee's bosom buddy Chuck Norris identifying another scary provision:

It's outlined in sections 440 and 1904 of the House bill (Page 838), under the heading "home visitation programs for families with young children and families expecting children." The programs (provided via grants to states) would educate parents on child behavior and parenting skills.

This voluntary program becomes, in Norris' account, a lurid "home intrusion and indoctrination" program intended to usurp parental rights, impose "progressive-secular religiously neutered" values, and probably even "encourage abortions."

What it actually sounds like to me is the sort of prenatal and neonatal "welcome wagon" services already offered in many states, often in conjunction with private non-profit and religious organizations.

Still, put all that aside for a moment and consider this: when Norris or Sarah Palin or anyone else cherry-picks some provision in one health care reform bill and then demonizes it, do they ever make the rather obvious suggestion that said provision simply be modified or eliminated during the very long process that would lead to a bill on the president's desk? I mean, really: the House hasn't even passed a bill yet. The Senate Finance Committee hasn't drafted a bill yet, and it certainly isn't using the House committees' bill as any sort of template. The Senate allows virtually unlimited amendment of bills. And then even after House and Senate floor action, there's a conference committee that can and will make changes.

But no: these cherry-pickers simply demand rejection of "Obama's plan" or the "Democrat plan;" Norris urges his readers to "write or call your representative today and protest his voting Obamacare into law." Sure, he, like every other opponent of health reform, claims Congress is "rushing" these bills, and says we need a "truly bipartisan group that is allowed an ample amount of time to work on a compromise health care law that wouldn't raise taxes (for anyone), regulate personal medical choices, ration health care or restrict American citizens." But that's another way of saying he opposes anything vaguely approaching universal health coverage. And that's his right. But please, Chuck, kickbox this suggestion that "Obamacare" is some sort of monolithic plan full of secret agendas that is being rammed through Congress on an up-or-down vote. That is, in point of fact, a lie, which is a term I rarely apply to people's political expressions.

There's plenty of opportunity to change health reform provisions, and those who are shrieking about this or that provision need to stop disguising their fundamental opposition to health reform as concern about the details.

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This is good psychological strategy. I once played tennis at a passably competitive level. When playing a guy much better than me, my coach would always recommend I attack one or more of his strength early and often. Playing around his. If you can rattle him early, that's your best chance at an upset. The GOP are smart not to waste time on details but to inflate details into major liabilities. We know it doesn't take much to send the Senate running for the tall grass, and they are the body in play right now. Obama has shown that he prefers to spend his political capital letting his agenda items sink to their minimum level of bipartisan bouyancy, so I think it's a foregone conclusion that whatever gets passed later this year is much weaker than what we've already seen. The entrenched interests will win and the GOP will still be able to rally its base around their heroic last stand. The GOP learned last November what happens when your base sits on its hands. They've got nothing to lose and everything to gain. That's why we're playing defense.

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