RNC Chairman Michael Steele Is Not Willing To Say That Death Panel Rumors Are False

by Conor Clarke

I don't want to spend all week writing about death panels. Writing about something that doesn't exist is tedious, and I realize that by giving further attention to the subject I am possibly just playing into the intended trap, which is to give everyone the impression that there is genuine controversy and uncertainty here, rather than just a bunch of straightforward lying about the administration's health-care proposals. I hope I'm not doing that, because it really is just a bunch of straightforward lying.

But it's getting weird, and I cannot resist. Here, via Ben Smith, is RNC Chairman Michael Steele, like a latter day Jacques Derrida, deconstructing the question of whether or not death panels exist:

Michael Steele, the chairman of the Republican National Committee, said the false “death panel” rumor about President Obama’s health care plan is a “grassroots” notion that he does not know if he believes.

Steele said he does not regret that Republicans such as Sarah Palin and Newt Gingrich raised “death panel” issue.

“Some characterize it as unfortunate. Others characterize it as a reflection of what they think and what they feel,” Steele said in an interview on MSNBC’s Morning Joe. “That comes from some place and is something that’s out there in the grassroots of America, not just Republicans.”

Asked if he thinks there is a “death panel” provision in the bill -- a suggestion that has been proven untrue and that the White House has spent a week trying to knock down -- Steele said he does not know.

“It may or may not be. I don’t know. We don’t know what the bill is,” Steele said.

After I stopped slamming my forehead into my desk, it occurred to me that Steele's rhetorical move is really a pretty common one. Just as creationism gave way to intelligent design, the original false claim in this case -- that the House bill would create death panels -- has now been replaced by the far more insidious notion that death panels reflect some 'emotional truth' floating around in America, and we'll never really know whether that emotional truth reflects the, you know, factual truth.

And then it occurred to me that we do know what's in the House bill, we do know it contains no "death panel" provision, and we do know that no member of the administration or Congress has proposed anything of the sort. So, for the squintillionth time, this stuff is just false. That's not my characterization; it's a well-documented matter of fact, and I'm sure Michael Steele knows it. Or at least I hope so.