- The Washington Times - Tuesday, September 15, 2009

ANALYSIS/OPINION:

Now even Osama bin Laden is picking on President Obama, calling him weak and “powerless.” The world’s most-wanted serial killer sounds like some of the folks in President Obama’s left-wing Democratic base, full of regrets, recriminations and venom for Israel, Jews, Christians and just about everybody.

Like the frustrated Democrats, bin Laden can’t think of anything to do but flog the ghost of George W. Bush and flail at a phantom of Dick Cheney for “promoting the previous policies of fear to market the interests of big companies.” Reasonable people know, says bin Laden, that President Obama “is a powerless man who will not be able to end the war as he promised.”

Osama bin Laden doesn’t vote in America, so far as we know (though ACORN has probably registered him to vote in an obscure precinct on the South Side of Chicago), but his latest rant - more lament than rant - echoes the lament of Democrats. Where did all that hope, change and other promised good stuff go? We were supposed to be in the outer suburbs of Utopia by now, wreathed in a certain kind of happy smoke, holding hands and singing kumbaya.

The president’s acolytes in the mainstream media, as addled as the goose hit on the head with a long-handled wooden spoon, still can’t figure out what happened. They see only anger, rage and Sarah Palin at the town-hall rallies and are reduced to complaining about deportment and bad manners and yearning for the civility of earlier days when congressmen were satisfied to cane each other on the floor of the House, accuse the president of sleeping with slaves but would never, ever accuse one another of telling fibs, stretchers and lies of various sizes and hues.

“How mean-spirited will we allow ourselves to become?” asks a shocked, shocked! columnist in The Washington Post. “How coarsened has our political culture made us? We like to see ourselves as a generous, caring and welcoming nation. Are we losing that part of our character?”

Probably. After weeks of media mockery of the animal fear in the town halls that Obamacare would require death “counseling” for old folks, leading logically to “death panels” to ration medical care for the elderly, we’re beginning to hear the occasional grudging caveats to the media mockery.

Evan Thomas, a Newsweek columnist, gleefully makes “The Case for Killing Granny.” It’s a case that must be made carefully. The idea of rationing health care for the elderly is “political anathema,” he counsels Democrats: “Politicians dare not breathe the ‘R’ word, lest they be accused - however wrongly - of trying to pull the plug on Grandma. But the need to spend less money on the elderly at the end of life is the elephant in the room in the health-reform debate. Everyone sees it but no one wants to talk about it.”

Well, not quite “no one.” The thousands who have turned out for the much-derided town halls, and the many thousands who showed up on the Mall in Washington on Saturday to give the president a large piece of advice, are eager to talk about “the elephant in the room.” These thousands, invisible to the liberal elites, have done nothing but talk about it for weeks, and their loud, clear talking has turned the debate upside down and scared a lot of congressmen. They’ve made it plain that there’s a large constituency for Granny.

There’s a constituency for death panels, too. Dr. Diane Meier, “a palliative-medicine specialist” at Mount Sinai Medical Center in New York (coining an effective euphemism is always the first step in organizing a bureaucracy that will grow like a malignant tumor), tells Newsweek that what the country needs is more, not less, “end of life counseling.” She cites “quite a bit of literature showing that palliative and hospice care indeed does save money.” What health-care reform legislation needs is a prescription to encourage “palliative-medicine specialists.”

“It’s a huge problem of inadequate numbers …,” she says, “and public policy could be enormously powerful in changing that. For example, you could do loan-forgiveness programs for doctors and nurses who specialize in palliative care.”

We all want the right to say “no” to intrusive and unnatural medical procedures imposed merely to keep Granny alive when all hope is gone. But deciding when to pull the plug on Granny must never be a decision made by government accountants and other “experts,” even if they’re called “palliative-medicine specialists.”

The undertaker will get his turn with Granny soon enough.

• Wesley Pruden is editor emeritus of The Washington Times.

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