It seems that Georgia politicians Tom Price and Newt Gingrich have a wardrobe problem: their pants are on fire after both of them were caught lying on national news TV programs over the past week.
In both instances, the Peach State Republicans were lying about provisions that are supposedly included in the health insurance reform legislation but actually are nowhere to be found in the bills. Their untruths were pointed out by the hosts of their respective news programs. And they blithely pretended not to notice that they’d been caught lying and kept on talking as if nothing was out of the ordinary.
We’ll start first with Gingrich, the twice-divorced, silver-maned former speaker of the U.S. House. Gingrich was on This Week with George Stephanopoulos on the morning of Aug. 9 when Stephanopoulos asked him about claims that the healthcare bill would lead to the euthanasia of elderly citizens. Here’s the resulting exchange that happened on camera (you can check the transcript here):
STEPHANOPOULOS: One of the other claims being made about the bill — and it’s related to cost control — is an — and opponents are spreading the idea that the president’s plan will encourage euthanasia. Most recently, Sarah Palin , on her Facebook page yesterday — I think it was Friday night actually — said that, “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.” Now, as you know, Mr. Speaker, the president called that outlandish. He said . . .
GINGRICH: But why — why didn’t you put up what Dr. Zeke Emanuel said? Because Dr. Zeke Emanuel, who’s the chief adviser to the president and brother of the chief of staff, said in writing . . .
STEPHANOPOULOS: He’s not the chief health care adviser. He’s written three articles between 1996 and 2008 that include some of those phrases . . .
GINGRICH: . . . standards.
STEPHANOPOULOS: Those phrases appear nowhere in the bill. The only thing . . .
GINGRICH: But . . .
STEPHANOPOULOS: . . . but let me just explain what’s in the bill and then get you to respond to that. The only thing in the bill is they would allow Medicare to pay for what they say is voluntary counseling on end-of-life issues.
GINGRICH: I think people are very concerned, when you start talking about cost controls, that a bureaucracy — we don’t — you’re asking us to trust the government. Now, I’m not talking about the Obama administration. I’m talking about the government. You’re asking us to decide that we believe that the government is to be trusted. We know people who have said routinely, well, you’re going to have to make decisions. You’re going to have to decide. Communal standards historically is a very dangerous concept.
STEPHANOPOULOS: It’s not in the bill.
GINGRICH: But the bill’s — the bill’s 1,000 pages of setting up mechanisms. It sets up 45 different agencies. It has all sorts of panels. You’re asking us to trust turning power over to the government, when there clearly are people in America who believe in — in establishing euthanasia, including selective standards.
Let’s move on to Price, the orthopedic surgeon and House member from Roswell. Price was a guest on CNN’s State of the Nation yesterday when host John King made the same point that Stephanopoulos made to Gingrich: that the healthcare bill does not mandate the euthanasia of elderly citizens. Here’s the relevant exchange between host and guest (the transcript can be perused here):
KING: One of the things CNN obtained at this meeting was an e-mail that conservatives are using across the country. It’s gone out to millions of people, criticizing the Obama health care plan and the details. And you see it here.
And it goes line by line through many specific criticisms of the plan. I want to read you one of them. This e-mail says that, on page 427, lines 15 through 24 of the House bill, quote, “the government mandates program for orders for end of life. The government has a say in how your life ends.” If you go to the actual legislation on that page, what it is, is advanced care planning consultations. The bill would cover the costs of sitting down with someone to discuss a living will, to discuss a DNR.
Congressman Price, I want to go to you first. Many conservatives have said, “You know what? To say there are death panels, that the government can pull the plug on grandma, is simply wrong.” Does it hurt your cause when conservative critics are misleading people and are twisting the facts?
PRICE: Well, I think this is symptomatic of the process that we’ve been through, and that is that it’s been mostly in secret, that it hasn’t been a bipartisan way, certainly in the House.
The concern that people have across this land is, what role is the government going to play? Who’s going to make these crucial decisions? And when they go to that area of the bill and they see that the government will mandate, will dictate that the physician and the patient, who is eligible for Social Security, have that conversation at least once every five years, and then they see earlier this year that the Comparative Effectiveness Research Council was put in place, and the Congress refused to say that it would only deal with clinical situations, it would also deal with costs, and you put those things together, and people have a reasonable concern that the government is going to be making decisions that ought to be left to families and patients and doctors.
That’s where these decisions ought to stay. The problem is, that’s not what the bill says.
KING: Well, you say it mandates. Others who read the bill, including our organization’s fact-checkers and other organizations’ fact-checkers, says that it covers and recommends you have these conversations.
It is not amazing that Gingrich and Price were untruthful in claiming that the bill contained a mandate that is, in fact, not in the legislation. Politicians quite frequently stretch the truth when asked a question they don’t really want to answer. It’s what they do.
What is amazing is that Price and Gingrich lied so blatantly, lied on national TV, and got called for their lies by their interviewers — and still they are invited to discuss serious political topics on TV. When someone is caught on tape openly lying, you would think that might disqualify them from any further role in the discussion of important national issues. But you would be wrong.