Here's the NYT article headlined "False 'Death Panel' Rumor Has Some Familiar Roots":
Advanced even this week by Republican stalwarts including the party’s last vice-presidential nominee, Sarah Palin, and Charles E. Grassley, the veteran Iowa senator, the nature of the assertion nonetheless seemed reminiscent of the modern-day viral Internet campaigns that dogged Mr. Obama last year, falsely calling him a Muslim and questioning his nationality."Seemed reminiscent"? To whom? "Death panels" was a characterization of a provision in a bill — an aggressive, politicized attempt at interpretation of the text of the proposed law. It was a parry in the debate about the bill, and the bill's defenders could have explained exactly why the text could not mean what Palin said it meant, or they could have rewritten the provision to make it absolutely clear that it meant whatever it was that they'd wanted it to mean when they wrote it. Rather than meet Palin's attack, the Democrats pulled the provision altogether, leaving us wondering what other provisions would have to be pulled if someone subjected them to a memorable — viral — attack.
When a big bill is dumped on us, we are challenged to read and understand the text. Usually we don't, but the text is there, and there's nothing scurrilous about trying to read it, calling attention to worrisome language, and putting our arguments in vivid words. A candidate, on the other hand, is not a text to be read, but there are facts about him that we may want to know. If someone asserts a fact about a candidate and says, for example, that Obama is a Muslim or Obama was born in Kenya, then the candidate, if he doesn't choose to ignore the assertion or simply make his own flat assertion of denial, is forced to come up with some evidence, which may be difficult and may lead to a new phase of the controversy in which the evidence is challenged.
This is completely different from a controversy about a written text that people are trying to read. If the text doesn't mean what its opponents are saying, it should be easy for the authors of the text to show how it means something good or to amend the text and make its goodness obvious. The authors of the text should trounce their opponents. If they can't, we should fear and mistrust them.
If Obama can't convincingly prove he's not a Muslim/not born in Kenya, it only means the rumors might be true, but he was not the creator of the rumor, as the Democrats were the creators of the text that lent itself to Palin's "death panels" characterization.
There is nothing in any of the legislative proposals that would call for the creation of death panels or any other governmental body that would cut off care for the critically ill as a cost-cutting measure. But over the course of the past few months, early, stated fears from anti-abortion conservatives that Mr. Obama would pursue a pro-abortion, pro-euthanasia agenda, combined with twisted accounts of actual legislative proposals that would provide financing for optional consultations with doctors about hospice care and other “end of life” services, fed the rumor to the point where it overcame the debate.Ha ha. I think that "On Thursday" paragraph had to be edited in a the last minute.
On Thursday, Mr. Grassley said in a statement that he and others in the small group of senators that was trying to negotiate a health care plan had dropped any “end of life” proposals from consideration.
A pending House bill has language authorizing Medicare to finance beneficiaries’ consultations with professionals on whether to authorize aggressive and potentially life-saving interventions later in life. Though the consultations would be voluntary, and a similar provision passed in Congress last year without such a furor, Mr. Grassley said it was being dropped in the Senate “because of the way they could be misinterpreted and implemented incorrectly.”Not just "interpreted... incorrectly" but "implemented incorrectly"! Well, there you have it! We are absolutely right to fear the way laws may be implemented. What does "incorrectly" even mean? If the language is there to be implemented a particular way, what should we care if the members of Congress preserved an out for themselves, letting them say that was not what they meant? It only makes it more underhanded!
The extent to which it and other provisions have been misinterpreted in recent days, notably by angry speakers at recent town hall meetings but also by Ms. Palin — who popularized the “death panel” phrase — has surprised longtime advocates of changes to the health care system."Misinterpreted in recent days"... and potentially misimplemented in future days, when it's too late and the law's the law.
... Former Senator Tom Daschle of South Dakota, an advocate for the health care proposals, said he was occasionally confronted with the “forced euthanasia” accusation at forums on the plans, but came to see it as an advantage. “Almost automatically you have most of the audience on your side,” Mr. Daschle said. “Any rational normal person isn’t going to believe that assertion.”Yes. Then why didn't Democrats argue their side? Why did they back down? I suspect it's because they really did hope to save money by substituting painkillers for curative treatments for the old and disabled.