A lot of observers, including softcore conservatives like David Frum, found Palin's argument absurd. But Newt Gingrich went on TV to say he was worried about it, too ("There are clearly people in American who believe in establishing euthanasia, including selective standards"). The American Spectator joined in ("Physicians will be paid more if they follow the guidelines established by the yet-to-be-named research group. . . . More likely, the doctor will go with the flow and accept the higher level of payment for being obedient").

An April interview, in which Obama discussed program costs and the use of an "independent group that can give you guidance" on end-of-life issues, was dug up and presented as evidence that Obama was at least thinking about denying life-saving care to the old and in-the-way. "Whether or not the IMAC [Independent Medicare Advisory Council] would actually do this," said Slate's Mickey Kaus, ". . . Obama thought it would do it."

And so, on talk shows and in the blogosphere, people seriously discussed whether the President of the United States was planning to eliminate the aged and infirm for the good of the State.

Now some Senate Democrats have said the hell with it and are trying to throw that part of the plan away. (One page down, 1,200 to go!) But if the President had to be restrained from killing the infirm to save money, what other evils might be lurking in his bill?

You see the problem: If Obama is what conservatives portray him to be—not merely a Marxist, fascist, socialist, or whatever, but also a brutal euthanasiast—then there isn't much in the way of health care policy with which we could trust him.

If health care reform collapses, it won't be because it was argued down, or even because it was shouted down, but because the decades-old idea that the United States government is inherently untrustworthy has more life in it than many of us knew.

redroso@villagevoice.com

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