Last week, the latest version of Trumpcare emerged from the Senate chock-full of vicious cuts to Obamacare and Medicaid, and already it’s gotten even worse reviews from medical groups and from sick people and their families than the widely despised House original.
Conservatives didn’t seem eager to defend the bill, but they couldn’t just let the criticism go unanswered. The strategy they came up with is a little masterpiece of passive-aggressiveness: If you say that their new bill will cost lives, they argued, you’re actually summoning the shock troops of liberalism to shoot Republicans, like how Kathy Griffin and Shakespeare in the Park got that guy to shoot Representative Steve Scalise.
Defenses of Trumpcare 2.0, a/k/a the Better Care Reconciliation Act, have been sparse and pretty weak. The president, who frequently promised in the past there’d be no Medicaid cuts in his Obamacare replacement, just had his spokespeople straight-up lie for him. Conservatives who tried to get more creative about it looked even worse.
“Lot of things to like in the Senate health bill,” gushed the Hoover Institute’s Lanhee J. Chen. “Biggest is added flexibility for states to innovate & reject one-size-fits-all solutions.” If only freedom were what was wanted from a health care bill, rather than health care!
The Washington Examiner, or rather, a right-wing think-tank associate they gave space to, said just lie back and think about tax cuts — that is, if you’re an insurance company executive: “The $145 billion Obamacare health insurance tax may fall on insurance companies, but indirectly, this tax increased insurance premiums by up to $5,000 for working families.” Once their taxes are cut, you can bet they’ll pass the savings on to you, the consumer!
But many others just ignored the bill and contented themselves with expressions of outrage that Democrats were accusing them of murder.
When Bernie Sanders said, “Let us be clear and this is not trying to be overly dramatic: Thousands of people will die if the Republican health care bill becomes law,” GOP Utah senator Orrin Hatch responded, “The brief time when we were *not* accusing those we disagree with of murder was nice while it lasted.”
Is pointing out that cuts to health care will lead to worse health care outcomes, eventually resulting in early deaths, the same thing as an accusation of murder? “Depraved indifference to human life” would be my preference; plus, I should think truth is an absolute defense: If you think the legislation would in fact cause people to die, you have not only a right but a duty to say so.
But conservatives demanded everyone shut up about these predicted deaths or else they’d be the ones killing people, not them.
When Hillary Clinton called the GOP “the party of death” for pushing the bill, Fox News commentator Guy Benson called it “beneath contempt.” This is the same Guy Benson who in 2006 gave a glowing review to National Review author Ramesh Ponnuru’s book about the Democrats called The Party of Death.
Then Elizabeth Warren said the bill was “blood money” — referring to the fact that cuts in paupers’ health care would fund tax cuts for the rich. Conservatives flipped: Now two bitches were on their case! Clearly the Ladycrats were trying to incite another shooting spree.
“Given the events of the past couple of weeks,” said Jason Hopkins at the Resurgent, his voice quavering like an old soap-opera organ, “you’d think Warren would be more careful with her words — even if it was simply out of respect for those injured by liberal violence.”
“ ‘Blood money’? A week after Scalise shooting, Elizabeth Warren dials up the violent rhetoric,” yapped Twitchy, which then cited a bunch of other conservatives who predicted left-wing murder as a result (“I look forward to Senator Warren being shocked the next time a leftist shoots Republicans”). Ditto Glenn Beck’s TheBlaze (“Here is Elizabeth Warren inspiring future Hodgkinsons”).
“You want to go that route while one of your colleagues is still in the hospital recovering from a gunshot wound?” tutted Mary Katharine Ham at the Federalist. “So much for those calls for civility in the wake of the shooting of Rep. Steve Scalise,” cried Geoffrey Dickens of NewsBusters. “IN HEALTH CARE ATTACKS, DEMOCRATS RISK INCITING FURTHER VIOLENCE,” howled Breitbart’s Joel B. Pollak.
“Democrats React To GOP Healthcare Bill With Same Hate Speech That Incited Scalise Shooting,” said Jeff Dunetz. He also complained about other Democrats he claimed were inciting violence by criticizing Republicans — like former president Obama, whom he accused of saying, “Republicans steal from the poor and give to the rich,” which is rather like crying “fire” in a crowded theater that’s on fire.
“A week after a gunman opened fire on a Republican congressional baseball practice, triggering bipartisan calls for unity, Democrats have turned up their rhetoric,” tsked Andrew Kugle at the Washington Free Beacon. Among the examples Kugle cited: “Democrats denounced the bill as mean and evil.”
“Elizabeth Warren Irresponsibly Tweets The Senate Healthcare Bill Is ‘Blood Money,’ ” said Jay Caruso at RedState. He explained: “Typically, it means a payment of some sort made to the next of kin of a murder victim or money paid to a hired killer.” Similarly, asking Caruso about his “kids” likens his children to baby goats, and you’ll be hearing from his attorneys in the morning.
America Rising PAC did some research to prove Warren was prone to violence: “Warren has often talked about her love of ‘throwing rocks’ at people.” As you, a normal person, automatically guessed, this is a familiar and harmless metaphor; but, as we saw with the Caesar thing, conservatives have a hard time with literary devices, especially when they’re trying to rile a bunch of people who can’t read.
“When you are accusing a political party of wanting poor people and children to die as a means to make the rich richer,” inveighed John Nolte of the Daily Wire, “are you not calling for something drastic to be done, isn’t an act of violence against such fiends merely an act of self-defense to save innocent lives?” Maybe Nolte was just being sarcastic, like when he pretended to blame the rainbow flag for a terrorist attack. At least, I think that was a sarcastic reference to people who find provocations to murder in every little thing — with Nolte, it’s hard to tell.
By the time it reached Mike Huckabee’s left frontal lobe (“the Democrats instantly reverted to violent anti-Republican rhetoric over the GOP health care bill while Rep. Steve Scalise is still in the hospital”), this gibberish had become gospel. It dovetailed nicely with the recent calls for “civility” from such distinguished public figures as Charlie Crist and Ted Nugent. Republicans will not themselves be held to this standard of civility, of course — the administration will continue to give jobs and White House invitations to hateful people like William C. Bradford and Al Baldasaro. But it’s the thought that counts — and the thought is: Don’t squawk when violence is done to you or what’s done to you will be your fault.
See? You can convey a violent message without being obvious about it!