There were a lot of reasons the Clintons’ efforts at healthcare reform died in the early 1990s, but a big part of it was the campaign of fear waged by Republican operatives like Betsy McCaughey. McCaughey falsely asserted in a column that under the Clintons’ health care proposal, it would be illegal for citizens to use private insurance. That falsehood was picked up by George Will, who further amplified it and distorted it and said that the Clintons would be throwing any doctors in jail who didn’t get with the program. The Clintons health plan died. The Democrats lost control of Congress. McCaughey becomes a hero on the right, and becomes NY’s lieutenant governor.
Fast forward to a few weeks ago. Prominent Republicans start screaming about ‘death panels’ that are part of a Democratic president’s attempt to overhaul our nation’s health care system. People freak out and worry that the government is going to euthanize their grandmothers. And when the curtain is pulled back, we find that this lie, too, was started by McCaughey.
There are a few things that have changed since the 1990s, though. One of them, blessedly, is Jon Stewart.