Liveblogging: Paging Sarah Palin

"Some prominent politicians" have lied about death panels, Obama says. Who could he mean?

By Mike Madden
Published September 10, 2009 1:02AM (EDT)

It's not hard to figure out who President Obama had in mind when he read these lines:

Some of people’s concerns have grown out of bogus claims spread by those whose only agenda is to kill reform at any cost. The best example is the claim, made not just by radio and cable talk show hosts, but prominent politicians, that we plan to set up panels of bureaucrats with the power to kill off senior citizens. Such a charge would be laughable if it weren’t so cynical and irresponsible. It is a lie, plain and simple.

The radio and cable talk show hosts, of course, include such luminaries as Rush Limbaugh and Glenn Beck. But the main "prominent politician" involved in spreading bogus "death panel" lies has been doing it on her Facebook page lately. Former Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin (who would, after all, be sitting next to Nancy Pelosi behind the lectern for speeches like this one if she had her way) led the charge there, and the administration is practically begging to keep the fight up. Besides that one shot in the speech, a senior official also called Palin out this afternoon, in previewing the speech.

"Even Governor Palin, in the essay that she -- I know -- wrote herself, as she considered all the complexities of this issue, acknowledged at the front end that there is a significant healthcare crisis," the official told reporters this afternoon, referring to a Palin op/ed in the Wall Street Journal this week. You could probably have felt the sarcasm all the way off in Alaska; the political class has been buzzing since the piece appeared about how much more polished it is than the notes Palin has been putting on Facebook, and the conventional wisdom is that someone else wrote it for her. (Which would hardly be surprising -- very few politicians do all their own writing, including Obama.)

Why pick a fight with a former governor? Because almost a year after the election, Palin is still viewed unfavorably by nearly half the country. If the White House is able to make the debate over healthcare into a battle of Obama vs. Palin, you could pretty much sign up for the public option tomorrow.


Mike Madden

Mike Madden is Salon's Washington correspondent. A complete listing of his articles is here. Follow him on Twitter here.

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