How did another op-ed about health care spawn a debate on media responsibility? Well, it was written by Sarah Palin, and it included the words "death panels." Is her claim, which was thoroughly debunked last month, deserving of attention? Should the media simply ignore the 2008 Republican vice presidential candidate's latest foray into commentary? First, some answers to the first question:
- Fear Is Real, says The Hill's Tony Romm. "It is no surprise seniors and terminally ill patients fear Democrats' pursuit of a public option will result in health care rationing and death panels." Blogprof agrees, saying, "Unelected bureaucrats in charge of something that will affect millions. And not for the better. These people will simply and literally be rationing czars."
- Hindrance to Republicans, says Polimom, too. "The overwrought hysteria about the 'Death Panels' is one reason the conservative objections to health care reform aren't being taken seriously. You can't have both feet on the ground and simultaneously think some faceless government entity's going to 'pull the plug on Grandma.'"
- Reasonable Voice, says Riehl World View, who blogs from the right. "Sarah Palin looks to frame the debate on health care with an op-ed in the Wall Street Journal today. One can break it down into a few basic themes: common sense based on experience and observation versus unproven theoretical constructs; government rarely, if ever, truly solves anything, often only making it worse; and who do you ultimately want to have control of you, your life, death and health care options?"
Now for the second question. How should the media digest the latest Palin op-ed? Most addressing the matter are debating a post from the Atlantic's own Marc Ambinder, who, in a blog post he published last night said:
"The media -- by which I mean the cable news networks, primarily, will determine whether Palin's view on health care becomes influential. There are many Republican, conservative health care spokespeople who have earned the right to speak for their party's principals, and, truth be told, can recite the talking points (complete with Ronald Reagan quote) better than Palin and her writer can. They're the ones who should be offended if Palin's op-ed becomes the voice of the opposition tomorrow, because Palin isn't seen by most Americans as a particularly trenchent analyst of policy. Indeed, the reason why Palin's team wants to get her pieces in publications like the Washington Post and the Wall Street Journal is that, in this next phase of her political career, Mrs. Palin has to burnish her policy skills. And the Journal is all too willing to lend some space to this project, because plenty of people will see the piece.
So here's a challenge to the media: if you want to do justice to conservative ideas and find some balance in your coverage tomorrow, book serious Republicans with original ideas on your programs. If you don't, Palin is giving herself a voice at your expense and through little effort of her own."
While Jeff Poor at NewsBusters questions Ambinder's call-out to Palin's lack of expertise — "the argument could made that Palin, with a baby with Down Syndrome, does have real-life expertise dealing with the American health care system" — and Moe Lane points out Ambinder's own lack of expertise in, um, copy-editing, others are answering the call to arms. Three media outlets refuse to take the bait:
- Mediaite Asking the same question as Ambinder, Glynnis MacNicol says, "times are tough in newspaper land…maybe the Journal is not above succumbing to the siren call of clicks (or Rupe’s influence?). Actually, I suspect that’s exactly what happened. And this will get a lot of clicks. And it’s pretty clear that, despite Marc Ambinder’s call to the MSM that they don’t allow Palin to become today’s voice of the GOP, considering the following 'death panel' passage, that is exactly what is going to happen."
- Salon Alex Koppelman references Ambinder, saying, "there is no reason why Palin should be viewed as an authority on healthcare or her arguments taken seriously. She has no special experience in the matter."
- Washington Monthly Steve Benen says, "The point of the op-ed, in all likelihood, is to position Palin as a leading right-wing voice challenging the president, hoping the media will run with an 'Obama v. Palin' frame today. Marc Ambinder encourages news outlets to resist the temptation."