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James Fallows goes medieval on yesterday’s New York Times profile of Ezekiel Emanuel, the highly respected medical ethicist who’s become a punching bag for the “death panel” crowd:

And now we have the New York Times, in a big take-out story, saying that Dr. Emanuel, in his role as Obama health-care advisor, is in an “uncomfortable place” because he is being criticized by:

1) Betsy McCaughey !
2) Rep. Michele Bachman (look her up) !!
3) Sarah Palin !!!
4) Lyndon LaRouche !!!!

McCaughey, Bachman, Palin, LaRouche — shaping American debate and media coverage about health policy? Was Zsa Zsa Gabor not available?

….”Out of context” and “false” are useful caveats. But why is the story about Ezekiel Emanuel being on the hot seat in the first place — and not about the campaign of flat lies by McCaughey, Bachman, Palin, and LaRouche? Why are real newspapers quoting what they say any more? (Interestingly, LaRouche’s claims rarely get NYT coverage. In in this case, he is apparently “legitimized” by … McCaughey.) If I start a campaign of lies against somebody and get Soupy Sales plus Lynette “Squeaky” Fromme to agree with me, can I expect them to be regularly publicized in the mainstream press?

But that’s the problem: McCaughey, Bachman, and Palin are de facto leaders of the Republican Party, just like Rush Limbaugh and Sean Hannity.  And the actual leaders — people like John McCain, Michael Steele, John Boehner, and Chuck Grassley — are happily taking their cues from the goofballs.  What’s more, it seems to be working.  Last year, a lot of us wondered how long the GOP would have to spend in the wilderness before they regained their sanity and became electorally significant again.  We still don’t know the answer to that, but at this particular snapshot in time it looks as if the answer is: no time at all.  They don’t need to become sane again.  Their public face is death panels and Sarah Palin and Fox News and the birthers and the town hall shriekers — and that seems to be working for them.  All the mainstream political analysts say their midterm prospects are looking up.

Who knows?  Maybe the GOP is in for the political equivalent of a double dip recession: they’ll start to recover, but then in a few months they’ll suddenly implode again and be in even worse shape than before.  I sure hope so, because given the fecklessness of the Democratic Party, it looks like they’re going to need a majority of about 70 in the Senate before they can manage to get their own caucus to actually act like Democrats.  FDR must be spinning in his grave.

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This is no time to come up short. It's time to fight like hell, as our namesake would tell us to do, for a democracy where minority rule cannot impose an extreme agenda, where facts matter, and where accountability has a chance at the polls and in the press. If you value our reporting and you can right now, please help us dig out of the $100,000 hole we're starting our new budgeting cycle in with an always-needed and always-appreciated donation today.

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