Obamacare 'kills': Has Michele Bachmann finally gone too far?

Obamacare 'kills' – literally, Rep. Michele Bachmann (R) asserted on the House floor Thursday, roiling her critics. But that's just the latest in a series of controversial claims she has made lately.

Jonathan Ernst/Reuters
Rep. Michele Bachmann (R) of Minnesota speaks to the Conservative Political Action Conference (CPAC) in National Harbor, Md., last weekend. Her comments on the House floor on Thursday, suggesting that Obamacare will literally kill people, set off a firestorm.

Obamacare “kills.” That’s what Rep. Michele Bachmann (R) of Minnesota said Thursday on the floor of the House. In a fire-breathing speech, the tea party favorite and former GOP presidential hopeful urged her fellow lawmakers to “repeal this failure before it literally kills women, kills children, kills senior citizens."

Congress should not go along with that, said Representative Bachmann. “Let’s love people. Let’s care about people. Let’s repeal it now while we can.”

Later, she came back on the floor and added that Medicaid, the big federal/state health entitlement program for lower-income Americans, is a “ghetto."

OK, in terms of political rhetoric this is going pretty far. Bachmann has long been kind of a bomb thrower. But even in that context, this is nuclear, isn’t it?

Well, we’ve got a couple of comments here. The first is that political debate over the Affordable Care Act specifically and health care in general has long been rhetorically charged.

Remember when Sarah Palin and others in the GOP charged that President Obama’s reforms would create “death panels” ruling on which seniors get what care? It’s not far from that to “kills." So, in that sense, Bachmann is within the stream of her party’s thought, if not exactly the mainstream.

Liberals are outraged at what they feel are these exaggerations. The alleged “death panel” meme came from the law’s inclusion of various boards intended to judge the cost-effectiveness of certain treatments, for instance. But prior to the bill’s passage, a few Dems did edge out on that limb themselves, charging that people would die from lack of care, if it didn’t pass.

We’re not saying there is strict equivalence here. We’re just saying the law has, um, always raised strong feelings.

Second, the conservative wing of the Republican Party is pretty annoyed about the Affordable Care Act at the moment. In particular, they’re angry that many House and Senate Republicans, by voting for the short-term continuing resolution that funds the government for the rest of the fiscal year, have voted to continue Obamacare’s implementation.

They think it’s so important to block the law that the GOP, as a whole, should have shut down the government in that effort.

Influential conservative blogger Erick Erickson has been big on this, charging on the RedState blog that if a Republican voted for the CR’s final passage, that lawmaker voted to support Obamacare, even if, before that, he or she cast a ballot for an amendment that would have defunded the law.

On Friday he has reposted a list of senators who, he said, have done just that.

“If any one of those senators tells you they did not vote to fund Obamacare, or, in fact, voted against funding Obamacare, they are being mendacious,” writes Mr. Erickson.

Lastly, Bachmann may be trying to distract the political world from the other stuff she’s been saying recently. In a speech at the Conservative Political Action Conference last week, she charged that Mr. Obama has a “lavish lifestyle” in the White House that includes “five chefs on Air Force One,” as well as two live-in projectionists for the White House movie theater and that “we pay someone to walk the president’s dog."

The chefs and projectionists don’t exist. We wouldn’t rule out staffers holding Bo’s leash, but there is no pro pet sitter on the White House payroll.

Confronted by a CNN camera crew and asked to explain herself, Bachmann literally bolted. Conservative Fox News host Bill O’Reilly earlier this week slammed Bachmann for being trivial and distracting attention from the real problem of the national debt.

At CPAC, Bachmann also said that Alzheimer’s disease could be cured if not for government regulations, taxes, and lawyers. She added that 70 percent of every food stamp dollar goes to “bureaucrats."

Politifact.com rated the former claim “pants on fire” false, saying researchers blame the disease itself and lack of research funding for the fact that no cure yet exists.

And the food stamp assertion? Not true either. Washington Post fact checker Glenn Kessler assigned it “four Pinocchios," his worst rating.

“There really aren’t enough Pinocchios for such misleading use of statistics in a major speech,” he writes.

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