Palin 1, Obama 0

For those liberals who maintain that former Alaska Governor Sarah Palin is less than intelligent or a non-factor in 2012 (or both), they should consider what just occurred over the past two weeks regarding the debate over ObamaCare.

Palin not only hijacked the debate over health care, she practically forced the Democrats to reconsider the very foundation of their bill with a silkiness that would make Ronald Reagan proud. She also earned a legislative victory over Obama despite being an unelected official who some pundits have written off as irrelevant.

On Friday, August 7, Palin claimed, on her Facebook page, that “[t]he America I know and love is not one in which my parents or my baby with Down Syndrome will have to stand in front of Obama’s 'death panel' so his bureaucrats can decide, based on a subjective judgment of their 'level of productivity in society,' whether they are worthy of health care. Such a system is downright evil.”

The section Palin referred to, Section 1233 (titled “Advance Care Planning Consultation”), authorizes advanced care planning consultations for senior citizens on Medicare every five years and requires that physicians explain “the continuum of end-of-life services and supports available, including palliative care and hospice,” and the government benefits available to pay for such services.

Since that statement, the focus in the health care debate shifted from protests regarding a government takeover of health care to a deafening cry that the elderly would be euthanized. (See, for example, here and here.)

Several columnists addressed the “death panel” allegation, including a few—like Charles Lane, Mickey Kaus, and Eugene Robinson—who lent it some legitimate credibility.

Even our favorite funny men, including John Stewart and Stephen Colbert, addressed the topic.

Then . . . hell froze over when, out of left field, President Obama attempted to discredit Palin’s “death panel” claim. In a town hall meeting last week, he stated, “The rumor that has been circulating a lot lately is this idea that somehow the house of representatives voted for death panels that will basically pull the plug on grandma because we decided that we don't - it's too expensive to let her live anymore. I am not in favor of that.”

Look, when the President of the United States says the words “death panels” and “pull the plug on grandma” in the same sentence, he is obviously losing the battle.

Palin didn’t shy away from the criticism. She doubled down on her “death panel” assertion last week.

Then, this past Friday, just two days after Palin’s latest comments, and just about a week and a half after her initial “death panel” allegation, there was chatter that the Democrats decided to remove section 1233. And, just today, it appears the Democrats are dropping the public option altogether.

How does an unelected politician from Alaska who was ridiculed ad nauseum by liberal bloggers, columnists, anchors, and commentators and skewered on Saturday Night Live shift the health debate with just a few words? Moreover, how does she actually WIN the debate? And against an allegedly brilliant politician like Obama?

This woman clearly has the charisma many politicians wish they could buy. She rejuvenated Senator John McCain’s campaign, and many conservative voters believe she significantly helped the ticket. Yet who would have thought she could have such a dramatic effect on American politics without an official pulpit from which to lead?

The answer lies, first, in her ability to attract attention from both sides. When Palin speaks, people listen. Those on the right love her charisma and adherence to conservative values. Those on the left jump at the chance to ridicule her. (Why? What are they so afraid of?)

In addition, Palin chose the right words to ignite the debate. She vividly described an Orwellian future that most Americans fear. Couple that with the fact that section 1233 comes dangerously close to creating a framework similar to Britain’s National Institute for Health and Clinical Excellence (NICE), which sets cost controls on health care based on how much one year of a person’s life is worth, and you have a foundation upon which ordinary Americans will make their opposition felt.

These past two weeks, Palin demonstrated a keen understanding of how to communicate an effective message that alerts and persuades the American people. If she can do this with any regularity (and if Obama continues to attempt to ram socialist policies down our collective throats), she can take the country by storm in 2012. Whether liberals think she is stupid or irrelevant, they had better take notes. Palin is more relevant today than she was when McCain selected her as his running mate.

Oh, and given what happened the past two weeks, liberals might want to try a different strategy because ad hominem attacks like calling her "stupid" clearly haven't worked.

Posted by Robert M. Fojo at August 17, 2009 4:03 PM