May 19, 2009


Nothing, it would seem, pleases the Republican mind more than regurgitating demonstrably false and shockingly mean-spirited talking points. So Nevada Republican Senator John Ensign must been ecstatic to score a twofer last week. In a single sentence, Ensign not only faithfully reproduced the GOP's "Club Gitmo" talking point, but resuscitated the old Republican claim that there is no health care crisis.

Ensign's back-handed jab at the American health care system came even as he was insisting the Guantanamo Bay detention center needed to remain open. Following hot on the heels of his Senate colleague Jeff Sessions' (R-AL) comment that terror suspects "wouldn't be treated any better in the United States, and they wouldn't have the tropical breezes blowing through," Ensign claimed Gitmo was to-die for:

Ensign said the facilities at Gitmo are nicer than prisons in the United States, and said the food detainees were served was better than what he and the traveling lawmakers ate.

"They get better health care than the average American citizen does," Ensign said.

That Ensign praised the Club Med atmosphere at Gitmo comes as no surprise. John Boehner (R-OH), Duncan Hunter (R-CA), Mel Martinez (R-FL), Mike Huckabee (R-AR) and Dick Cheney are just a few of the legion of Republicans who lauded Guantanamo as "more like a Boy Scout camp than it is a prison camp" and "if anything, it's too nice."

While Boehner concluded Gitmo has "more comforts than a lot of Americans get," in 2005 torture enthusiast Hunter announced:

"The inmates in Guantanamo have never eaten better, they've never been treated better...the idea that we are somehow torturing people in Guantanamo is absolutely not true, unless you consider eating chicken three days a week is torture."

Given his role in coordinating the Republican Policy Committee's response to President Obama's health care initiatives, Ensign's version of the GOP's health care talking point is a little surprising. Coordinating with legendary Republican pollster and language assassin Frank Luntz, Ensign is supposed to follow Luntz' guidance that "you simply MUST be vocally and passionately on the side of REFORM" while calling for the "protection of the personalized doctor-patient relationship."

Apparently, a confused John Ensign is still reading from the old "no crisis" health care script Bill Kristol penned in 1993 to help halt President Clinton's ill-fated reforms. That same approach was still operative in July 2007, when President Bush declared, "I mean, people have access to health care in America. After all, you just go to an emergency room." Or as Tom Delay put it that November:

"By the way, there's no one denied health care in America. There are 47 million people who don't have health insurance, but no American is denied health care in America."

Of course, that care pales compared to what terror detainees get at Gitmo.

(This piece also appears at Perrspectives.)

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