Jonathan Chait

The Romneyfication Of Mitch Daniels

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Here is a story that captures everything that's good and everything tragic about Mitch Daniels. At heart, he is clearly an intelligent, sane man. But it's also clear that the process of obtaining the GOP presidential nomination will drive out every reasonable impulse he has.

First, the sane, reasonable part:

Indiana Gov. Mitch Daniels, who is considering a run for the 2012 Republican presidential nomination, veered from his party’s orthodoxy on end-of-life care Friday, suggesting the nation cannot afford to provide every treatment and technology available for every single dying patient.

“We all want to live forever. We want everything done to help us,” he told health care reporters during a discussion of Medicare and its financial pressures. “And we cannot, no one can, do absolutely everything that modern technology makes possible for absolutely everyone ’til absolutely the very last day, the very last resort.”

He added that he understands the urge by families to push for what may be futile care. “It’s the most human thing in the world,” he said. “Your loved one is in desperate shape.” He said “we can try this thing that has almost no chance of working” but questioned whether it is worth it, especially given that “it’s going to cost an incredible amount of money.”

How refreshing. But last year, when the Obama administration pursued the tiniest, most incremental step in this direction -- allowing Medicare to reimburse the cost of end-of-life counselling -- Republicans called it "death panels" and Democrats retreated. So what does Daniels think about this modest, tiny, incremental step in the direction he'd like to see?

And he balked when asked whether Medicare should reimburse doctors for taking time to talk with patients about end-of-life care. It was this type of suggestion during the health care debate that led to the false charge that Democrats wanted government “death panels” for Medicare patients. The Obama administration recently backed off a preliminary decision to reimburse doctors for this work; many suspected politics were at work.

“I don’t have anything more to say,” he said. “I’ve said that it’s an issue we are going to have to wrestle with.”

How pathetic. He's willing to talk about pulling the plug on Granny -- a radical measure -- but he's not willing to endorse the ridiculously tiny step of letting Granny and her family talk to counselors about their options so they can make up their own mind.

The most hilarious passage of the article is when Daniels "clarified" a previous act of heresy:

At one point during the discussion, as reporters pressed for his views, Gov. Daniels abruptly changed the subject to clarify an earlier comment, where he said he didn’t care whether antitax activist Grover Norquist criticized Indiana’s cigarette tax, used to pay for a state health care program. He clarified that he does care what Mr. Norquist says.

That actually is clarifying, though the reality it clarifies is pretty depressing.

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