if you haven't yet, watch the long version of Jon Stewart's interview with Betsy McCaughey, the woman who injected Sarah Palin's famous imaginary "death panel" into the health care debate
here, part two here
Most of you probably know that we, as a nation, were gifted Ms. McCaughey by Martin Peretz of the New Republic when they published a piece she wrote on the Clinton healthcare reform package which was mined for talking points by the press and the Republicans (the New Republic has since both debunked
and apologized for
the shoddiness and dishonesty of her work). She was then asked to join George Pataki as his Lieutenant Governor in his successful campaign against Mario Cuomo.
What you may not know about Ms. McCaughey: when she was replaced on the ballot in the next election by another candidate for Lite Gov,* she left the Republican party to run for Governor on the Democratic and Liberal lines. That wasn't the reason she gave, though. The reason she gave was much more interesting
She complained that she was forced to turn to Democrats in the Legislature when Republicans rebuffed her efforts to expand pre-kindergarten programs in the state and to restrict the ability of health maintenance organizations to refuse to pay for experimental cancer treatments.
'''It showed me which party puts patients ahead of politics and campaign contributions,'' she said. ''It's the Democratic Party.''
so it wasn't really that the Republicans kicked her to the curb. She just couldn't live with their unprincipled opposition to government healthcare mandates.
As a not-Republican in the Democratic primaries
, the then-Betsy Ross (yeah, I know, I always enjoyed that myself) had a number of positions which might surprise you. She was a crusader for unrestricted late-term abortion, a fan of gay rights and increased welfare spending, and someone who said she'd grown up and changed her mind about her opposition to the Clinton plan
Whether she ever was an ideological conservative or just made quite a career of seeming that way, she is now selling herself as a liberal's liberal-sorry, make that "the most socially progressive of the Democratic candidates." Ms. McCaughey Ross is not pro-choice, she is "unequivocally pro-choice." She registers horror at recent calls by both Mr. Pataki and Mayor Rudolph Giuliani to cut welfare benefits to the children of workfare no-shows ("I don't think children should suffer for the failures or oversights of their parents"). Last St. Patrick's Day, when Mr. Pataki would have been thrilled for her to stay home, Ms. McCaughey Ross marched in the parade, anyway. This year she abstained, as the "champion of gay and lesbian rights" that her literature now advertises her to be. Not, of course, that everybody's buying. "There's a series of questions that I think she has to answer," said Richard Kahan, the gubernatorial hopeful responsible for the recent spate of anti-Betsy ads. "Why did she support Clarence Thomas for the Supreme Court? Why did she write Op-Eds supporting big tobacco? Why did she pull apart Clinton's health care bill?" Ms. McCaughey Ross answers such charges in one of two ways: They are not true (She contends, for instance, that she never supported Mr. Thomas, but simply wrote a piece in The New York Times defending his method of judicial review) or not true anymore. "If you don't eat vegetables as a kid, you should never eat them?" she asked. "Where is the sense of human progress?"
Asked about Mr. Vallone's view that late-term abortion should be banned except when necessary to save the life of the mother, Ms. McCaughey Ross gave a preview of how she plans to wow the women. "The decision about an abortion should be made by a woman and her doctor, certainly not by those dark-suited senators strutting on the Senate floor," she said, denouncing the State Legislature's "very uninformed debate" on the subject, during which "several of the male members of the Republican majority were unable to even pronounce the various parts of a woman's body, but nevertheless felt fully equipped to make a decision about when a woman should or should not have an abortion."
a fan of blocking protests outside abortion clinics
whose opposition to parental notification laws also evolved
Lieut. Gov. Betsy McCaughey Ross made her harshest attack to date yesterday on her chief rival in the Democratic gubernatorial primary, Peter F. Vallone, calling his position on abortion rights ''a farce'' and questioning why he had not pressured New York City to enforce its law protecting women from harassment outside abortion clinics...
Abortion has not been a central issue in the race, since all four Democratic gubernatorial candidates support a woman's right to have the procedure. But in the final weeks of the campaign, Ms. McCaughey Ross has worked hard to emphasize that she is the only woman in the race. Her attack on Mr. Vallone yesterday seemed to be part of a broader strategy to prove that among the four candidates, she was the strongest champion of women's rights.
... [Vallone's press secretary] Ms. Rubey pointed out that Ms. McCaughey Ross wrote an article in 1992 praising a Supreme Court decision that allowed states to restrict access to abortions, a ruling that Ms. Ireland and other abortion rights advocates vehemently protested. ''The Supreme Court has provided the nation with common sense and common ground,'' Ms. McCaughey Ross wrote in the article, which was published in USA Today. ''Most Americans support a woman's right to an abortion but also believe that, except in unusual circumstances, a young girl's mother or father should be consulted.''
Ms. McCaughey Ross said yesterday that her article had only analyzed the court's decision, not sided with it. She said that she has always supported abortion rights, and that she never favored provisions that require parental consent for girls under 18 who seek abortions. ''I have always opposed those restrictions on a woman's right to choose,'' she said. ''I am unequivocally pro-choice.''
and, as the Liberal Party candidate in the general (she lost the primary 4 to one), a candidate whose "single issue
" was her pro-choice stance on abortion.
If you've been holding your nose and trying to give her the benefit of the doubt that she actually believes what she's saying about the proposed healthcare legislation, let me relieve you. You really don't have to.
*Ms. McCaughey-as-politician was a gift to us from Al D'Amato
(the then-"Senator Pothole" and the fixer who invented both Rudy Giuliani - although I wouldn't bring it up with either of them - and George Pataki) who thought the barbielike Clinton-killer would make a decorative, and female, addition to Mr. Pataki on a Republican gubernatorial ticket (decorative and female have always been at a bit of a premium in NYS Republican politics — see Pirro, Jeanine
). Once she was in office, though, she disobliged both Pataki and D'Amato by numerous means.
The straw that broke the camel's back appeared to be when she confirmed to the press that D'Amato suggested at a private dinner that she bring Giuliani, with whom D'Amato was feuding, back to the fold by offering him sex
. Pataki was forced to demand an apology, and D'Amato was forced to issue one
, and McCaughey was (melba) toast, at least on the elephant side of the aisle, where she declined to stay. It wasn't until her marriage to an affluent Democratic businessman who financed her political endeavors ended that Ms. McCaughey came back to the right-wing fold by taking a job with a conservative think tank which opposes healthcare reform.