Appearing recently at the American Heartland Forum, Rick Santorum shared an interesting perspective on the fate of the elderly in the Netherlands. It's an absurd perspective, of course, but it speaks to a larger issue.
"In the Netherlands, people wear different bracelets if they are elderly," Santorum said. "And the bracelet is: 'Do not euthanize me.' Because they have voluntary euthanasia in the Netherlands but half of the people who are euthanized -- 10% of all deaths in the Netherlands -- half of those people are euthanized involuntarily at hospitals because they are older and sick. And so elderly people in the Netherlands don't go to the hospital. They go to another country, because they are afraid, because of budget purposes, they will not come out of that hospital if they go in there with sickness."
In other words, in the mind of this Republican presidential hopeful, there are (cue scary music) Dutch Death Panels, including the "involuntarily" euthanization of the elderly in hospitals in the Netherlands.
Glenn Kessler took a detailed look at all of Santorum's claims, reviewing the bracelets, the legal euthanasia safeguards, and the alleged "involuntarily" euthanizations. Kessler's conclusion?
"There appears to be not a shred of evidence to back up Santorum's claims about euthanasia in the Netherlands. It is telling that his campaign did not even bother to defend his comments."
The moral of the story: Rick Santorum, as part of his culture-war crusade, doesn't mind making stuff up. He makes outlandish claims in a sincere way -- Santorum actually seems to believe his own nonsense -- but that doesn't change the fact that the guy really has no idea what he's talking about.
And there's a larger truth here, too. As an extension of the fight over health care reform, the right desperately wants the public to fear the government, not just in general, but literally fear the possibility that bureaucrats might start killing innocent Americans -- just like those rascally Europeans.
It's sheer madness, of course, and constitutes demagoguery on an almost comical scale, but as Santorum's Dutch gibberish helps remind us, conservatives are heavily invested in the message anyway.