"Compassionate conservative" was always an oxymoron, but the far right's campaign to tar and feather a 12-year-old boy who spoke in public about what the State Children's Health Insurance Program has meant to his family reveals more than just a lack of kindness or empathy. When people who are total strangers to the Frost family creep and skulk around their home, their workplaces, their neighborhood; post their address on the Internet; call them on the phone and accost them with hostile questions about their personal lives; publicly accuse them of stealing from the public coffers, of hiding financial assets so they can appear poorer than they are and get government-health insurance by fraud -- then something has gone badly wrong, because this is just not the way normal, mentally healthy adults behave.
Basically, the far right has made it its self-appointed mission to destroy a family for the sin of having had crushingly bad luck (a catastrophic car accident that resulted in injuries to Graeme Frost and his sister, Gemma, that were so serious they are still undergoing medical treatment three years later).
Ezra Klein wants to know what has happened to the right:
Something has gone wrong on the Right. Become sick and twisted and tumorous and ugly. To visit Michelle Malkin's cave is to see politics at its most savage, its most ferocious, its most rageful. They say they've spent the past week smearing a child and his family because that child was fair game -- he and his family spoke of their experience receiving health care through the State Children's Health Insurance Program. For this, right wingers travel to their home, insinuate that the family is engaged in large-scale fraud, make threatening phone calls to the family, interrogate the neighbors as to the family's character and financial state.
This is the politics of hate. Screaming, sobbing, inchoate, hate. It would never, not in a million years, occur to me to drive to the home of a Republican small business owner to see if he "really" needed that tax cut. It would never, not in a million years, occur to me to call his family and demand their personal information. It would never occur to me to interrogate his neighbors. It would never occur to me to his smear his children.
The shrieking, atavistic ritual of personal destruction the right roars into every few weeks is something different than politics. It is beyond politics. It was done to Scott Beauchamp, a soldier serving in Iraq. It was done to college students from the University of California, at Santa Cruz. Currently, it is being done to a child and his family. And think of those targets: College students, soldiers, children. It can be done to absolutely anyone.
This is the fundamental difference between the two ends of the political spectrum:
... [T]he far right will do anything — anything — so long as the ends justifies the means. The far left folks have ethical boundaries that they try very hard not to cross: things like attacking other people’s minor children is bad form, let alone harassing a family that includes a child with severe brain damage from an auto accident. Those ethical lines? Non-existent for today’s wingnut wurlitzer[.]
Here’s a truth…honestly. If the folks who run Powerline or Michelle Malkin or any of these other folks had a child in danger and contacted me to ask about what they should do to contact authorities or protect their child, I would help them in a heartbeat. Hell, I’d probably try to save the kid from a speeding bus if my auto-immune-achy limbs could move fast enough. Because that is what compassionate people who care about childrens’ well-being do.
Compassionate people don’t attack kids who desperately need help — they help them. It is human instinct at its basest level [I think she means "at its most basic level"] — ask any good parent (who isn’t involved in an abuse and neglect case, since I’ve seen far too many of those in my lifetime [not] to know that some parents don’t have this trait) about the ache they feel when their child cries out in the night. Hell, ask any person with a heart if they wouldn’t do whatever it took to help a child in need, and see [if] you don’t get “yes, what can I do to help?” as your answer.
There is one notable exception to the hatefest on the right. In a post from yesterday titled "Don't Target Sick or Hurt Children for Political Debate," AJ Strata blasts the bloggers who are hounding the Frost family:
I have to say this is one of those days I am glad to be an unaffiliated voter. I lean GOP (heavily) but there are days when it is a blessing not be too closely associated with right. The entire S-CHIP mess is spinning madly out of control - again thanks to hot headed comments from the right and toned deafness to the plight of our fellow citizens. I am 100% opposed to S-CHIP, and I have a child who has costed us plenty in unique medical bills due to a health issue. But being against a policy doesn’t give people the right to hound, harrass or disparage a family going through a tough spot. Especially when it involves a seriously injured child. Here is where the left gets traction against the right - on issues of simple basic decency to others[.]The right's meme that the Frosts are wealthy or upper-middle-class or have financial assets that would make private health insurance affordable for them is garbage -- where they live, in fact, they are not even middle class [emphasis mine]:
... The actions of the right side of the blogosphere have been abhor[r]ent. It includes hounding the family at their home - which should be a sanctuary from politics during trying times such as these. The attack on the Frosts was as boneheaded as it could be. Instead of attacking the socialist policy some people with self control issues went and attacked the gr[ie]ving family. ...
I grew up outside DC in VA and understand the cost of living here. It is steep. My house value has nearly tripled since we bought it in the very early 1990’s. A $400K house within driving distance of DC is on the very low end of the housing scale. In McLean and Great Falls where I grew up - before they were tony enclaves of the ridiculously rich - houses now run a minimum of $1 million, and I would wager the average is around $ 3 million. Making a combined income of $40K puts this family very near the poverty level in this area. I am impressed at how much assistance they have garnered from the state of MD - but then MD is deep blew liberal. .
The point is the Frosts were a simple family of simple means facing a daunting medical situation with their son. They deserved the respect of all Americans for the simple constitutional act of voicing their opinions. They deserved our heartfelt support for their situation. A better answer to the Democrat vultures who used these people as PR props would have been compassion and support. I[t] would have been better to show how community and Church can come to their aid without forcing government-only-solutions onto a society that works best without government nags involved.
A young man is seriously injured and needs [our] support. We don’t need to buy into the S-CHIP crap to give that support. And we sure has hell don’t need to disparage the boy and his family to win the debate on socialized medicine. At least MOST of us don’t need to stoop that low to win that debate. The far right has earned this black eye and I am not going to defend them. The[re] is no excuse. S-CHIP is bad policy, but that cannot be used to rationalize the tormenting of a hurting family. Therefore I must join with those who condem[n] them for their actions on this issue. S-CHIP is bad policy, but what the right did to the Frosts is simply wrong.
There is much more to this post, and it's well-worth reading the whole thing. And read Strata's follow-up post from today, as well. Among other things, he wonders, as do Ezra Klein and Christy Hardin Smith, what pathogen has infected the right lately:
Something is in the water on the right side of the political spectrum. We have seen emotion driven attacks on a family that is in the perfect situation to be an example FOR market driven health care in this country. The mob is so focused on attacking the family (and then covering up for their mistake in doing so) the irony of their blunder just escapes them. Now some are crying out they are being censored when, in fact, they are simply being challenged in the forum of public debate - and losing miserably. ...
And this point, which I have never seen mentioned or acknowledged by anyone who opposes government-subsidized health care [emphasis mine]:
The Frosts had an emergency and we, their neighbors, were going to subsidize them one way or the other. Either through taxes or insurance premiums we were going to help out. So to say they are free-loading on the rest of us through their decisions is mindless bunk. Taxes or premiums - we pay for EVERYONE. The question is whether we keep our free market health care or get roped into a government mandated disaster like the ones in Europe and Canada. The NY Times has more real reporting on the family today, which IS in financial [straits].
You don't have to agree with the conclusion in Strata's next to last sentence to admire and respect him for having the intelligence and the insightfulness to understand that "either way, you pay" -- and for having the integrity and guts to say so, even if he may be feeling a bit like a Chinook salmon swimming upstream.