Conservatives Defend Zeke Emanuel

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As Michael Scherer wrote the other day, Zeke Emanuel, one of President Obama’s health care advisers, has become the bogey man in some of the nuttier attacks on health care reform. Now, Jonathan Cohn hears from two leading conservative voices in the debate, people who know Emanuel and his work:

Stuart Butler is vice president for domestic and economic policy studies at the Heritage Foundation. Gail Wilensky is an economist at Project Hope. Both have impeccable conservative bona fides. Both are influential within Republican circles. (Wilensky was a health care advisor to the McCain campaign.)

I mentioned the pair in a previous post, describing them as serious intellectuals with whom a liberal like me can have a respectful, if still energetic, debate. I heard from each of them shortly thereafter. Butler wrote in an e-mail:

These personal attacks on good people like Zeke are outrageous. There are real policy issues that should be debated vigorously, but slandering a good person’s name is beyond the pale.

Wilensky agreed:

I have said as clearly as I know how that this “panel of death” characterization is just untrue. It is an attempt to empower seniors to make known their views about a terminal illness if they wish to do so and extends the current practice of providing hospice care and requiring nursing homes and hospitals to indicate in a patient’s record if they have an advance directive. This just allows physicians and other health care providers to get paid for a visit if the senior wants to have the discussion.

I was shocked by the comments about Zeke. I have been on many panels with him; these excerpted quotes don’t sound like anything I had ever heard him say.

A suggestion: Butler and Wilensky might want to get in touch with their friend Newt Gingrich.