MSNBC's Joe Scarborough on Friday said the people in the audience at Monday's Republican presidential debate were "applauding the death of a young man without health insurance" and therefore were like the John Birchers "that Bill Buckley kicked out of the conservative movement in the mid-1960s."
Unfortunately, the host of "Morning Joe" has, like so many others in the media, badly misinterpreted what occurred when Texas Congressman Ron Paul was asked what should happen to a voluntarily uninsured man who falls into a coma (video follows with transcript and commentary):
JOE SCARBOROUGH, HOST: I was a Tea Party guy before Tea Party was popular. You can look at my thousands of votes from 1995 to 2001, and you will not find anybody, nobody other than maybe Ron Paul, that was more small government than me. You just won't. It is a matter of record - a matter of record. And yet when I was watching the debate the other night and I heard some people applauding the death of a young man without health insurance, or some of the other applause, or quite frankly some of the responses to some things that Rick Perry said that would've got him laughed out of a middle school classroom. I sat there and said who are those people in that room, and where in the hell is my conservative party? Because I will tell you, these people - for the record, America - these are the people that Bill Buckley kicked out of the conservative movement in the mid-1960s. These are the people that he said, the John Birchers, that he said have nothing to do with what I am and what conservatism is.
PEGGY NOONAN: So you think the Tea Party now consists of old Birchite folks, or Birchite thinking?
SCARBOROUGH: No, I'm not painting that broad brush over the Tea Party movement at all. I think there are elements, though, that our candidates are focusing on too much and they're playing to the lowest common denominator in a way that doom conservatives to make gains next year in a race for the White House.
I'm surprised Scarborough has fallen for this liberal, Tea Party-bashing line.
Let's go back to what really happened at Monday's debate:
WOLF BLITZER, CNN: Before I get to Michele Bachmann, I want to just -- you're a physician, Ron Paul, so you're a doctor. You know something about this subject. Let me ask you this hypothetical question.
A healthy 30-year-old young man has a good job, makes a good living, but decides, you know what? I'm not going to spend $200 or $300 a month for health insurance because I'm healthy, I don't need it. But something terrible happens, all of a sudden he needs it.
Who's going to pay if he goes into a coma, for example? Who pays for that?
CONGRESSMAN RON PAUL (R-TEXAS): Well, in a society that you accept welfarism and socialism, he expects the government to take care of him.
BLITZER: Well, what do you want?
PAUL: But what he should do is whatever he wants to do, and assume responsibility for himself. My advice to him would have a major medical policy, but not be forced --
BLITZER: But he doesn't have that. He doesn't have it, and he needs intensive care for six months. Who pays?
PAUL: That's what freedom is all about, taking your own risks.
This whole idea that you have to prepare and take care of everybody --
BLITZER: But Congressman, are you saying that society should just let him die?
So, as you can see, there wasn't any applause for letting the man die. There were some cat-calls from the audience saying "Yeah," but this, too, has been misinterpreted.
The scenario set forth by Blitzer was, "A healthy 30-year-old young man has a good job, makes a good living, but decides, you know what? I'm not going to spend $200 or $300 a month for health insurance because I'm healthy, I don't need it. But something terrible happens, all of a sudden he needs it."
Should taxpayers be responsible for his decision not to insure himself?
If I buy auto insurance, but fail to get collision because I don't want to spend the extra money, should taxpayers pay for my repairs if I get into an accident? No.
If my house is paid off, and I choose not to buy fire insurance, should taxpayers pay to restore my house if it burns down? No.
If I choose not to buy life insurance and I die before my kids graduate college, should taxpayers financially support my children and my wife if she needs it? No.
I live in an earthquake area but choose to not pay what I think is an exorbitant premium with a very high deductible for earthquake insurance. Should taxpayers foot the bill if my house gets taken out by a massive quake? No.
So why should taxpayers cover the medical costs of a "healthy 30-year-old young man [that] has a good job, makes a good living, but decides, you know what? [He's] not going to spend $200 or $300 a month for health insurance because [he's healthy and doesn't need it]?
He's decided to "self-insure," and therefore has taken a calculated risk on his own that has nothing to do with the society. Maybe he wants to spend that $200 or $300 a month on a fancier car. Or a nicer apartment. Or a larger TV set.
But that's his choice NOT the taxpayers'.
This is what the applause and the cat-calls were about Monday: we make decisions how to spend our money, and we alone should be responsible for those decisions NOT the taxpayers.
Part of this Tea Party movement is a desire for America to get back to a time when individuals and businesses were responsible for their own decisions and didn't get bailed out for making bad ones.
This includes banks, brokerage firms, car companies, and, yes, individuals.
As such, what happened on Monday wasn't "people applauding the death of a young man without health insurance" as Scarborough and others have claimed.
Instead, it was folks applauding the concept of personal responsibility - something that is sorely lacking in our society today adding to its decline.
(H/T NB reader John Brisson)