Press Ignores Sunstein's 'Young Man' Claim, But in 1998 Jumped on Hyde's 'Youthful Indiscretions' Remark

On Friday, Cass Sunstein, the White House's 56 year-old Administrator of the Office of Information and Regulatory Affairs (pictured at right), attempted to disavow a 42-page paper he wrote called "Lives, Life-Years, and Willingness to Pay," which recommended that the government reduce resources directed at benefitting the elderly in favor of increasing what goes to young people, because young people have more years of life ahead of them. His statement, as carried at CNS News:

“I’m a lot older now than the author with my name was, and I’m not sure what I think about what that young man wrote,” he said. “Things written as an academic are not a legitimate part of what we do as a government official. So I am not focusing on sentences that a young Cass Sunstein wrote years ago.

So, dear readers, before you go to the rest of this post, guess how "young" Sunstein was when he engaged in his de facto "death panels" advocacy.

... Ready? Okay, here goes:

The paper was written a mere eight years ago, in 2003. Sunstein was an apparently "young" 48. Now he wants Americans to believe he's taken a U-turn (though the quote noted doesn't exactly do that, does it?).

If it weren't for CNS News, American Thinker, and Investors Business Daily, almost no one outside the hearing room would know what Sunstein said.

IBD's editorial skewered Sunstein's veracity, and the underlying idea he articulated in 2003 (bolds are mine):

... A commercial showing granny being pushed over a cliff by a person resembling Rep. Paul Ryan, R-Wis., was recently put out by the Agenda Project, implying that the Ryan budget will kill old people by changing Medicare.

 

For the sake of accuracy, granny should have been dispatched by a character resembling Cass Sunstein, President Obama's head of the Office of Information and Regulatory Affairs.

 

... Rather than ensuring that everyone get the best care possible, Sunstein wrote (in 2003) that government should rely instead on the "value of a statistical life year" (VSLY), which would likely result in significantly lower benefit calculations for elderly people and significantly higher benefits for children.

 

Government would assign a dollar value to your life in terms of what it's worth, and if you exceeded that limit, well, too bad. Britain's National Health Service has a similar measure of cost-effectiveness called the "quality adjusted life year" to see if your life is worth saving.

 

In the paper, Sunstein said, "I urge that the government should indeed focus on statistical life years rather than statistical lives. A program that saves young people produces more welfare than one that saves old people." He added that under the VSLY approach, "Older people are treated worse for one reason, they are older. This is not an injustice."

 

It isn't? When the man who would provide input into the establishment of the Independent Payment Advisory Board that would supervise cost reductions for Medicare got caught for suggesting seniors are expendable, Sunstein said he was "not sure what I think about what that young man wrote." Sunstein was 48 at the time. As for being "not sure," we are talking about people's lives here, Mr. Sunstein.

 

... This is called rationing and denial of service.

Here's Ethel C. Fenig's exclamation point at American Thinker:

They laughed when Sarah Palin (R) mentioned death panels.

 

... (Sunstein) is one of the chief proponents of death panels. Of course he didn't call them that but nevertheless Palin accurately picked up his intention.

It will surprise absolutely no one that in searches on Sunstein's last name, I found nothing relating his pathetic "young man" defense at the Associated Press, New York Times, Washington Post, or Los Angeles Times. A Google News search on ["Cass Sunstein" "young man"] (typed exactly as indicated between brackets) returns two results: the IBD and American Thinker pieces.

I don't have to speculate that the press would jump on a conservative or Republican who tried to use the "young man" excuse in an attempt to explain away something undesirable. That's because the press did just that to the late Henry Hyde in 1998. As Hyde pursued impeachment charges against Bill Clinton, Salon investigated Hyde's personal life and found that the Illinois congressman had an affair from 1965-1969 while he was an Illinois state legislator. When confronted with the evidence, Hyde described what he had done as "youthful indiscretions."

Of course, it was not Hyde's finest hour, but that's not the point. The point is that Hyde's three decades-old affair was major news at almost every broadcast and cable TV outlet, as the Media Research Center's CyberAlert noted on September 17, 1998:

The Salon online magazine hit on Judiciary Committee Chairman Henry Hyde led ABC’s World News Tonight. CBS anchor Dan Rather read a short item on the charge Hyde had an affair in the 1960s, CNN gave it a couple of sentences in a larger story, FNC raised it three times in questions to reporters and analysts but NBC didn’t touch it.

So a thirty year-old story about Hyde that was arguably irrelevant (Clinton's impeachment wasn't about sex; it was about lying under oath) got near-saturation coverage, while a White House official who will influence how Medicare costs are controlled -- to the point of potentially determining who lives and dies, and who only eight years ago advocated treating old people worse simply because they are old -- gets nothing. But the establishment press insists that there are no double standards. Horse manure.

Cross-posted at BizzyBlog.com.

Tom Blumer
Tom Blumer
Tom Blumer is a contributing editor for NewsBusters.