According to the e-mail (read the full text here ), Daschle was quoted in a Bloomberg story saying, "Seniors should be more accepting of the conditions that come with age instead of treating them."
We thought that sounded a bit impolitic, and fairly callous, for a former senator to say, and so we decided to check it out.
As with most e-mail claims, it starts with a grain of something.
Bloomberg did run a story about health provisions in the stimulus package on Feb. 9, 2009, under the headline "Ruin Your Health With the Obama Stimulus Plan: Betsy McCaughey." It was a commentary piece written by Betsy McCaughey, former lieutenant governor of New York and an adjunct senior fellow at the Hudson Institute.
McCaughey warned that the stimulus included several troublesome provisions identical to ideas outlined by Daschle in his 2008 book, Critical: What We Can Do About the Health-Care Crisis. Midway through the article, McCaughey includes this paragraph:
"Daschle says health care reform 'will not be pain-free.' Seniors should be more accepting of the conditions that come with age instead of treating them. That means the elderly will bear the brunt."
We contacted McCaughey to see which parts of this were her words and which were Daschle's.
The phrase that health care reform "will not be pain-free" is a direct quote from Daschle, she explained. She said the sentence beginning "Seniors should be more accepting" was her paraphrasing of an argument in Daschle's book in which he quotes David Mechanic, a health care policy expert at Rutgers University, saying, "more and more of what were once seen as social, behavioral, or normative aspects of every day life, or as a normal process of aging, are now framed in a medical context. ... Whether wrinkles, breasts, or buttocks, impotence or social anxieties, or inattention in school, they all have become grist for the medical mill."
We think it's a stretch to summarize Daschle's position as saying that seniors should be more accepting of the conditions that come with age instead of treating them. Not treating wrinkles is one thing. Not treating, say, heart disease, is another. But that's fair enough for McCaughey to opine. This is labeled an opinion piece. The point is that these are McCaughey's words, not Daschle's.
The last sentence, "That means the elderly will bear the brunt," was her conclusion, McCaughey said.
McCaughey said she is a meticulous scholar and "I regret any misrepresentations made by others of my work or Mr. Daschle's views."
Our efforts to reach Daschle for comment were not successful.
In the chain e-mail, quote marks are shifted, clouding the issue of who is actually speaking, and the e-mail suggests that Daschle actually said that.
The e-mail begins: "Apparently, seniors are expendable — treating us is not worth the expense (unless you're a congressman!).