At long last, have you left no sense of decency? (The most important fact that Obama can point to tomorrow night)

Have you no sense of decency, sir? At long last, have you left no sense of decency?

Joseph N. Welch, head counsel for the United States Army while it was under investigation by Joseph McCarthy‘s Senate Permanent Subcommittee on Investigations for Communist activities, an investigation known as the Army-McCarthy hearings.  Spring 1954.

Shortly after the Denver debate two weeks ago, I wrote here that I thought it was critically important for Obama to not only illustrate, using Romney’s own words and his campaign’s own acknowledgment right after the debate, that Romney’s plan regarding healthcare insurance for people with preexisting medical conditions was the status quo, but also to tie that in directly with Romney’s “47 percent” speech at fundraisers. (And, yes, that probably was his standard speech at fundraisers, not something he said just at that one.)

I said in that post that Romney’s misrepresentation on such an important issue—literally, one of life and death in some instances—demonstrates his utter disregard for anyone who’s not wealthy. 

I mean, really; what, in heaven’s name, kind of person has such little regard for others that he’s willing to play a semantics game—y’know, it depends on what the meaning of “plan” is—in order to mislead people about something of that sort?

As I said in my earlier post, many of Romney’s misrepresentations at that debate succeeded either because he was using common words in a misleading way or because he was making representations of fact that the public lacks the expertise to recognize as false.

And two things the public does know is that you can’t get medical treatment for most illnesses, nor can you get standard diagnostic tests for most illnesses, at a hospital emergency room.  And that you do receive medical bills—sometimes ones that, for people who have no multimillion-dollar annual income from Bain Capital ties, may be prohibitive—from treatment in an emergency room or in, say, an operating room after arriving at an emergency room.

And a third thing the public knows is that some people who have no healthcare insurance do die prematurely because they failed to get a timely medical examination and resulting treatments because they had no access to them at all, or because they feared, say, the loss of their home because of the resulting bills.

So it’s terrific that since the Denver debate, Romney, as Paul Krugman details today, has said otherwise. 

It’s one thing to try to fool people about what you mean when you say, for example, that as president you won’t decrease the “share” of taxes paid by the wealthy.  As the last two weeks has shown, you can get away with that as long as you don’t explain that, by “share,” you mean the percentage of income of the taxpayer relative to the percentage of income of other taxpayers, not the amount or the proportion of tax revenues that one income bracket’s taxes will comprise.  Twenty percent of $40,000 is $8,000.  Twenty percent of $1 million is $200,000.  As in, a 20% across-the-board reduction in tax rates.

But it’s quite another thing to try to fool people about something that doesn’t depend upon what the meaning of “is” is, or on what the meaning of “plan” is, or on what the meaning of “share” is—and that they themselves actually know is false.  Just plain, flat-out false. 

But here’s betting that most of the public doesn’t know that Romney actually made the statements he’s made about the uninsureds’ access to healthcare.  They need to be informed of this.  They need to be informed of this.

And although most people will get it without an illustration, Obama should offer this illustration, nonetheless: Could Ann Romney really have learned of her breast cancer by showing up at an emergency room and requesting a mammogram?  Could she then have had the surgery and other, ongoing treatments?  And if so, would she not then have received a bill that, for her family, would amount to pocket change but to most families would amount to financial catastrophe?

And then he should offer this illustration: When Ann Romney began having the symptoms that lead to her diagnosis of multiple sclerosis, could she have just shown up at the emergency room for a diagnosis?  And for the intensive, ongoing treatments for it that have put her illness into sufficient remission to enable her to speak day after day about her husband’s kindness and caring nature, and about his ability to “fix” things?

The importance of Romney’s recent healthcare-access claims goes well beyond the obvious.  Pointing just to those instances, Obama can illustrate this fundamental truth: Not only does Romney have a deep-seated disdain for ordinary people, but he views them as simply tools to be manipulated.  At an absolute minimum, this guy is the quintessential coward.

Yes, a coward.  His modusoperandi is that of a con artist.  And he’s doing this even about the most fundamental matters, such as preexisting medical-condition coverage. 

And, as Steven Rattner details in a New York Times op-ed piece today, about a veritable slewof other critical matters.

So I end with the quote with which I began, and with the reference to the person quoted: Joseph N. Welch:

Have you no sense of decency, sir? At long last, have you left no sense of decency?

Obama could do worse tomorrow night than to use that quote.