Is Sarah Palin Becoming Influential Voice in Health Care Debate?

This is a RUSH transcript from "The O'Reilly Factor," August 14, 2009. This copy may not be in its final form and may be updated.

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LAURA INGRAHAM, GUEST HOST: In the "Personal Story" segment tonight: the power of Palin. When Sarah Palin went on her Facebook page last weekend worrying that the Democrats' health reform plan would include death panels, she kicked up a storm that no one saw coming. And now key senators say they will exclude an end-of-life care provision from their legislation. Joining from us Las Vegas is Amanda Carpenter, a reporter for The Washington Times, and from Los Angeles, Matthew Littman, a former speechwriter for Joe Biden.

Now, I want to start with you, Joe (sic), because it seems like Friday nights, you know, you're always on the show Friday nights when I'm hosting, and I want to start with you about the power of Palin. Was she able to move this debate with the death panel branding? Because it seems to me that really resonated with a lot of folks across the country.

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MATTHEW LITTMAN, FORMER BIDEN SPEECHWRITER: I think it resonated with some conservatives, and I think more importantly was that Charles Grassley basically repeated what Sarah Palin said the other day. Of course, as it turns out, what Sarah Palin refers to as death panels, she was for a year and a half ago when she was governor of Alaska.


LITTMAN: So this is the usual back and forth between Sarah Palin and Sarah Palin.

INGRAHAM: How was she in favor of death panels?

LITTMAN: She — I could read this to you. She — when she was governor of Alaska, she came out for the idea of talking to people about living wills, of the government having — paying people back for their living wills. She came out and said that was a good idea and talking to people about end-of-life care in advance was a good idea, at some health care day or something in Alaska.

INGRAHAM: Was that for doctors being given incentives?

LITTMAN: You can look it up.

INGRAHAM: Well, I'm not sure she favored doctors being incentivized to give people those kind of, you know, consultations and have those discussions. But Amanda, what's clear here is that Sarah Palin, you know, like her or not, seems to be able to really get under the wisdom tooth like a raspberry seed of the left in this health care debate all the way from Alaska even though she's no longer governor.

AMANDA CARPENTER, WASHINGTON TIMES: Yes. I mean, all she did was issue a Facebook statement on August 7, a Friday night at that and then less than a week later, that provision that she's talking about is out of the bill. I know of no other Republican that has been able to break through, you know, the medical debate over this issue. She got President Obama to talk about death panels and Grandma in the same sentence. I mean, that would not have happened otherwise. I think she's making a really powerful offensive move in separating herself from other Republicans. You have guys like Bobby Jindal talking about how to make health care bipartisan, and she's just saying no, this will end up to rationing care. And clearly that has a lot of powerful influence.

INGRAHAM: Now Matthew, she mentioned something in her blog yesterday about Rahm Emanuel's brother, who has had some involvement in the health care debate with the White House. Had talks with the White House. And one of his analyses involves — is this something called complete lives system, which is a way to allocate resources based on someone's age and past infirmities, and some type of calculation on how to look and assess people's current condition. And she's concerned that, obviously, because the brother, Rahm, is so close to the White House and he's been consulting, that this could end up having some influence in this process. Do you think that's overstated or real?

LITTMAN: Well, I'm sure that it's overstated, because it's coming from Sarah Palin. And I have to tell you I don't read Sarah Palin's Facebook page and I don't follow her on Twitter. And when she's on VH-1 dating Flava Flav, which is what I expert in a few years, then I'll follow Sarah Palin. In the meantime, I don't take it seriously.

INGRAHAM: Dating what?

LITTMAN: Flavor Flav.

INGRAHAM: Matthew, here — here's what I don't get, is that the Democrats are, like, getting smashed in the debate right now by insulting people, by insulting the people who show up at the protests. You, you know, will say nasty things about Sarah Palin. She's actually trying to engage in a conversation about...

LITTMAN: I don't think that — I disagree with you.

INGRAHAM: Yes, she is. She's actually...

LITTMAN: I don't think she is. I think that that thing about death panels was a made-up thing.

INGRAHAM: No, no, no. She's an individual citizen speaking out.

LITTMAN: I disagree with you. I don't agree.

INGRAHAM: And for you to make some slam on her, which I think is — I don't — I wouldn't — I don't like calling things sexist, because I think it's overused. But I think your little comment about her just now reveals just how positively desperate the Democrats look. They called the crowd out there at these town halls, they were the mob, they were the cable chatterers. They're influenced by militias. They're practically the racist yahoo fringe. This is what they've done to the people of this country. The more they do that, the more popular both the town hall protesters are and the less popular Obama's health care plan is.

But Amanda, you know, this is not — I'm not surprised, I'm not surprised that Matthew took it there, because she's obviously resonating with Americans, you know, on this issue. You don't have to agree with her on everything. She's resonating on this.

CARPENTER: Yes, I think it's amazing that she can get people to talk about death panels and health care. And, you know, really Democrats really didn't pay attention to what she thought and just dismissed her as a failed vice presidential candidate and former governor. I mean, she wouldn't have this influence. But what is really interesting about what Sarah Palin is doing is that she is talking directly to the public through Facebook. I mean, this is a pretty innovative move for a leading Republican like her not to go — not to use PR spin.

LITTMAN: Right. Where no one can ask her any questions.

CARPENTER: I mean, she's talking. She's saying what she wants to say.

LITTMAN: Where no one can ask her any questions because she can't answer them.

CARPENTER: If you want to see someone who's genuine, who talks about what she wants to talk about, who isn't doing all the PR spin, it's Sarah Palin. And, you know, a lot of people don't...

LITTMAN: Oh yes, she's genuine.

CARPENTER: to inject that into the public debate in the way that she's doing. And Matthew, you're one of them.

INGRAHAM: Matthew, go ahead.

LITTMAN: I don't think that she's genuine. I think that she's a complete phony. I don't think she's genuine at all, and it's proven by her track record, where she takes two sides.

INGRAHAM: Here goes the personal attacks.

LITTMAN: It's not personal attack, Laura. It's — the fact of the matter is...

INGRAHAM: Why the — oh, really?

CARPENTER: She's phony? She should be dating Flavor Flav? That's not a personal attack?

LITTMAN: Can I answer the question? No, I think it's a compliment for Sarah Palin.

INGRAHAM: Matthew...

LITTMAN: If you're asking me, I think Sarah Palin's on both sides of every issue.

INGRAHAM: I think what unwittingly you have shown tonight is that the Democrats, they've got nothing left, so the throwing up anything against the wall and demeaning people, I don't think it's working. It just doesn't matter as a political strategy. You might get a few yucks. You might get a few yucks from the left.

LITTMAN: Do you want to bet me that health care passes? Do you want to bet me that health care reform passes? Do you want to bet?

INGRAHAM: We'll see. I hope not, for God's sake, for our country.

CARPENTER: You'd probably make more money that way.


INGRAHAM: We're out of time.

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