Betsy McCaughey is a professional liar. She lies. The things she writes are untrue. They are not even "distortions." They are made-up. Everyone has known this for years and yet she was still allowed to derail the nation this month.
McCaughey's schtick, as described by James Fallows, is to pose as a disinterested, objective researcher who is just shocked and dismayed to find something insane and evil in a piece of legislation supported by a Democratic president.
And then she sits down to write a very serious and nonpartisan and concerned piece of analysis of this evil thing in the legislation that she made up. And then some respectable outlet publishes her serious analysis. And then, within minutes, partisan Republican columnists, talk radio hosts, politicians, and operatives are disseminating talking points taken directly from that serious piece of entirely made-up bullshit analysis.
Her first stab at derailing this year's health care debate came with a Bloomberg column about fictitious health care rationing hidden in the stimulus bill.
In a July 24 column for the New York Post, McCaughey smeared Ezekiel Emanuel (the nice Emanuel brother) as a murderous "deadly doctor."
In a radio interview with Fred Thompson, McCaughey got more explicit, wholly inventing mandatory death panel sessions American seniors would have to face every five years.
Of course, she's been at this forever. In 1994, McCaughey worked for the Manhattan Institute, a right-wing think tank. And then she wrote a piece for The New Republic about how the Clinton health care plan would not allow people to buy health care coverage outside the government-run plan. This, obviously, was false. George Will picked up on it, adding nonsense about jail terms.
(Andrew Sullivan edited The New Republic from 1991 through 1996. In 1994, Sullivan was on a roll, publishing both the objectively racist pseudoscience of The Bell Curve and Betsy McCaughey's No Exit. This was all before Ruth Shalit and Stephen Glass. Current editor Franklin Foer apologized for the McCaughey piece shortly after assuming his position. Sullivan never really has. McCaughey's story was really more the fault of owner/"editor-in-chief" Marty Peretz, of course, because he had a psychotic hatred of Bill Clinton.)
So. After that one lying story full of lies made her famous, Al D'Amato told George Pataki to make her Lietenant Governor of New York. She did not get along with Pataki, and she famously, weirdly, stood up for the entirety of Pataki's 1996 State of the State address. In 1997, Pataki dropped her from the ticket with a nasty public letter and she decided to become a Democrat in order to run against him. She ended up on the Liberal Party ticket, and lost, obviously, and then she moved to DC to work for the Hudson Institute, another right-wing think tank.
So she is a known liar and an elected Republican politician (her brief and bizarre stint as a vengeful Liberal party candidate aside), and here she is still forcing people to argue with chimerical fantasies instead of legitimate criticisms of progressive legislation.
We are hard pressed to come up any equivalent figure on "the left," who openly and intentionally lies in the service of her partisan arguments, and who continues to do so with relative impunity, in major publications, long after the lies are exposed.