Sen. Chuck Grassley's endorsement Wednesday of an unfounded, extremist argument that Democratic health care legislation could empower the government to "pull the plug on grandma" has once again raised question about the utility of the White House's efforts at bipartisanship.
The Iowa Republican has been relentlessly wooed by the White House on account of his role as one of the three GOP Senators on the Senate Finance Committee who have put themselves forward as chief negotiators on a bipartisan health care bill.
According to a report in Thursday's New York Times, Grassley has had many personal conversations with the president, both by phone and in person, during the health care legislation crafting process. Obama even told a gathering in New Hampshire on Tuesday that Grassley was one of his "Republican friends on Capitol Hill" who was "sincerely trying to figure out if they find a health care bill that works."
But for all the private outreach and public compliments it's hard to see what, if anything, Obama has gained in return. While even some of Grassley's fellow Republicans are distancing themselves from the fear-mongering lies espoused by the likes of former Alaska governor Sarah Palin, Grassley, at a town hall meeting in Iowa on Wednesday, gave credence to the myth that Obama and congressional Democrats were advocating direct government involvement in end-of-life decisions.
"There is some fear because in the House bill, there is counseling for end-of-life," Grassley said. "And from that standpoint, you have every right to fear.... We should not have a government program that determines if you're going to pull the plug on grandma."
The Senator also remains a staunch opponent of a public option for insurance coverage - a key aspect of the president's agenda.
Despite all this, the White House continues to speak of bipartisanship when it comes to crafting reform - although the definition of what constitutes Republican participation has become a bit more elastic.
"In terms of bi-partisanship in health care, he wants Republican ideas. He wants to talk to Republicans about it," a senior administration official told the Huffington Post earlier this week. "He wants to give them an opportunity to contribute constructively to the process. That is his test for whether it is a bipartisan bill... If they choose to all vote against it for some strategic political reason -- so be it. We have no control over that."