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Biden: Even My Mother Worried About Death Panels

Vice President Joe Biden sought to reassure seniors about health care reform today, promising that Medicare will remain strong while rebutting scare tactics he said opponents are responsible for.

Biden, speaking at the Leisure World retirement community in suburban Washington, said he saw the power of the talking points of his foes on a recent visit with his mother in Delaware.

"I walk in, give her a kiss. She says, 'Joey, what about these death panels?' And I said, 'Mom, I'm trying to kill you,'" Biden related. "She said, 'I'm serious, Joey. What about these death panels?' I said, 'Mom, it's hokum. It's a bunch of malarkey."

Speaking to the audience, he argued that "no one in the government, nobody anywhere, no panel is going to sit down and tell your doctor anything about how to care for you." Common sense should dictate that such a claim -- made often by his former vice presidential foe, Sarah Palin -- is false, Biden thought. "But my mother, it got through."

Biden, who called himself "a simple guy from Delaware who speaks plane old English," spent more time countering Republican warnings that the Democratic plan would weaken Medicare. An interesting claim, Biden said, coming from a party that once opposed creating the program in the first place.

"I kind of look at things in common sense terms here," Biden said. "Why would folks like us who put our careers on the line [fighting proposed Medicare cuts] in the '80s and '90s, why would we be doing anything to weaken the system I've been fighting to protect for 37 years?"

He and President Obama are "absolutely totally committed to protecting Medicare, securing that trust fund," and keeping the program alive for generations to come, Biden said. And, playing again to a senior crowd, Biden played the grandchildren card.

"The overall assertion that the team that built [Medicare] is now the team that wants to destroy it, and the team that opposed it is now the team that wants to preserve it - as my little 11-year-old grandchild Finnegan Biden would say, 'Pop, give me a break,'" he said.

The event was vintage Biden, taking questions from residents at what Sen. Barbara Mikulski (D-Md.) called the most politically engaged community in the state. Joining Biden, and jumping in to provide more concrete facts on occasion, were Secretary of Health and Human Services Kathleen Sebelius and the director of the Office of Health Reform, Nancy-Ann DeParle. But it was Biden's "bona fides" that the administration tapped to shore up the seniors.

"You may not like other parts of our plan. You may not like some aspects of what we're talking about," Biden conceded. "But as it relates to Medicare, we're the guys who fought for it. We're the guys who are going to keep it. We're the guys who are going to make it better. Don't buy this malarkey."

He urged those on hand to help spread that message, as well.

"I know this is Leisure World," he said. "But I know that you can fight like hell for things that you believe in. And I know right now we need you to stand up and fight for Medicare again. Fight through the lies, fight for what's right for you, for your children, and for your grandchildren. And for the generations of Americans to come, to make sure they have the benefit that we have had."