When I first saw this spot on TV, I thought, uh-oh, (another) final nail in the coffin of healthcare reform. The bow tie, the Captain Ahab beard, the one eyebrow preaching from high on its mount–it’s Koop!: a visage that many Americans, especially older ones, think of as the Surgeon General of the United States.

Now C. Everett Koop is 93, and he says–at the behest of 60 Plus, the rightwing answer to pro-reform AARP–that he is the beneficiary of the American healthcare system, which has given him a stent, two artificial joints, and two pacemakers, lifesavers that, he claims, he’d be denied in England, where he’d be considered "too old."

Well, that’s 100 percent not true, Factcheck.org said yesterday.

U.K. guidelines make clear that patients of "any age" may receive pacemakers, for example. And in fact, official statistics show 47 patients aged 100 or older got new or replacement pacemakers in a single recent year.

When we asked the 60 Plus Association for backup for the ad’s claims, a spokesman did not send us anything about the three medical treatments Koop mentioned or age limits on such procedures. Rather, the group pointed to three clippings [about hospice care, nursing home abuse, and a cancer drug] that have nothing to do with its claim.

Worse, 60 Plus tries to somehow link these lies about UK healthcare to meetings the Democrats are holding in "secret." Congressional lack of transparency (over much more than healthcare) is something progressives, too, are frustrated over, but that hardly means, as Koop would have it, that a death-panel plot is afoot.

And what about the timing? This ad, coming late in the game and designed to douse any last embers of reform still flickering, is a test of what today’s Democrats are made of. It’s one thing to "run for the hills" because you believe that Scott Brown’s Massachusetts win gives the GOP a "41-59 majority in the Senate" (as a Village Voice headline so succinctly put it). It’s another to not speak out loudly against outright lies like Koop’s, to in effect legitimize them because you’re afraid nobody wants to hear you squeaking about healthcare anymore.

My fear is that the Dems have been in a Stockholm Syndrome relationship with conservatives and corporate power for so long that they now believe whatever their captors tell them.