At the top of my Google News today was this confusing headline from the Philadelphia Inquirer: “Health-care historian: GOP opposing ideas it long espoused.” What? If Republicans “long espoused” government-run health care, Ted Kennedy would have nationalized medicine a long, long time ago. The “historian” of the headline was Princeton professor Paul Starr, a co-founder of the liberal magazine The American Prospect. Stacey Burling’s story began:
In the past, most opposition to changing health care came from health-care interest groups: doctors, insurance companies, drug companies.
This time, it’s different. There has been considerable grumbling from the medical establishment, but the approach Democrats are taking “doesn’t really threaten any of those groups,” said Paul Starr, a Princeton University professor who won a Pulitzer Prize for his book on the history of health care: The Social Transformation of American Medicine. He later was involved in the creation of the Clinton health plan.
That’s the only indiction the Inquirer gives that perhaps Starr isn’t the best expert on Republican history. As usual, the liberals are nostalgic for the high tides of intellectual dominance for ultraliberalism, and we’re taken back to Truman and Nixon:
There was a time when many of the changes included in the House and Senate health bills would have been considered Republican or at least bipartisan ideas, Starr said. In the days of Harry S. Truman, he said, Democrats favored a single-payer system. The current approach is closer to what President Nixon proposed before Watergate sidelined his plans. He called for universal coverage through a combination of government and employer-based insurance.
Even if Nixon had ever proposed a Pelosi-pleasing “public option,” the “long espoused” headline is still a clunker. Other liberals have concluded Ted Kennedy would have never surrendered to Nixon on health care, like Greg Sargent: Kennedy Historians: It’s False To Conclude Kennedy Would Have Ditched Public Option For Compromise.