The Campaign Spot

Was Edwards’ Reaction To Hillary ‘The Shrillest Statement’ of the Year?

David Brooks calls the Edwards statement in reaction to Hillary’s health care proposal, “the shrillest statement issued by a major presidential candidate this year.” The highlights (or lowlights, depending on your point of view): 

“In 1993, we controlled Congress and the White House and we had a Democratic president with the courage to propose a universal health care plan. That plan was completely killed – run out of town by an army of lobbyists working for the big insurance companies, drug companies, and HMOs. Since 1993, the number of people without insurance has grown from 39.7 million to 47 million and insurance premiums have nearly doubled. We didn’t get health care, we got NAFTA. 
“The cost of failure 14 years ago isn’t anybody’s scars or political fortune, it’s the millions of Americans who have now gone without health care for more than 14 years and the millions more still crushed by the costs.
“So I’m glad that, today, the architect of the 1993 plan has another care proposal – and if imitation is the sincerest form of flattery, then I’m flattered.  ”But unless Senator Clinton’s willing to acknowledge the truth about our broken government and the cost of health care reform, I’m afraid flattery will get us nowhere. .. 

“The lesson Senator Clinton seems to have learned from her experience with health care is, ‘If you can’t beat ‘em, join ‘em.’ I learned a very different lesson from decades of fighting powerful interests – you can never join ‘em, you just have to beat ‘em…


“And to show Congress just how serious I am, on the first day of my administration, I will submit legislation that ends health care coverage for the president, all members of Congress, and all senior political appointees in both branches of government on July 20th, 2009 – unless we have passed universal health care reform.

Yeah, that’s pretty shrill, but I don’t know if it’s the shrillest. And I would note that if you see the world Edwards does – or claims he does – with Washington dominated by evil special interests who are hell-bent on preventing any government-run program that would provide “free” health care to all the good people of the country, then this attack on Hillary’s plan is completely par for the course. Brooks talks about how Hillary sees the world in “communitarian” terms, with “different social entities – individuals, the federal government, insurance companies, doctors and hospitals coming together and exercising shared responsibility for creating a better system.”


The problem is, those entities have different interests and priorities, and they’re inherently going to be working at cross purposes – patients want the best care for the lowest cost, doctors want higher compensation for their work and perhaps fewer patients; insurance companies want the most people treated in the least amount of time in a the most cost-effective — some would say cheapest – manner. How any plan can overcome those differing priorities is hard to imagine.


A guy who was tracking issues up in New Hampshire recently told me that health care was one of two dominant issues this year, along with Iraq. But there was a strange lack of detail to the public’s demands; they just want it “fixed,” with no clear preference for one idea or another.

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