A Note About The Clintons And Health Care

UNITED STATES
Reporter Jackie Calmes of the New York Times wrote the following today (on health care basically)…

In 1994, Democrats’ dysfunction over fulfilling a new president’s campaign promise contributed to the party’s loss of its 40-year dominance of Congress. Now that memory is being revived, and it is the message the White House and Congressional leaders will press when lawmakers return this week, still divided and now spooked after the turbulent town-hall-style meetings, downbeat polls and distortions of August.

That 15-year-old lesson underscores how much the Clinton debacle has defined Mr. Obama’s drive for his domestic priority from the beginning, providing a tip sheet for what not to do. Even Mr. Obama’s decision to address a joint session of Congress on Wednesday night to jumpstart his health initiative left some aides wary, given the inevitable parallels with Mr. Clinton’s September address 16 years ago to introduce his ill-fated plan.

As I and many others have pointed out over and over and over, the Republican congressional takeover of 1994 had more to do with “values voter” umbrage over the perceived peccadilloes of Clinton at that time as well as preoccupation with “scandals” such as the House Post Office controversy (Remember what that was all about? Neither do I, actually, which is usually the case when wingnuts make noise to generate headlines) along with the fact that Baby Newton Leroy Gingrich’s face was on my TV screen every stinking day plugging his Contract on America (and the Repug takeover had very little to do with the assault weapons ban also).

Besides, this “reporting” by Calmes is free of factual content and exists only to reinforce the narrative that that mean Hillary Clinton just decided to own the health care issue lock, stock and barrel and freeze Congress out of the negotiations, right?

Um, no.

If Calmes had bothered to read her own newspaper, she would have learned the following from fellow reporter Kate Phillips (here)…

In mid-August, former President Clinton himself challenged that supposed historical lesson. He argued that blaming his administration’s decision to hand a bill to Congress was an inaccurate depiction of what occurred and not a reason the effort failed.

As keynote speaker at the Netroots Nation conference of progressive/liberal bloggers in Pittsburgh, Mr. Clinton sarcastically denounced what he considers the false, revisionist history: “Everybody knows that Hillary presented this horribly complicated, 1,300-page bill, which would have broken the back of the federal statutes. And what she should’ve done was refused to present a bill and just have her committee issue a report to Congress with recommendations.”

In reality, Mr. Clinton said, the bill-writing was dictated by Congress: “We actually pleaded with the chairman of the House Ways and Means Committee to let us send a report with recommendations and have them write the bill, and he said, ‘I will not take this up unless you send me a bill.’ ”

Mr. Clinton recalled that the chairman at the time — Representative Dan Rostenkowski, whom President Clinton later pardoned for a mail-fraud conviction — countered that without a presidential bill, interest groups would swarm all over his committee. The lobbyists would overwhelm the lawmakers, in other words.

And according to Mr. Clinton, the chairman argued: “There’s not enough base-level knowledge in the Congress to resist it, and we will never get anywhere. This will not happen unless you give a bill.”

I would ask that you remember the next time you read about how the Clintons were the villains of the early ‘90s health care effort (more partisan mythology intended to deflect attention from the ravenous right-wing fear mongering that defeated the ‘90s attempt at health care reform and, sadly, may do the same thing this time around also).

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