Answering Ezra


Ezra Klein homes in on my own record in helping scuttle Hillary Clinton's dreadful healthcare reform plan in 1993 and 1994. It's odd that Klein still supports a plan that Clinton herself has now conceded was misbegotten. Her current plan is far more market-friendly and less bureaucratic. At the time, The New Republic editorialized in favor of universal coverage, but endorsed plans that were much more similar to the one that Clinton backs today. I think the magazine's refusal to be mau-maued by the Clintons at the time - and Hillary was threatening blue murder against anyone who so much as dared to criticize her - is a feather in the magazine's cap. We weren't "out to get the Clintons." Some of us - well, two of us - were merely worried that America's excellent private healthcare system would be hobbled by too much government regulation. I am glad we helped head off the Clinton-Magaziner behemoth. Proud, actually.

My sin was to publish a major article by Elizabeth McCaughey called "No Exit" that posited that Hillarycare 2.0 would inevitably lead to the extinction of much private medicine. Ezra wants me to be "more honest" about this.

I don't think it's fair to expose the internal editing of a piece but there was a struggle and it's fair to say I didn't win every skirmish. I was aware of the piece's flaws but nonetheless was comfortable running it as a provocation to debate. It sure was. The magazine fully aired subsequent criticism of the piece. And if the readers of TNR are incapable of making their own minds up, then we might as well give up on the notion of intelligent readers. The piece also won a National Magazine Award.

Klein's view of how journalists should behave with respect to politicians they broadly support is revealing:

Maybe if articles like No Exit hadn't been published, and editors like Sullivan hadn't been out to get the Clintons, the Clintons wouldn't have acted as if articles No Exit were being published, and editors like Sullivan were out to get them.

Er: Clinton's Cheneyesque refusal to debate healthcare openly, her sequestering of experts to draw up an overhaul of the entire heathcare system in secret for months, her contempt for anyone who dared ask what was in it, and her arrogance in dumping it on Washington in one fell swoop and then demanding we endorse it or be labeled evil ... these tactics were deployed long before we published "No Exit". We didn't create her paranoia. Ask Bill Bradley. I don't blame Ezra for not knowing this. He was nine years old at the time. But I would add that Clinton herself has conceded that she acted like an arrogant, paranoid self-righteous prick during this debacle. TNR tried to rescue universal healthcare at the time by proposing an alternative. Clinton's refusal to allow alternatives killed off the project once and for all.

She was not a victim. And Ezra Klein should be careful unless his view of what journalism is degenerates into something indistinguishable from Sidney Blumenthal's.

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