Oh, Andrew: A Response To The McCaughey History

I love my former boss and current colleague, Andrew Sullivan. But I think he makes a mistake today in his otherwise thoughtful account of his publishing Betsy McCaughey's 1994 piece on the Clinton health plan. He concludes the piece by saying: "There's one reason the Clinton healthcare bill failed and it isn't Betsy McCaughey. It's Hillary Clinton." But this is reductionist in the extreme. Clinton made mistakes as she's admitted. But the difficulty that President Obama is having passing health care reform under easier circumstances--a bigger Democratic majority, more frustration with the current system--shows that there's a reason presidents since Truman have been taking a shot at this and none has quite managed. One is the sheer size of the undertaking, and second, and more important, is the sheer tenacity of the opposition. Obama's done the opposite of Clinton. Instead of devising a bill in relative secrecy, albeit with consultation from Congress and interested parties, he let Congress figure it out. Instead of specifics, he offered broad principles. Nothing wrong with that. But the end result is that Obama is still fighting for his bill despite having 60--count 'em--Democratic senators and the House that Rahm and Pelosi built. It's tough. Hillary Clinton made plenty of mistakes, and you could argue she deserves the lion's share of blame for the '94 debacle. But to not mention the American Medical Association, Bill Kristol, Bob Dole, Newt Gingrich, Harry and Louise and all the other opposition to the plan is kind of myopic for someone with such good vision.

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Matthew Cooper is a managing editor (White House) for National Journal.

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