Bill Clinton: Stand And Deliver
Bill Clinton sat for an interview with Esquire just 48 hours after his return from North Korea, and, when the conversation turned to health care, Clinton said it's time for Democrats in Congress to "stand and deliver"--to get a bill before President Obama that will reform the nation's health system, even if it's not perfect, and to not be scared by opponents of Obama's push--otherwise health reform's failure will be their cross to bear:
[W]hat I'm more worried about is our people getting careless, forgetting the experience of '94, and that it is imperative that they produce a health-care bill for the president and make it the best one they can; if it's not perfect, we'll go back and fix it. But the people hire you to deliver. This electorate has suffered. They've suffered economically, they've suffered an enormous amount of sort of psychic insecurity from 9/11 to the economic breakdown, they've seen all this change going on around them, and they see in Obama a cool and intelligent guy who can multitask in a world where they know you've got to multitask. What they don't know is whether our guys are going to stand and deliver. And sooner or later you've got to stand and deliver. All we have to worry about is getting things done and doing them as well as we can. Don't even worry about the Republicans. Let them figure out what they're going to stand for. 'Cause as long as they're sitting around waiting for us to mess up, they don't have a chance.
...I wouldn't even worry about the Republicans. I'd worry about executing...And you can argue the strategies of health care out there flat around, but if we fail to deal with it, there is no question in my mind that it will be a cross around our neck economically and a stain on our nation's conscience because of the people whom we allow to suffer.
Incidentally, this raises a question that Clinton didn't not address in the interview: does he think Obama should abandon the bipartisan approach? "Executing" sounds more like getting Democrats in line. But something tells me it doesn't matter to Clinton so much how it gets done, rather that something gets to Obama's desk that advances Democratic goals.
Clinton also gives a history lesson. According to him, Bob Dole's presidential ambitions were a big reason for health reform's failure during his own first term in office:
And we now know, and I'm surer of this than anything: We just couldn't do it as long as Bob Dole was running for president. He's a good guy, and he's a friend of mine, and the whole time I dealt with him, the only time he was not as good as his word was on this. After Rostenkowski had asked for a bill, I personally asked Bob in the Cabinet Room if we could sit down and write a bill together and send a joint bill to the Congress. Because he was really good on health care for a Republican, cared about it, and he said, "You know, you need to send a bill in and we need to produce a bill, so that people know there are differences between the two parties and our approaches. Then we'll get together and compromise it out." When he said that, I think he believed it. Then he gets Bill Kristol's famous memo that says, you know, If you let Bill Clinton pass any kind of health-care bill, the Democrats will be the majority party for a generation, and you can forget about your presidential hopes. Your only option is to beat anything. Kill it off.