Skeptics Scrutinize Republican Motives for Endorsing Health Care Reform

Why have major conservative figures started speaking out in support of health care reform?

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Adding to a string of recent Republican endorsements of health care reform, Arnold Schwarzenegger announced today that Congress should get behind the president's agenda. The California governor joins Bush administration officials Tommy Thompson and Mark McClellan, and New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg, who is now an independent but ran as a Republican. What's the catch? Many pundits point out that none of these leaders currently hold office in Congress, so the impact of their endorsements is more symbolic and self-serving than practical. But liberals nevertheless hope that the shift will make the conservative opposition to reform on Capitol Hill look isolated.

  • Not a Watershed but It's a Start, says Kevin Drum at Mother Jones: "There's still not much in the way of support from anyone who's both employed and a red-blooded Republican, but it's a start." Karen Tumulty adds slyly, "Who knew there were so many socialists in the Republican Party? While Schwarzenegger is not endorsing a specific piece of legislation, this is pretty strong praise for the overall Obama approach."
  • GOP Defectors Have Ulterior Motives, says George Stephanopoulos. Bloomberg only endorsed health care reform to "keep President Obama on the sidelines for the remaining four weeks in his reelection battle against Bill Thompson," he writes. The mayor is exploiting the issue because he's running for a "term-limits defying third term on the Republican line in overwhelmingly Democratic New York City." And as others have noted, Republicans such as Bill Frist have since walked back on comments that seemingly supported the president's efforts.
  • We've Seen This Obama Tactic Before and it Works, writes The Washington Post's Ezra Klein: "This is reminiscent of the strategy the Obama campaign employed in the closing weeks of the presidential election... The campaign began to roll out, or emphasize, retired Republicans: Colin Powell, Jim Leach, and Lincoln Chafee among them. Obama's advisers figured that if the current political situation was too polarized to permit bipartisanship, then they could reach backward, or maybe outward, to find Republicans who weren't subject to its pressures." Klein says the tactic helped with the election and can help with health care. That same strategy also helped Obama win support for the federal stimulus when he reached out to GOP governors, notes The New York Times' David Herszenhorn.
  • Nothing But Phony Republicans, observes Peter Suderman at Reason: "Indeed, far from a triumph of illuminating bipartisanship, support from most of these folks is totally unsurprising. Bloomberg (who isn't even a Republican anymore) is a New York City independent not exactly known for his rigid small-government ideology; Schwarzenegger is a West Coast moderate who led a failed effort to implement remarkably similar health-care reforms in California."
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