Senior White House adviser David Axelrod says it will be "tragic" if liberals scuttle health reform after Sen. Joe Lieberman's (I-CT) defection has stripped the Medicare buy-in provision, and that Howard Dean's Washington Post op-ed is "based on a bunch of erroneous conclusions."

Axelrod did a phone interview with MSNBC's "Morning Joe" today to respond to criticisms leveled of late by progressives--most notably Dean. Major progressive groups haven't come out against the Senate bill per se, but they're applying heavy pressure on President Obama and Democratic senators to get something more preferable worked out. Sen. Bernie Sanders of Vermont says that, at this point, he'd vote against it, but he hasn't made up his mind.

Things got a little testy with Ed Schultz, possibly MSNBC's most progressive host, who challenged Axelrod on the bill's individual mandate provision. Video below:

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On the possibility of the bill being defeated amid liberal protests, Axelrod said:

I think that would be a tragic, tragic outcome. We're on the verge of doing something that would make an enormously positive difference for people, and it is, I guess if you're hale and hearty and have insurance, it's fine to say, "Kill this bill," or if you're healthy and you have a good relationship with your insurance company, but if you're a person with a preexisting medical condition, or if you're a small businessperson and you can't get insurance for your employees, or if you're someone in the single market, in other words not through your employer, and you're paying a huge premium to get insurance now or you can't afford it, I don't think that you want this moment to pass. It will not come back again, and, you know, I'm a little bewildered that some of my friends suggest that this is somehow a win for the insurance industry, when every single day we're battling the insurance industry who are spending hundreds of millions of dollars lobbying to defeat this bill.

On Howard Dean's repeated public criticisms of the bill and his Washington Post op-ed, which ran today, blasting it:

I have a lot of respect for Governor Dean, but he got on the phone with Nancy-Ann DeParle, our point person on the health care issue, went through point by point, she explained why he was wrong, and he simply didn't want to hear that critique. I saw his piece in the Post this morning, and it is predicated on a bunch of erroneous conclusions.

On progressive anger at Lieberman, and whether Lieberman is, as host Joe Scarborough put it, "writing this bill":

No, he's certainly not writing this bill, but the notion that we would let our personal feelings about one person defeat a bill that would deliver to people who don't have insurance the opportunity to get it at a price they can afford, that would defeat a bill that has patient protections that we've fought for for decades for people who do have insurance, to defeat a bill that will bend the curve on this inexorable rise in health care costs is insane. It shouldn't be about Joe Lieberman, it should be about people who need help. It should be about the American people, and that's what we're fighting for.

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