Health Reform Advice Obama Might Get From Clinton

Imagined health reform advice from one president to another.


By Jamie Stiehm, Thomas Jefferson Street blog

Dear Barack,

Healthcare reform is a big deal even if the era of big government ended nearly 15 years ago. And I’ve been where you are, man, and I feel for what you’re going through. If you can get it all done in a day, wrap up the deal with those masters of no, Senate Republicans, then you don’t need advice from me. But just in case you do, here goes.

First of all, the summer playbook was all wrong. You flattered and cajoled Sen. Baucus, the Finance Committee chairman, the same way Hillary and I tried to win over Sen. Moynihan, then the chairman of the same committee. Baucus courted Sen. Snowe all summer, but the Republican dashed Democratic hopes when she voted against the bill when it came to the floor. Ditto with Moynihan, who for weeks and months talked himself into believing he could cut a bipartisan deal with Dole, when all Dole was doing was playing for time. Time was not on our side, nor is it on yours. That’s why I like the look of the stakes today. Did you know High Noon is my favorite movie? But I digress.

I just don’t want deja vu raining all over your picnic, man. You’ve got more Senate Democrats in the chamber than I had when my healthcare plan went down. You should be able to win this thing if you go with reconciliation. Seize today! We had trouble with Sen. Robert C. Byrd blocking the way on that. But be that as it may. Byrd may be remembering the ghost of his best friend Ted on the floor. And he, like me, now sees “bipartisanship” as a canard. Are you, too, beginning to see that’s true? Bipartisanship is a tale told by an idiot, signifying nothing. Did you know MacBeth was Lincoln’s favorite play, by the way? He was my favorite president long before he was yours.

Wish I had had a wise man whispering advice in my ear when I was in the Oval, like an oracle. But we did pretty well--peace and prosperity was my legacy, good luck with that. Now hear this. We never did have a vote, up or down, at the end of the long summer days of 1994, when everyone on our side left the Capitol exhausted, some about to lose races for reelection. As a liberal lion of the Senate wrote:

“We had the headcount. We could have held the vote and at least put everyone on the public record as to whether or not they supported healthcare reform. But we didn’t do that ... If we’d stayed there, we’d have had people all over the country asking why ... Thinking about what it was that we senators believed in enough to be staying all night for.”

That’s the late, great Sen. Kennedy. You know, he took Hillary and me sailing on Nantucket Sound not once but twice. Then he endorsed you! Well, that’s gratitude for you.

Best of luck in the briar patch. Really hope you succeed where Hillary and I stumbled ... but picked ourselves up again.

Bill Clinton

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