Tuesday, February 05, 2008

Campaign Double Standards and Looking Blue

Tennessee Democratic Congressman Jim Cooper through conservative NY Times columnist David Brooks relays bad memories about Hillary Clinton and her attempts to reform health care during the 1990s. Cooper calls Clinton's approach "absolutist, draconian and intolerant":
At one meeting in the West Wing, a source told [David] Broder and [Haynes] Johnson, Clinton “kind of got this evil look and said, ‘We’ve got to do something about this Cooper bill. We’ve got to kill it before it goes any further.’ ”

Clinton denounced the Cooper plan as “dangerous and threatening.” Deputies were dispatched to Tennessee to attack his plan. Senator Jay Rockefeller said that Cooper is “a real fraud. I hope he doesn’t make it to this place.” According to Newsweek, Clinton brought an aide with a video camera to a meeting with senators and asked the senators to denounce Cooper on the spot.

The Clinton effort backfired. It temporarily raised his profile back home. Her health care reform failed, too. She says she’s learned the lessons from that failure, but she remains icy toward Cooper.
While I did not vote for Hillary Clinton this morning at the polls, I believe that it is fair to ask: would the Times have so prominently highlighted tough arm-twisting or hard feelings by a White House official had the official not been a woman?

Even more troubling is the way that Brooks sets up Clinton's opponent, Barack Obama, to be an extension of a more conservative, market-based, blue-dog approach to health coverage for Americans:
the debate Clinton is having with Barack Obama echoes the debate she had with Cooper 15 years ago. The issue, once again, is over whether to use government to coerce people into getting coverage. The Clintonites argue that without coercion, there will be free-riders on the system.
Obama already backtracked at the last debate on this issue to try and deal with free-riders under his proposal and he will coerce parents into accepting coverage for children.

I'm concerned that he may pay back a Blue Dog like Cooper for his support by blunting any substantive health care reform once in office. Remember that Jim Cooper voted against children's health coverage before he voted for it. Also, keep in mind that while Cooper's conservative stance on health care reform may authentically fit his philosophy as Mr. Brooks argues, it is still fair to question whether Congressman Cooper has a conflict of interest in this debate with Middle Tennessee being a health industry center.

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