Alex Blaze

Clinton, Obama spar on health care

Filed By Alex Blaze | January 24, 2008 8:28 AM | comments

Filed in: Living, Politics
Tags: Barack Obama, health care reform, Hillary Rodham Clinton

The latest from the Hillary camp on Obama on health care (via JMG):

I don't know if it's a great strategy to push the fact that your opponent once held a better position than you currently do on one of the biggest issues of this election. Don't trust him, he might secretly agree with 64% of Americans on a life-or-death issue!

Team Obama's responded, and it's actually even funnier, after the jump.

The remarks Obama made in his 2003 address to the AFL-CIO (the video) are:

So the challenge is, how do we get federal government to take care of this business? I happen to be a proponent of a single payer health care program. I see no reason why the United States of America the wealthiest country in the history of the world, spending 14% of its Gross National Product on health care cannot provide basic health insurance to everybody. And that’s what Jim is talking about when he says everybody in, nobody out.

A single payer health care plan, a universal health care plan. And that’s what I’d like to see. And as all of you know, we may not get their immediately. Because first we have to take back the White House, we have to take back the Senate, we have to take back the House.

His campaign has put up a response on their site:

Obama Has Consistently Said That If We Were Starting From Scratch, He Would Support A Single Payer System, But Now We Need To Build On The System We Have

As proof that his position has been consistent since 2003, they offer three quotations, one from as early as 2007.

He does make the "from scratch"/"current system" distinction in those quotations, but that doesn't square with his 2003 remarks. And this is a place where the meta of the debate has clearly taken over both camps, where proving that one has been (in)consistent on policy statements is more important than policy itself.

While Hillary's saying that Barack has been inconsistent in his rhetoric on health care, it seems that she's forgotten that a lot of people might find his older position a lot better than her plan. And Obama's response that amounts to "Trust me, I've always been in favor of second-rate health care" assumes throughout it that single-payer is an already agreed upon high-in-the-pie fantasy and that anyone who wants it is a goat.

Sure, he's changed his position, and his response is weak at best. But why doesn't either of them take this opportunity to support single-payer?

Instead, Obama reminds us that while he would love a single-payer system, he doesn't want to do anything that's too "disruptive" to a system that people have "known for most of their lives." I believe someone's left either his audacity or his hope at home.


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The Clinton folks are not saying that single payer is not a better idea. They are pointing out Mr Obama's propensity to say one thing and do another. The same goes for his opposition to the Iraq War. He rightly gave an impassioned speech against it before the war started, but where has he been since. The point is that talk is cheap, and Mr Obama is very good at talking. Action is more difficult.

The Clinton folks are not saying that single payer is not a better idea.

Well, then why doesn't she support it instead of her mix of tax credits that'll indirectly end up in private insurers pockets?