Saturday, October 10, 2009

Who to Blame for 1994?

Catching up on some of the items in the news this week...Andrew Sullivan minimized the importance of health care fabulist Betsy McCaughey's (Andrew-published) hit piece in the 1993-1994 reform disaster, and blames Hillary Clinton most of all. Matt Cooper struck back on the latter point and lists "the American Medical Association, Bill Kristol, Bob Dole, Newt Gingrich, Harry and Louise and all the other opposition to the plan" as important to mention.

My view? Cooper is of course correct that it's important to remember the opposition, and not just the supporters, of failed initiatives. But the AMA and Harry and Louise were opponents because of the way reform was organized and sold, and the proponents of reform deserve blame for that. And there's nothing wrong for proponents of reform to analyze their own actions, given that that's the part that they could control.

However, I think Andrew is wrong to place the blame on Hillary Clinton (and way off base to put all the blame on her). In my reading of what happened, Hillary wasn't as important a problem as her colleague Ira Magaziner -- and the responsibility ultimately rests on Bill Clinton, who hired both of them and signed off on a strategy that resulted in the opposition of virtually all of the key interest groups (and, on top of that, the lack of enthusiasm from labor). Others who, in my view, share some of the blame are Lloyd ("Listen to Byrd") Bentsen and Robert ("No Reconciliation") Byrd -- not to mention that it was Bill Clinton's fault that the Democrats gave up Bentsen's seat in the Senate. I don't know that Hillary did a great job, placing the blame on her for the Democrats' foibles isn't right.

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