November 4, 2010
President Barack Obama
President Barack Obama: ... I think there were some that argued, "Well, you should just stop and let people digest all these changes. And so, you shouldn't take on something as big as health care." And I'll be honest with you, Steve, at the time, we knew that it probably wasn't great politics.
Steve Kroft: You were told that by your aides.
President Obama: Absolutely... So, ultimately, I had to make a decision: do I put all that aside, because it's gonna be bad politics? Or do I go ahead and try to do it because it will ultimately benefit the country? I made the decision to go ahead and do it. And it proved as costly politically as we expected. Probably actually a little more costly than we expected, politically.
Kroft: In what ways?
President Obama: Well, partly because I couldn't get the kind of cooperation from Republicans that I had hoped for. We thought that if we shaped a bill that wasn't that different from bills that had previously been introduced by Republicans -- including a Republican governor in Massachusetts who's now running for President -- that, you know, we would be able to find some common ground there. And we just couldn't.
Comment: President Obama now confirms what was obvious all along. A political decision was made to introduce the Republican model of health care reform, with the presumption that the Republicans would cooperate. The tragedy is not that it proved to be so costly politically, but rather that we are locked into a very expensive and quite ineffective model - the version that has now been abandoned by the Republicans.
Those "secret negotiations behind closed doors" were not so secret. Senators Grassley and Enzi were cooperating in their respective committees to try to build reform on what was really the Republican model, drafted by a recruited WellPoint executive. During negotiations the basic model was not modified, and the disputed differences in policy were negligible. Only after it became evident that the health care reform effort could be used to discredit the Democrats did Grassley and Enzi yield to the Republican leadership by agreeing to become opponents of the effort. This has been a tremendous lesson in the pitfalls of placing politics before policy.
Yes, the Democrats did pass a bill, but can you call that a success? The bill will not control spending, it will not insure everyone, and it will establish under-insurance as the norm, exposing individuals and families with health care needs to financial hardship.
Simply stated, this was yet another political failure in our nearly century-long quest for health care for all.
No effective bill can possibly be passed in the next two years because of the current political climate, but that does not mean that we should wait it out until the politics are right. Quite the contrary.
Many in the nation still do not understand that an improved Medicare that would cover everyone is a vastly superior option. It is imperative that we greatly intensify our efforts to be sure that they do understand. If we wait until we like the partisan ratios in the House and Senate, it will be far too late for us to have any real impact.
Get to work.