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David Axelrod & Howard Dean on "Meet the Press"

David Axelrod & Howard Dean on "Meet the Press"

By Meet the Press - December 20, 2009

MR. GREGORY: What's next? And what is the political impact of this legislation in 2010 and beyond? Joining us, the president's senior adviser, David Axelrod; and then the man who helped ignite a debate over health care within his party, former DNC chairman and 2004 Democratic presidential candidate Howard Dean. Our roundtable weighs in as well on the politics of health care and the huge political challenges facing this White House in the new year as it tackles high unemployment and a sour mood in the country. With us: MSNBC's Joe Scarborough, the Daily Kos' Markos Moulitsas, former RNC chair Ed Gillespie and PBS' Tavis Smiley.

But first, the great blizzard of December of 2009 blanketed the East Coast. It dumped nearly 22 inches of snow on the nation's capital. It served as a backdrop for a flurry of activity in the halls of Congress this weekend, as Senate Democrats reached a compromise agreement to move healthcare reform one step closer.

Joining me live this morning, the president's senior adviser, who traded loafers for snowshoes this morning, David Axelrod.

MR. DAVID AXELROD: We call this a dusting in Chicago, David, I just want you to know.

MR. GREGORY: Yeah, I know, I know. Well, I'm from L.A. and this is a big deal. Thank you very much for being here.

MR. AXELROD: Uh-huh.

MR. GREGORY: You appear to have this compromise now in the Senate, 60 votes now that Ben Nelson is onboard. Is this mission accomplished, or does this represent a selling-out of key principles that the president fought for initially on health care?

MR. AXELROD: Oh, no, I think this, this adheres to the key principles that the president set. It's going to bring more security to people who, who have insurance today in relation to their insurance companies, it'll reduce their costs over time as well. It's going to help people who don't have insurance, including small businesses who can't afford it or people who don't get it through their employer, get it at a cost they can afford. It's going to extend the life of Medicare and give seniors some, some more support in terms of prescription drugs and better care. And in the long run, it's going to reduce our deficits, the CBO said yesterday, by $132 billion in the first 10 years, over a trillion in the second, and, and, and stop the inexorable rise of healthcare costs that threatens to crush our budget...

MR. GREGORY: Right.

MR. AXELROD: ...family budgets, business budgets.

MR. GREGORY: Well, we'll--I want to break some of these down. But do you describe it as mission accomplished?

MR. AXELROD: No. I, I think it is a--it's a landmark step, it's a, it's a great step. I agree with much of what Paul Krugman wrote in The New York Times last Friday, he's been a strong advocate for healthcare reform, and he said this is a great foundation for the future. It is light years ahead of where we were. Look, David, if you're a person with a pre-existing condition today, you're excluded from getting insurance by most insurance companies. I went through that with--my child has a chronic illness, could not get her on insurance. A huge--this was when I was a young reporter and couldn't afford the out-of-pocket expenses. Millions of people are going through this in this country, and there are myriad other examples of, of people who will benefit from these changes.

MR. GREGORY: Let me back up, talk about just some procedure. Is this a done deal? Will this pass the Congress?

MR. AXELROD: I think it will pass the Congress. I mean, obviously, it is a big step along the way. We've got additional steps to take. The House has a bill, the Senate has a bill, they'll have...

MR. GREGORY: And there are some key differences, including the House has a public option to create more competition, the Senate bill does not.

MR. AXELROD: No. But the Senate, the Senate bill has some very tough restrictions in terms of how insurance companies can spend the money that they collect from premiums, it has a great accountability for insurance companies, it creates competition between private insurers and gives people options and choice, and that's what we were after.

MR. GREGORY: But how hard will it be to reconcile the two?

MR. AXELROD: Well, I think we're going to get it done. I think people understand that this is a historic crossroads, David. Seven presidents have tried to pass comprehensive health insurance reform, seven presidents have failed. We've been talking about it for 100 years. We're on the doorstep of getting it done, and it'll be a great victory for the American people.

MR. GREGORY: Some people have raised the question about whether the Senate rules ought to be changed. In order to avoid a filibuster you needed the 60 votes, and you were able to get there with Senator Nelson. But a lot of people, including Planned Parenthood, condemning the abortion agreement where it would place greater restrictions on getting abortions in the states in these exchanges that had to be struck to get Senator Nelson onboard. He also got extra money for Medicaid. Do you think it ought to be changed in the Senate so it doesn't rely, all of this healthcare reform, on one senator?

MR. AXELROD: Let me say first on the, on the issue of abortion, there have been concerns expressed both from the pro-choice groups and some anti-choice groups, pro-life groups on this. But the fact is it really doesn't change the status quo, and that's what we were after. The president said this should not be the vehicle through which the abortion debate and changes in the abortion law should come. In terms of the Senate...

MR. GREGORY: Yeah.

MR. AXELROD: ...look, I'm not--these are time-honored rules. I'm not going to--I mean, obviously it makes it more difficult, they were structured that way. What we should be able to do, though, is move forward in, in, in good faith, and what we've seen is the rules being used time and time and time again to delay votes, to try and scuttle the legislation by--through parliamentary maneuvers, because there's a majority of senators who support health insurance reform. We ought to have an up or down vote, and that's what all of this has been about.

MR. GREGORY: Are you going to get this by the end of the year?

MR. AXELROD: Well, I think that the--I'm, I'm confident that the Senate's going to vote on this before they go home.

MR. GREGORY: Before Christmas. But then a final bill, a reconciled bill, do you think you get it by the end of this year?

MR. AXELROD: Oh, no. I mean, I think that we're going to have some work to do when we come back. But obviously, this is a major step forward.

MR. GREGORY: Let me talk about where the public is on this. This was our poll this week, Wall Street Journal/NBC News. Good idea, bad idea, the president's healthcare plan? Forty-seven percent say it's a bad idea, 44 percent say they thought it'd be better to keep the current system. Is the public really for this?

MR. AXELROD: I think that there's a big anomaly in the polls that's worth discussing. When you ask people "do you support the bill that's working through Congress, the president's bill" and so on, they give you that result. When you describe what's in the bill, when you describe the fact that there are all kinds of protections for patients and consumers within the system, a, a, a, a patient's bill of rights on steroids, as--we've had that debate for years, are we going to protect patients? When you'd say--when you explain that small businesses are going to get tax credits and assistance so they can offer health insurance, and that individuals who don't get it through work are going to be able to get health insurance at a price they can afford, when you talk about the fact that it reduces deficits, extends the life of Medicare; when you talk about all of those things, people are very strongly supportive. But that's not the picture they've gotten through this kind of narrow debate we've seen on television in Congress.

MR. GREGORY: The fact that you have no Republican votes is striking here for healthcare reform. If you go back to Social Security or the Medicare vote in the '60s, significant Republican support. Is this a failure of leadership, that the president can't get one Republican to support this?

MR. AXELROD: Well, obviously we live in different times. I wish we had the kind of spirit of, of cooperation that you saw in, in past generations. We live in a, a, a different time. As you know, at the beginning of this debate one of the Senate Republicans said, "If we can just defeat this bill, we can inflict a great political loss on the president and that will help us as a party." We shouldn't be thinking in those terms. We should be thinking about the people who can't get insurance today. We should be thinking about the people who get thrown off of insurance because they become seriously ill or go bankrupt because of a serious illness.

MR. GREGORY: But how do you describe...

MR. AXELROD: They will be helped by this legislation. And that's what we should be doing, Republicans and Democrats.

MR. GREGORY: But talk about Republicans. How do you describe, how do you describe and assess the Republican minority in Washington today?

MR. AXELROD: Oh, in what, in what regard? I mean, I think what's clear...

MR. GREGORY: You--do you...

MR. AXELROD: ...is that they, they have adopted a strategy of opposition, and they have not offered alternative--significant alternative ideas, other than to go back to what we've done before. Look, historically these health reforms have been beaten by the special interests, the insurance industry.

MR. GREGORY: Right.

MR. AXELROD: They are trying to defeat it now. The Republican Party historically has stood with the insurance industry in trying to beat back reform. And they're playing that traditional role, and that's a shame.

MR. GREGORY: You've got it not just from the right, but you've also got criticism from the left. There was something of a, of a revolt in the Democratic Party over health care this week, led by former DNC Chairman Howard Dean, who we'll be speaking to on the program in just a couple of minutes. And essentially, he said, "This is not reform. And if I were a senator, I would vote against it." How do you react to that?

MR. AXELROD: Well, first of all, let me say I respect Howard Dean. I think he's someone who cares passionately about this issue. He's a medical doctor. He--but what--but he just wasn't familiar with some of the aspects of this legislation. He said, for example, that insurance companies could skim off unlimited amounts of money for bonuses and CEO pay and administrative costs. This strictly limits what they can do, and consumers will get rebates if they exceed those limits. And those limits are high and they're reasonable. He said that people would be forced to buy insurance at a price they can afford. There's a hardship exemption in this legislation, no one would have to pay more than 8 percent, be forced to buy a policy for more than 8 percent of their income, and they get all kinds of assistance in terms of tax credits to do so. So I just think when you look at the bill in its totality, it, it doesn't square up with his critique.

MR. GREGORY: But, but look--here--but here's the issues. Look--what liberals say is look at what you gave up along the way: Medicare expansion, a public option. And then go back and look at the president's performance when it came to getting this compromise vs. how he campaigned for health care as a candidate. And I've got a few of the bullet points of campaign promises made: that it--there would be universal coverage when it came to getting health care. He opposed an individual mandate, which, of course, is part of this bill. And he indicated this would be paid for by rolling back Bush tax cuts, tax cuts. There's not universal coverage here. The individual mandate is in there and, in fact, there are a slew of taxes that are part of this legislation, including on the Cadillac plans that a lot of union members hold. So can't you understand that the left in this country says, "Hey, this is not how you campaigned"?

MR. AXELROD: No, David. I--what--here's what I see. What I see is a bill that will afford 30, 31 million people who don't have insurance today a chance to get it. It will help small businesses who can't give their employees a chance to get it. It will help people who have insurance so that they have the power in their relationship with their insurance companies. It will reduce--the president talked about reducing this inexorable rise in premiums and in the cost to our budgets. It will do that. It will improve care. I think this is major reform, it's the reform he spoke about. Obviously...

MR. GREGORY: But this is a compromise.

MR. AXELROD: ...in any legislation...

MR. GREGORY: It is not the major reform he talked about.

MR. AXELROD: There is no...

MR. GREGORY: It is different.

MR. AXELROD: ...major piece of legislation that's ever been passed in this country, David, that doesn't include compromise. That's the legislative process. But the question is, in the main, does it achieve what we wanted to achieve? This is--it's not perfect. It--and over time it may be improved, as all legislation is.

MR. GREGORY: Do you think it should be improved?

MR. AXELROD: I, I--well, look, the president had a--the president supported a, a public option. But there are other ways to get competition and choice. You know, we'll see what happens over time.

MR. GREGORY: He supported a public option. He did not fight for it till the end of the day.

MR. AXELROD: Well, look, he made the case again and again for it. But understand, he--this is a small part of a large healthcare reform. The public option was within this health insurance exchange for the 30 million who can't get health care.

MR. GREGORY: Right.

MR. AXELROD: The estimates of the CBO that--is that, you know, about five million people would have availed themselves of it in a country of 300 million.

MR. GREGORY: But here's, here's New York...

MR. AXELROD: Let's not overemphasize it.

MR. GREGORY: Yeah.

MR. AXELROD: It is important, it's valuable, but so are the reforms that are in there now. There's going to be competition and choice for everyone who doesn't have insurance today. They're going to get it at a price they can afford. And, and we won't have this horrible situation where if you move job--if you change jobs or lose your job, that you find yourself suddenly vulnerable to catastrophe.

MR. GREGORY: I want to press you on one other point that needs to be challenged, it seems to me. The president said this week that this legislation will bend the cost curve. Now, I take that to mean you bend the cost curve, that healthcare costs begin to come down. In fact, in this legislation--and not just those familiar with it, but other experts I've talked to say it's not the case, it will not actually bring costs down. In fact, over a 10-year period, costs will go up. They may be contained, but they are going to go up. Healthcare costs do go up. There are only pilot programs in this legislation, only pilot programs that actually bend the cost curve. This is not reform when it comes to bringing down overall healthcare costs.

MR. AXELROD: Well, I'd say a few things about that. Every--all of the healthcare economists look at the, look at this bill and say it contains many or most or all of the, the sort of major devices that have been talked about for lowering care. The bill--the amendment that was added yesterday will quickly expand these pilot projects as they work nationally. And, you know, you can look at what the CBO has said: it's going to reduce deficits by 132 billion in the first year, by a trillion in the next year, and it's going to slow the advance of health costs and it's going to save thousands of dollars in premiums for the average family over the next decade.

MR. GREGORY: Right. But that's slightly different than saying that healthcare costs are actually going to start coming down.

MR. AXELROD: David, we're going to insure...

MR. GREGORY: And that was the priority initially the president talked about.

MR. AXELROD: David--no, the president said we have to slow the growth of, of these premiums, which have doubled in the last 10 years and will double again in the next 10 years or more if we don't act.

MR. GREGORY: Let me ask you, finally, about the political impact of all of this. This is the president's approval rating as it stands now, according to our poll: he's below 50 percent in approval at 47 percent. Among independents, look at this, his approval rating is at 40 percent, down from 58 percent back in March. Peter Hart, the Democratic pollster, indicates that for Democrats, the red flags are flying at full mast. At what political cost to the Democratic Party in 2010 and 2012 have you achieved this victory?

MR. AXELROD: Well, first of all, I don't ascribe poll numbers to, to this particular, to this particular issue. I think that we're governing, remember, in an economically difficult time. We came to office in the greatest economic downturn since the Great Depression, and so of course I could've told you a year ago that our numbers were not going to be, were not going to be as strong a year later. But here's the thing, David. If we--I guarantee you, the one thing the president's not doing is spreading the NBC or any other poll in front of him and pondering the political ramifications. What he's looking at are the, the millions and millions of people who have pre-existing conditions who can't get health care; the millions of people who--working people who can't get health coverage because they can't afford it. He's looking at the implications for our long-term budget if we don't act. He's looking at Medicare and its survivability. We'll add 10 years to Medicare through this health reform. Those are the numbers he's looking at. If the president--the president's belief is if he does his job and moves this country forward, the rest'll take care of itself. I don't think anybody wants a president who's governing according to the NBC/Wall Street Journal poll or any other.

MR. GREGORY: He spent a lot of political capital on this fight. Will it cost Democrats House seats or Senate seats in 2010?

MR. AXELROD: I think a year from now, when this bill passes and this wave of insurance reforms are implemented that give people more power in their relationship with their insurance companies so they don't--they're not the victims of arbitrary decisions; when, when seniors realize that their prescription drug costs are less because we've begun to fill in that doughnut hole; when small businesses begin to get those tax credits to help them get health care, they're going to say, "You know what? This was a pretty good deal for us."

MR. GREGORY: Are they--are the Democrats going to lose seats in the House or the Senate because of this legislation?

MR. AXELROD: I think we're going to have a good result next, next November. I'm not going to predict where we are. Again, we're governing through difficult times. I think we're going to be in a better place. And what I suggest is that you guys wait until next October to talk about polls, when they're actually germane to an election, because that's a, that's an eternity away.

MR. GREGORY: All right, David Axelrod, thank you very much.

MR. AXELROD: Good to be with you.

MR. GREGORY: Continued good luck with your hard work.

MR. AXELROD: Thank you.

MR. GREGORY: Now we are joined by a Democrat who has been openly critical of the Senate healthcare bill, Dr. Howard Dean.

Governor Dean, welcome to the program from Vermont. You heard David Axelrod here, that this is significant reform but something short of mission accomplished. What do you say this morning?

DR. DEAN: Well, first of all, you've got more snow than we do up here in Vermont.

MR. GREGORY: Yeah.

DR. DEAN: Well, let's start with the positive things. Over the last week there were some things that were improved. David mentioned the so-called medical loss ratio, the limits on what insurance companies make, and that was true. That was added to the bill. It was, it was in a form that the, the CBO wouldn't have allowed, and now it was allowed. It's not all that strong, but it's strong. We can expect some, some gaming by the insurance companies, but it's there. There were some cost control mechanisms that were gutted; they got restored. So there are some things here, but there are still big loopholes. The major cost control commission that was going to control costs, which had been gutted in the bill as a week--as of a week ago, is restored; except it doesn't apply to hospitals, which, of course, are the biggest drivers of cost controls--I mean, of cost increases. So the bill is better than it was, but it's still got a long way to go. I, I--we're--right now I'm going to disagree with David on a number of things, the pre-existing conditions and the aging. The Senate bill says you can charge three times as much for somebody who's older than who's younger. Now, the House says twice as much. In Vermont it's 20 percent more, it's 1.2 times what an ordinary person pays. That's clearly not a--it is--there is going to be insurance that's unaffordable. Suppose you make $70,000, $80,000 a year, you could end up paying $20,000 for your insurance under the, under the Senate bill. So, you know, there are some big, big problems.

Here's the major problem, David. We have committed--in this last week of unseemly scrambling for votes, we have committed to go down a path in this country where private insurance will be the way that we achieve universal health care. That means we're going to have a 30-year battle with the insurance industry every time when we try to control costs and try to get them do things. It is not a coincidence, David Gregory, that insurance company stocks, health insurance company stocks, hit a 52-year high on Friday. So they must know something that the rest of us don't.

MR. GREGORY: The question is whether this is in keeping with the, the president's principles on health care; the way he campaigned, the promises he made in terms of how he would lead an effort to get healthcare reform, including the public option, which you heard David Axelrod say he supported. Did he fight for these principles, in your view, the way he should have?

DR. DEAN: Well, look, I, I think this is, this is not universal health care. About, it's about 94 percent. But he certainly tried very hard. But I think the absence of having choices for Americans, real choices--including a system like Medicare, which only has 4 percent of its expenditures go to nonhealthcare expenditures, as opposed to 25 or 20 percent in this bill that's just about to pass--I think that's a big loss. And the bottom line is, in a unseemly scramble for votes that have nothing to do with long-range public policy, we have really essentially cut out the idea that Americans will have a choice of a different kind of insurance system. The same kind of insurance system people over 65 have, the same kind of insurance that veterans have. A lot of us would have liked to have that system, because it's so much more effective and, frankly, so much more satisfactory that what we see in the private insurance sector.

MR. GREGORY: You say an "unseemly scramble for votes." For Senator Lieberman, they had to give up Medicare expansion or else he would not have voted for it. For Senator Nelson, much the same thing, and also including this--these restrictions on whether abortions can be paid for in a federal exchange of private insurance plans. Given this rush and the compromises made for votes, do you stand by your words this week that you would not vote for this bill?

DR. DEAN: I would certainly not vote for this bill if this were the final product. But there are--the House bill is a--quite a good bill. This bill has improved over the last couple of weeks. I would let this thing go to conference committee and let's see if we can fix it some more, because this...

MR. GREGORY: What needs to be fixed specifically?

DR. DEAN: Well, first of all, the cost controls need to apply to hospitals. Second of all, we really do need some kind of a public option. At least allow the states to have a public option, a real public option, because they--you know, some senators have said, "Well, there's a public option to the bill." Well, that's not really true. The public option in this bill is allowing the federal government to, to negotiate with private insurance companies. That's not a public option.

MR. GREGORY: But, Governor, do you really expect the White House to fight for any form of a public option at this stage of the game?

DR. DEAN: Well, obviously we've been very disappointed by, by that. We, we don't think that there has been much fight in the White House for that. Another big piece that needs to be fixed is we--I don't think we ought to be able to charge older people three times as much as you charge younger people. The House has twice as much, that's still too much. So there's a lot of things that need to be fixed. But if they are fixed, you aim--may actually get the foundation of a bill coming out of the House. If most of the House provisions survive, then we could have a bill that we could work with. But this elimination of the public option is a real sticking point, because that, in fact, is how you really save money and bend the curve in expenses.

MR. GREGORY: But I just want to be clear. So your advice, former chairman of the party, to House and Senate members who come to the point of a final bill, if it does not have a public option, your advice would be vote no.

DR. DEAN: I think it's got to have a public option, at least some of this--some--at least allow some of the states. Now, there are two countries that have done this without a public option, Switzerland and the Netherlands, but they treat insurance companies as public utilities. That's what we would have to do. And I don't have an objection to that. The--my, my concern about the public option is not ideological. But I just think a 30-year fight with the insurance industries over every little detail about how they're going to control costs is something that, judging by this past week, when the insurance companies...

MR. GREGORY: Right.

DR. DEAN: ...have essentially wrote the bill, is not likely to happen.

MR. GREGORY: All right. But, Governor, my, my question was without the public option, is your position say no to the bill?

DR. DEAN: My position is let's see what they add to this bill and make it work. If they can make it work without a public option, I'm all ears. I don't think that's possible.

MR. GREGORY: The question of compromise is a very interesting one. Back in 1995, in the wake of the collapse of healthcare reform, you said that you made a mistake, you and others made a mistake by not compromising on health care with the Republicans. And Vicki Kennedy--the widow, of course, of the late Senator Kennedy--has penned an op-ed this morning, and this is what she writes. And the headline, "The moment Ted Kennedy would not want to lose. Ted knew that accomplishing reform would be difficult. ... He predicted that as the Senate got closer to a vote, compromises would be necessary, coalitions would falter and many ardent supporters of reform would want to walk away. He hoped that he wouldn't do so--that they wouldn't do so. ... Ted often said that we can't let the perfect be the enemy of the good. He also said that it was better to get half a loaf than no loaf at all, especially with so many lives at stake." You heard David Axelrod essentially say legislation like this is so difficult. Can--you can never achieve perfection. In the light of what Vicki Kennedy says, do you have a different view of whether compromise has been worth it here?

DR. DEAN: I think there's been an enormous amount of compromise. I think the compromise, frankly, has been too much. Here's the basic problem, and I'll--I said it before and I'll say it again. We have set this nation down a course where we're going to do this through public insurance. It is--I mean, private insurance. It is possible to do that. Two other countries that I know of do that exclusively in private insurance. It is very, very difficult. It is very, very expensive. We are nowheres near where Switzerland and the Netherlands are in terms of their regulatory apparatus on the private insurance industry. So I, I, I just think this is going to be a very, very difficult, tough row to hoe. She also wrote in that editorial is we, we need to be sure we get this right, and I agree with that.

MR. GREGORY: The politics of this are part of it, and people have talked about it. Indeed, your opposition this week, which I had mentioned before, set off something of a revolt within the party, led to some strange political bedfellows for you. Senator John McCain, on the floor of the Senate, said this.

(Videotape, December 17, 2009)

SEN. JOHN McCAIN (R-AZ): If you live long enough, all things can happen. I now find myself in complete agreement with Dr. Howard Dean, who says that we should stop this bill in its tracks. We should go back to the beginning and have an overall bipartisan agreement. Dr. Dean, I am with you.

(End videotape)

DR. DEAN: Well...

MR. GREGORY: How do you react to that?

DR. DEAN: ...I, I think, you know, the Republicans' behavior has been reprehensible. They haven't lifted a finger. All their, their--they, they have really put their party in front of their country here. You know, they could have made this bill a better bill, but they choose just to kill the bill because they thought they did do that for political reasons. First--and I don't believe there's a bipartisan compromise possible. As David Axelrod said, the Republicans of today and the John McCain of today is not the same--not even the same as the Republican Party of eight years ago, and it certainly isn't the same as the Republican Party my father was in until the day he died. So it--you know, I respect John McCain, but it's, he wouldn't be the first person who twisted my words around and used them for something I had no intention of endorsing, which is the Republicans' behavior in this bill.

MR. GREGORY: Given your own fight within the Democratic Party, indeed, within the Obama administration, do you intend to stay in the Democratic Party?

DR. DEAN: Of course. Absolutely. I, I've said I would vigorously support the president's re-election in 2012. I have every intention of doing that. Look, whatever fights we have inside the Democratic Party--and this is a very, very, very sore one, because I really do think we're going down a track that's not going to be helpful in the long run without some really brutal fights ahead of us. But, you know, President Obama, first of all, has had a terrific record on the environment. Despite his struggles, I think he's actually moved the dialogue in Copenhagen forward. He's--he restored America's good name around the rest of the world. I mean, he is so far ahead of whatever the Republicans might choose to do in 2012 that of course I'm going to support President Obama.

MR. GREGORY: The columnist for The Washington Post, E.J. Dionne, has warned of, quote, "political catastrophe if Democrats still turn and keep turning on one another over health care and other issues." What will be the political consequence of this healthcare debate and the compromise that's been achieved?

DR. DEAN: Look, first of all, I hope this isn't the compromise that's been achieved. I think we have yet to see the compromise that we could achieve. Secondly, this isn't personal. I like David Axelrod. We've actually talked back and forth through the week, as I have with other people in the White House as this has gone on. We're all in the same family. But this is a serious business. We have seen, essentially, a destructive political process in Washington where the insurance company lobby essentially wrote a good piece of this bill. Now, I'll admit that they have pulled back in this past week. There's some things in this bill that weren't in there a week ago that make it a better bill. But this can't be the final version of this bill. It simply sets us on a track in this country which is expensive and which--and is where we're going to have lots more political fights, where a few senators who are beholden to the insurance industry can hold up what real--the kind of real progress that we could have made had we passed what the president suggested when he was running for president.

MR. GREGORY: So final question for you, as for David Axelrod. Do you think healthcare reform, as ultimately passed by this administration, will end up costing Democrats seats in the, in the House or in the Senate next year?

DR. DEAN: It's hard to know without the final result. I think if this bill doesn't go into effect until 2014, it'll be so complicated that the Republicans will make it a target and we'll have a hard time explaining it. Another benefit to the public option, especially to the Medicare deal that was on the table a week ago in the Senate, is that people could have gotten in in large number, four or five million people, within two or three months after the president signed the bill. That would have gone a long way to making sure that the American people understood it, because their neighbors would have health insurance that didn't have death panels, where you were allowed to charge your doctors and with all this Republican nonsense propaganda would have been put to bed by the American people.

MR. GREGORY: All right.

DR. DEAN: That would have made 2010 a lot easier for us.

MR. GREGORY: Governor, Doctor, Chairman Dean, thank you very much. We'll send some of our snow up your way.

DR. DEAN: Thanks, David.

 

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