( - promoted by Matt Stoller)
I have been beating up on the Clinton campaign pretty hard lately because I haven't been crazy about the kind of campaign they have been running. And I will admit that my heart has been won by the enthusiasm of all those young and passionate Obama supporters.
But there are still certain things that make me really, really nervous about Obama. At the top of that list is the health care debate, where I think he's just wrong about the importance of universality, and where he's employed Harry and Louise-style tactics to argue against Clinton's plan. My concerns shifted into overdrive, though, when I noticed that the Obama campaign is now using Rep. Jim Cooper as a spokesperson/surrogate on health care.
I was part of the Clinton White House team on the health care reform issue in 1993/94, and no Democrat did more to destroy our chances in that fight than Jim Cooper. We had laid down a marker very early that we thought universal coverage was the most essential element to getting a good package, saying we were to happy to negotiate over the details but that universality was our bottom line.
Cooper, a leader of conservative Dems on the health care issue, instead of working with us, came out early and said universality was unimportant, and came out with a bill that did almost nothing in terms of covering the uninsured. He quickly became the leading spokesman on the Dem side for the insurance industry position, and undercut us at every possible opportunity, basically ending any hopes we had for a unified Democratic Party position. I was never so delighted to see a Democrat lose as when he went down in the 1994 GOP tide.
Unfortunately, he came back, like a bad penny.
It is such a huge mistake for Obama to use a guy like this to defend their position on health care. The signal it sends to reporters, organizations, and activists like myself who know something about the old health care battles is that Obama truly doesn't care about comprehensive health care reform or universal coverage, and that the health care package you would propose if President would be a conservative, pro-insurance industry bill. The campaign ought to be trying to reassure folks who care about this issue, and using a guy like Cooper does just the opposite.