March 12, 2010

Bill Maher feels the same way I do about how the Democrats negotiated on the health care bill. Even if it was not what they ever thought they were going to get in the end, they should have started with single payer and negotiated down from there.

Transcript via MSNBC from the March 10th edition of Countdown.

O‘DONNELL: We‘re back with Bill Maher here on COUNTDOWN. Bill, after my tickle fight last Friday night, as I always do, I watched your show, and new rules, you turned into a prude, suddenly. You want the president to quit smoking. You became Mayor Bloomberg on Obama. What‘s the quit smoking bit with Obama?

MAHER: Well, it was tongue in cheek, Lawrence, as you know. Come on, do I have to tickle you to get you to laugh at this one? No, what I was— you know, the point of the rule was that when people quit smoking, they get angry.

And I like my president angry, because, you know, considering how much in this country people are poisoned, ripped off and lied to, we all should be angry, but especially that guy, who has to deal with Congress every day, and trying to get this health care bill through and all that. And you know, I like him when he‘s out on the stump in sort of a partisan mode.

I think his biggest mistake that he has made in his first year was to put bipartisanship ahead of fixing the country. He spent all his political capital on getting three damned votes for that stimulus bill, instead of coming in with all the energy from the election and saying, you know what, we‘re in a crisis mode; I won this election by a sizable mandate; here‘s what we‘re going to do; if you don‘t like it, Republicans, you can suck on it.

O‘DONNELL: He was back on the road today, Bill, in St. Louis. It was his 52nd, or maybe 53rd, speech on health care. What more can he do? I mean, no president‘s ever given more speeches on one legislative subject like that before.

MAHER: Well, there‘s nothing more he can do, because he‘s sort of made his bed already with the plan that they have. You know, I mean, again, I think he made a big mistake from the get-go not supporting a public option and standing up for that. Because I don‘t believe that this plan is going to save money the way that he say it will. I think they wussied out on standing up to the things that were going to be cost cutting. So I don‘t believe that part of it.

So he‘s stuck with this plan, which I think is—it‘s not a great plan. I mean, yes, it accomplishes some things. And I guess I would call it a quarter loaf is better than none. But we asked this question on the show a couple of weeks ago. You know, 45,000 people die every year because they don‘t have health care.

Can you imagine if that many people were dying in Iraq or Afghanistan? Why is the that that‘s an impossibility in the country, that that many people can die—or in a terrorist attack—but it‘s OK that they die from a failing medical system?

I don‘t know why they framed the debate the way they did, or rather that they didn‘t. They should have framed it in a moral sense like that. And they should have framed it for people who are more selfish thinking, that this is a—that you are going to go broke. Democrats need to use fear the way the Republicans use fear. And it‘s true. I mean, health care costs keep going up.

They should have scared the American people into thinking, look, I know you think you like the plan you have now, but it‘s going to slowly drown you in debt. He started out all wrong by saying, if you have—if you like the plan you have, you can keep it. And everybody went, well, then what‘s the problem? Why are we spending all this money?

O‘DONNELL: And Bill, I think one of the problems of framing it morally for them was at the outset, they gave up the concept of universal coverage. Their bill, as they‘ve designed it now, in its most optimistic form, would leave another 15 million, 20 million people without any insurance at all. And so all those same sob stories will exist after this bill takes full effect.

So it seems like they couldn‘t really embrace the morality argument because, in their moral choice, they were leaving out about half the people.

MAHER: Yeah. They should have started with single payer. I mean, even if they weren‘t going to get it, it is what most other Western democracies have. It‘s the one program that makes sense. But, OK, we live in a country that doesn‘t make sense. But at least start with that.

During the campaign, Obama said, if we were starting from scratch, single payer would make sense. Well, then, let‘s start from scratch. That is kind of where we are in this country right now. And if they had started from that, then the fall-back compromise position would have at least been the public option.

But they didn‘t even start with the public option. He didn‘t even defend that. So what you have here is probably more of a Republican plan than the one that was on the table in ‘93 that the Republicans were defending.

O‘DONNELL: Bill Maher, right again.


O‘DONNELL: That was my interview with legislative policy analyst Bill Maher of “Realtime” on HBO.

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