Dean and Skinner: Mass. Vote Close Because Health Care Bill Lacks Public Option

We don’t yet know the outcome of the Jan. 19 Massachusetts Senate special election. But the very fact that the Democrats could lose the seat formerly held by Sen. Ted Kennedy to a conservative who’s made blocking healthcare reform a centerpiece of his campaign, has liberals sputtering implausible explanations.


On Jan. 19, former Vermont Gov. Howard Dean and liberal radio host Nancy Skinner appeared on CNBC with Larry Kudlow to discuss the ramifications of the election for healthcare. Both suggested that Democrat Martha Coakley was in danger of losing to Scott Brown is because Democrats hadn’t been liberal enough on health care.


Although he predicted Coakley would hold Brown off, Dean said, “Let me agree with something Larry said (far be it from me to ever do such a thing). But I do think this is clarity – about clarity of message and I think the Democrats haven’t had a clear message.”


The problem, from Dean’s perspective, was that compromise had watered down and complicated the health care bill. “Look at what we’ve done. We’ve passed this health care bill, which has, you know, just been a very messy, ugly process – or we’re about to pass a health care bill,” he said, predicting it would pass with or without a Coakley victory. “The best way to [have a bill that works and can refute GOP arguments] was to pass an extension of Medicare to people below 65. Everybody knows what Medicare is, it’s easy to understand, you don’t have to make deals with the health insurance industry. So this is about clarity of message, and Scott Brown has a clear message and the Democrats don’t.”


In continuing to argue for universal healthcare, Dean asserted that, “I think this is a center-left country,” which Kudlow emphatically disputed. The host cited a Washington Post poll that showed, “by 58 to 38, voters want less government and fewer government services.” The Democratic push for health care, therefore, was “one of the greatest political blunders of all time.”


After trotting out talking points about President Obama having to clean up the last administration’s mess, Nancy Skinner agreed with Dean and went farther. “But Wall Street should be wanting the public option,” she said. “When you’re competing with an entity that doesn’t have a profit motive, and has lower administrative costs, that’s gonna rein in all health care costs, which will then rein in all budget spending and deficit spending. Wall Street should be demanding a public option.”


“Look, go back to basics here,” Kudlow said. “Mr. Scott Brown … his message was breathtakingly clear: ‘Lower taxes and no government takeover of health care.’”


“This is tea party populism, this is free market populism, and there’s a tidal wave coming,” he said, “and I don’t think either of you have a surf board to understand how to ride this tidal wave.”


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