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Tilting at Windmills

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October 8, 2009

DOLE ENDORSES REFORM, SMACKS MCCONNELL.... In the early 1990s, then-Senate Minority Leader Bob Dole (R-Kan.) helped kill health care reform. Fifteen years later, Dole may not be in Congress anymore, but he's playing a more constructive role on the issue.

Bob Dole, the one-time Republican leader in the Senate, and Tom Daschle, the one-time Democratic leader, issued a joint statement today in which they said they supported the Democrats' attempt to overhaul the health-care system.

"The American people have waited decades, and if this moment passes us by, it may be decades more before there is another opportunity," the two former leaders said in a joint statement.

Mr. Dole told reporters earlier in the day in Kansas that the current Republican leader in the Senate, Mitch McConnell of Kentucky, had asked him not to lend his support to the Democratic effort.

According to an account in The Kansas City Star, Mr. Dole said that he had been approached by the Mr. McConnell and asked not to issue a statement calling for passage of a health-care reform bill.

"We're already hearing from some high-ranking Republicans that we shouldn't do that -- that's helping the president," Mr. Dole said. He added that these included one "very prominent Republican, who happens to be the Republican leader of the Senate."

Well, isn't that interesting. Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ken.), ostensibly the GOP leaders who Dems are supposed to be reaching out to, is more interested in undercutting the president than passing worthwhile legislation for the country. Who would have guessed?

As for Dole, the Kansan added, "I want this to pass.... I don't agree with everything Obama is presenting, but we've got to do something.... I don't want the Republicans putting up a 'no' sign and saying, 'we're not open for business.'"

Dole's remarks put him in a growing group of Republicans who are, to varying degrees, supportive of the ongoing reform efforts. Just over the last week, we've seen either endorsements or tacit support from California Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger, former Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist, Bush HHS Secretary Tommy Thompson, Bush CMS chief Mark McClellan, and New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg (a Republican turned independent).

To be sure, none of these guys will have a vote when reform comes to the floor. But this recent trend nevertheless matters. The growing-but-informal "Republicans for Reform" gives the larger effort a meaningful boost -- making reform appear more bipartisan, giving cover to centrist Dems, painting GOP lawmakers as petty obstructionists, and making it that much more difficult to characterize reform as some kind of radical liberal idea.

Steve Benen 8:00 AM Permalink | Trackbacks | Comments (24)

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I want to believe that the anti HMO ads are cutting through the crap and starting to register in some of the Faux Nooze addled brains. People are starting to realize that the HMOs are providing poor health care at a premium price. I especially like the one that comments about the HMO exec's salary of $57,000.......an hour, when this far exceeds the income many Americans would hope to achieve in a year. This needs to be pushed, pushed, pushed, obscene profits , bad service.

Posted by: John R on October 8, 2009 at 8:18 AM | PERMALINK

I suspect Dole and many other old-line Republicans really are aghast at what's become of their party, and this is about the only issue where they can make a statement that gets any play at all.

Still, I await Rush, Glenn Beck, Malkin, and Bachmann to all announce today that Bob Dole was NEVER really a Republican. He's actually just a socialist commie tool.

Posted by: Domage on October 8, 2009 at 8:21 AM | PERMALINK

It is about time. So many republicans wait until the eleventh hour, or until they are safely retired (I'm looking at you, Colin Powell), to step forward and do the right thing. Doing something that is not directly in their or their party's interest is pretty far down on their "to do" list, right after going over the final details of their wills and making sure all of their assets are properly sheltered. Noblesse oblige indeed.

Posted by: Broken Arrow on October 8, 2009 at 8:22 AM | PERMALINK

"We're already hearing from some high-ranking Republicans that we shouldn't do that -- that's helping the president,"

WOW! Looks like Bob Dole is now a liberal and possibly a terrorist. Can't wait to see Fox Noise coverage of their old hero.

Posted by: Mark-NC on October 8, 2009 at 8:23 AM | PERMALINK

There is a growing belief among Republicans that something is going to get done on health care. They aren't going to stop it. Whatever gets done will have the wide support of all Americans. That places the Republicans squarely on the wrong side of the issue. They also think they have a chance to make gains in the next election, but only if they can reverse the idea that Republicans don't know how to govern. Slowly the Republicans who want to regain power are walking back from the abyss to where the crazies have guided the Party of No.

Posted by: Ron Byers on October 8, 2009 at 8:23 AM | PERMALINK

The ads write themselves. "Republicans in Congress say they're more interested in hurting the president than in helping Americans get affordable, secure healthcare."

Posted by: shortstop on October 8, 2009 at 8:29 AM | PERMALINK

I disagree with Ron Byers--I wish he were right, but I'm skeptical.

Basically ALL Republicans in Congress--House and Senate--want to vote against, no matter what, while Republicans out of office want it passed. Sure, a few Republican governors around the country (e.g., the Governator) want it passed, but he's a short-timer anyway.

It seems to me that the Republicans who don't face a majority of Republican voters in their House district or their state who want to do the right thing for the country. It makes me wonder how many current members of Congress actually want to pass it, but don't because they want to get re-elected.

Posted by: ThomasC. on October 8, 2009 at 8:36 AM | PERMALINK

If frauds like Dole, Frist, and Thompson were still in office, they would be singing right along with the pro-death chorus. It's easy to do the right thing when there are virtually no consequences. They don't need the support of the Republican wackjob base anymore, and they don't need the big industry contributions. Maybe it helps the Democrats a bit, but let's not praise these people for saying what they wouldn't say when they could have had a direct influence on the outcome.

Posted by: Mark on October 8, 2009 at 8:41 AM | PERMALINK

Chances that Dean Broder will notice that, despite the politically opportunist opposition of radical Congressional Republicans, Obama's health care reform effort is indeed bipartisan: Zilch.

Posted by: Gregory on October 8, 2009 at 8:45 AM | PERMALINK

It seems to me that the Republicans who don't face a majority of Republican voters in their House district or their state who want to do the right thing for the country. It makes me wonder how many current members of Congress actually want to pass it, but don't because they want to get re-elected.

I think it's a little more complicated than what the voters want -- you can't take the campaign financing equation out of it. Many of these senators and reps are from states or districts in which a majority of voters support a public option. The corporations funding their reelection campaigns, however, don't.

Until we have publicly financed elections, we will never get the legislation Americans demand.

Posted by: shortstop on October 8, 2009 at 8:53 AM | PERMALINK

They don't need the support of the Republican wackjob base anymore, and they don't need the big industry contributions.

Some of them, the younger ones, do. If you want the real money, which comes after holding office -- the lobbying jobs, the GOP think tank appointments and the high-dollar lecture series -- you continue to toe the GOP line. That's why people like Tom Ridge and Bill Frist immediately walked back their criticism of the GOP.

I imagine that Bob Dole, who's 86 now, is both concerned about his historical legacy and long past looking for work.

Posted by: shortstop on October 8, 2009 at 9:01 AM | PERMALINK

It makes sense for old-timer Repubs to be in favor of the various reforms making the rounds: every single plan that has been touted so far is to the right of Nixon's own reform ideas back in the day.

Posted by: zhak on October 8, 2009 at 9:03 AM | PERMALINK

Bob Dole is full of shit. It's easy to appear bipartisanwhenyou no longer have to be accountable to your GOP overlords (or its base). Bob Dole had an opportunity to pass health care reform in '92, but he led the charge against it. He's a goddamn hypocrit.

Posted by: Stetson Kennedy on October 8, 2009 at 9:09 AM | PERMALINK

Or hypocrite.

Posted by: Stetson Kennedy on October 8, 2009 at 9:10 AM | PERMALINK

"To be sure, none of these guys will have a vote when reform comes to the floor."

That's right. All they're doing is attempting to give the GOP cover.

You'll never go broke underestimating the cynicism of the Republican party.

Posted by: hells littlest angel on October 8, 2009 at 9:11 AM | PERMALINK

I don't believe it for a minute. The fact that all these people are the ones not actually in office makes it clear that this is a kabuki operation. All the republicans in congress have already had their credibility shredded with the "if only the democrats would compromise a little more, we'd... well, we'd vote against it anyway." So now you've got a bunch of nonvoting republicans saying the thing should pass, and when the GOP blocks in the house and senate vote unanimously against, they can say "Well, the democrats should have worked with us a little more."

Better yet, if the bill passes despite overwhelming GOP opposition in congress and turns out to be popular, they can trot out Frist and Dole as examples of how the GOP helped pass health care reform...

Posted by: paul on October 8, 2009 at 9:34 AM | PERMALINK

By mirroring some of the statements of these more rational Republicans, it would be a prime opportunity for a 2012 Republican hopeful to separate him or herself from the currently brain addled group. In doing so, it might begin to point to a party leader and create some curiosity from a broader constituency. Currently, the only curiosity I have about the current candidates is whether they have taken their psychotropic meds today.

Posted by: DTR on October 8, 2009 at 9:58 AM | PERMALINK

It is of course worthwhile when anyone supports healthcare reform - and that includes Republicans.

Insofar as "bipartisanship" means a willingness to work with others in specific cases when it makes sense despite general partisan differences, then it makes sense. Nor is strong partisan vitriol - or any other sort of rancor - a good thing.

However, insofar as "bipartisanship" is sought - or purportedly sought - as a virtue in and of itself; some sort of objective - it makes no sense.

Accordingly, I grab my wallet whenever I hear the term used.

Posted by: Nebachadnezer on October 8, 2009 at 10:16 AM | PERMALINK

Further proof of the hijacking of the word "conservative" by the right wing. These guys are the actual "conservatives." The ones in Congress are right wingers.

Hitler campaigned as a "conservative." The Germans got a good lesson in the difference between conservatives and the right wing.

Posted by: TCinLA on October 8, 2009 at 10:52 AM | PERMALINK

Let me explain why I believe the out off office conservatives are trying to walk the party back from the abyss. All of the non-office holders mentioned so far are professional politicians. They all follow the polls. They know that the Democratic approval rating is declining. That means independents are becoming skeptical of the Democrats in power. It is not unusual for the approval ratings for an in power party to decline, especially in bad economic times. What is unusual is the failure of Republicans to benefit from the Democratic bad news. The Republicans can't seem to attract anybody beyond their base. They are stuck at below 40% and have been for months. There is no indication the independents are drifting to the Republican party or candidates. Republican professionals are scratching their heads. Why aren't their numbers improving? The answer is obvious and simple. They are viewed by a large majority of the population as being wonderful in opposition but utterly unable to govern. They have been labeled the Party of No. Why would any independent vote for a Republican? The Democrats might not be doing a bang up job, but the Republicans are presenting themselves as being nothing but obstructionists. They have learned nothing from the mistakes of the Bush years. Right now independents want action. Nobody outside the Republican base wants to just say no.

Personally, I hope the elected Republicans continue to take their lead from Rush, Glenn and the unelected gang of crazies. If they ever start listening to Bob Dole or other old time conservatives Democratic prospects for 2010 could be in real trouble. I am afraid that some of the elected Republican leadership is beginning to realize that they can't win much without attracting some independents. The independents just aren't buying what they are selling. That is why Lindsey Graham is feuding with Glenn Beck. I suspect we will see more Republican politicians distance themselves from the current Republican talk radio and cable news "leadership."

Posted by: Ron Byers on October 8, 2009 at 11:19 AM | PERMALINK

And again I have to wonder if Dole would lend his support were his wife still a member of the Senate.

Doubt it.

Posted by: Hannah on October 8, 2009 at 11:30 AM | PERMALINK

And now I know why there's no jokes about medications involving impotence. They all get sent to moderation. Watch those brand names, humorists.

You'd think by now the blog filters would make exception in threads following articles with "Dole" in them.

Posted by: inkadu on October 8, 2009 at 12:46 PM | PERMALINK

It's curious, back in Dole's day, Republicans & Democrats actually worked together to craft legislation. Now, Republican's are following Karl Rove's philosophy of vilifying your opposition and allowing them no quarter no matter if they are right.

I say it's curious because while I understand the Republicans think Karl was some sort of Svengali for the 2000, 2002 & 2004 elections, his playbook hasn't worked out for them quite so well in 2006 or 2008. Yet they still follow the same losing playbook. Dumbies, they shall reap what they sow.

Posted by: kindness on October 8, 2009 at 2:34 PM | PERMALINK

Oh Jesus. I somehow missed mark @8:41 -

"If frauds like Dole, Frist, and Thompson were still in office, they would be singing right along with the pro-death chorus."

Yea....right. You certainly are a thinking man, huh? Well, it shows us what TV you watch. It doesn't tell us if you can think for yourself at all.

Posted by: kindness on October 8, 2009 at 2:49 PM | PERMALINK
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