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Oct. 10 2009 - 3:44 pm | 4 views | 2 recommendations | 8 comments

GOP elder statesmen support Obama on healthcare reform

Former presidential candidate Bob Dole walks d...

Image by AFP/Getty Images via Daylife

Why is it that GOP politicians only seem to get sensible once they are out of office?

This week, past GOP Senate majority leaders, Bob Dole and Bill Frist, added their voices to that of Howard Baker, another past GOP Senate majority leader, in  support for serious health care reform. Also joining the chorus were Tommy Thompson and Louis Sullivan, each past health secretaries for the two Bushes.

Commenting on this somewhat surprising turn of events, The New Republic’s, John Cohn, writes-

For those keeping a tally, that’s three former Republican Senate Majority Leaders who have endorsed the sorts of reforms President Obama and his allies are pushing. Previously, Howard Baker and Bob Dole signed on to a plan they negotiated with Tom Daschle and George Mitchell, former Democratic counterparts, through the auspices of the Bipartisan Policy Center.
And this is as it should be. For all of the crazy talk about a radical government takeover, health care reform 2009 is an amalgam of compromises, many based on ideas taken straight from former Republican proposals–the kind of proposal, in other words, at least a few Republicans should be able to embrace in good faith.
Now if only some currently serving members of the party could take a cue from the retired elder statesmen…

Via The New Republic

Nice. But will the endorsement of these ghosts of Republican politicians past make any difference or bear any influence on the current generation of GOP leadership?

It appears not. While Dole went so far as to direct his comments and criticism squarely at current GOP Senate minority leader, Mitch McConnell, suggesting that the Senate minority leader is heading up a party that only knows how to say ‘no’, it appears that the old man’s comments have fallen on deaf ears. In fact, Dole was quoted as saying that “We’re already hearing from some high-ranking Republicans that we shouldn’t do that. That’s helping the president,” doing little to hide the fact that the ‘high ranking Republicans’ he was referencing was minority leader McConnell.

Clearly, McConnell has no intention whatsoever of budging in his opposition as his interests are not aligned with the best interests of the nation as a whole. He, like so many of his senatorial and congressional associates, is all about doing whatever he can to ding the president. So long as he can accomplish this primary objective, the rest of us are pretty much on our own.

Still, the endorsements (albeit with reservations) of GOP warhorses from eras gone by does matter. When Bill Frist and Bob Dole see reform as being consistent with the conservative approach to governing America, how can the Republicans currently occupying space in Congress argue otherwise? Are they prepared to say that their prior leadership, the very deans of their party, have somehow adopted liberalism in their old age? I doubt it.

The elder statesmen of the GOP have called out those who are now in control of their party for playing politics with something that is far too important to be addressed by just saying no.

But don’t expect the Republicans in Congress to listen. It just isn’t going to happen.


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  1. collapse expand

    Looks like the White House is really turning up the pressure on this issue – they got former Nebraska Senator Chuck Hagel to issue a statement as well.

  2. collapse expand

    Interesting. If the timing on this was the Obama Administration’s idea, I have to give it up to them: this is clever. As with Jeremiah Wright, they put the info out there, allowed the wing nuts to scream themselves horse about it, then came back when the yelling stopped, looking all the more sane for avoiding the shouting match all together. If the senior statesmen had been in the fight from the beginning, it would have only fanned the flames; with them showing up after the town hall hissy fits, it reads like, “OK, the children have thrown their temper tantrums, now we’re going to hear from the adults.”

    That said, a couple caveats: Isn’t the whole Frist family in the health insurance game, therefore standing to make big money off a bill that includes personal mandates? And: what are these senior statesmen in favor of, exactly? The Baucus plan? That doesn’t necessarily sound like good news.

  3. collapse expand

    The health care situation has become so extreme and hurting our industries so badly that I would expect just about anyone sane would want us to do something on the issue.

  4. collapse expand

    I’m going to start calling these guys Real Republicans. What could it hurt?

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    I am an attorney in Southern California, and a frequent writer, speaker and consultant on health care policy and politics. To that end, I am active member of the Association of Health Care Journalists. Based in beautiful Santa Monica, California, I'm very pleased to have the opportunity to be a contributing editor to True/Slant. I've recently finished a book designed to make the health care debate understandable to the average reader, and expect it to be out in the next five months or earlier. In my 'spare time', I continue to write for television and, occasionally, for comic books.

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