Dean warns GOP not to oppose Obama health plan
Former Democratic National Committee Chairman Howard Dean warned that Republicans who stand against the p r e s i d e n t ’s health care plan or try to label it “socialized medicine” will suffer at the polls in 2010, and acknowledged “enough is enough” when it comes to the Rush Limbaugh hullabaloo.
Mr. Dean, a medical doctor passed up for health care spots he once coveted, told The Washington Times that because the president’s plan stresses choice — it would allow people to choose their preferred health coverage or keep plans they like — it’s “right up the Republicans’ alley.”
Mr. Dean said “Democrats can’t cave” on Mr. Obama’s plan, which he called “perfect.”
“Not every Republican is a right-wing ideologue,” Mr. Dean said in an interview March 9.
“They called Medicare socialized medicine,” he said. “If they want to filibuster this to death, be my guest and let’s see how they do in 2010.”
Mr. Dean said he is not interested in an administration job, but he wouldn’t engage in hypotheticals about what he would do if Mr. Obama asked him to serve as surgeon general, for example.
He said he has told the White House that he does not want to be considered for the post.
Mr. Dean said he is “free to freelance” and is busier now tackling several projects than when he was leading the party for the past four years.
The interview covered a wide variety of topics — from “exaggerated” reports about tension between him and the White House chief of staff to a theory that the tough Virginia Democratic primary may help the party come November.
While he is focused on technology, health care and alternativeenergy projects in his new job as an independent consultant at Washington mega-lobbying law firm McKenna Long & Aldridge, politics and the administration’s policy weren’t far from his mind.
“This has to get done,” Mr. Dean said, or major corporations may not survive.
In addition, a health care system would drastically help small businesses, he said.
He said Medicare for all would be a good solution because “people like it,” and “it works.”
“It’s ridiculous to say care would be inferior,” said Mr. Dean, who was a family practice physician in Vermont and later the state’s governor. “It’s perfectly good for the millions and millions of people over 65 in this country.”
Mr. Dean said the fight would be between the “conservatives and insurance companies” and the rest of the nation.
He predicted that moderate Republicans like the ones who already crossed the aisle to support Mr. Obama’s $787 billion eco- nomic stimulus plan would want to help on health care.
“Political leadership will get it,” he said. “Voters want this.”
Mr. Dean said he couldn’t talk about the alternative-energy projects he’s working on, but hinted at some top-secret news on a “breakthrough” he is working to get into the Defense Department: “There are some extraordinary inventions out there being moved forward.”
But he was most excited about a potential new project harnessing ideas he championed as governor — helping children from birth to age 3 — and saying that early age is crucial to determining how children will perform in school the rest of their lives.
The “Baby College” idea encourages poor families to attend parenting groups to learn basic skills such as reading to children, keeping fathers engaged and, in some cases, offering adult literacy gram in Harlem for the new venture and said a similar program helped reduce the prison population in Vermont.
Though he repeated that he isn’t interested in an administration job, Mr. Dean has said that he would like to have served as health and human services secretary. Political sources have speculated that his sometimes tense relationship with White House Chief of Staff Rahm Emanuel
Mr. Dean, a medical doctor passed up for health care spots he once coveted, told The Washington Times that because the president’s plan stresses choice — it would allow people to choose their preferred health coverage or keep plans they like — it’s “right up the Republicans’ alley.” Mr. Dean said “Democrats can’t cave” on Mr. Obama’s plan, which he called “perfect.” He added, “Not every Republican is a right-wing ideologue.”
“Middle-class people in America know you have to read to your kids long before they can read, and it’s incredibly hard for poor people who are under economic pressure and maybe didn’t do so well in school themselves,” he said. “If you don’t get to kids who are really growing up in difficult circumstances before they are 3, it’s very tough to get to them later.”
Nothing is official, but Mr. Dean is coordinating with a pro- might have been a factor, but he said the fights they had in 2006 over fundraising and his 50-state strategy are “exaggerated.”
Still, he was quick to point out he’s “not a registered lobbyist,” a label that would make it tougher to get a job in the Obama administration.
Mr. Dean said he has had a “very cordial” lunch in the past three weeks with Mr. Emanuel and political adviser David Axelrod in the White House.
He declined to discuss any details of the meeting and would not say who extended the invitation, but added, “I appreciated it.”
Mr. Dean praised his predecessor Terry McAuliffe as helping lay the foundation for the Democratic takeover of government. He said he is “very good friends” with new Chairman Tim Kaine, whom he suggested as a successor.
He said the new Organizing for America political arm — which morphed from the Obama campaign and will be housed at the DNC — may soon dwarf the party’s successes and “break huge new grounds.”
Mr. McAuliffe is running in a three-way Democratic primary to be the party’s nominee for governor this year, a race Mr. Dean said he wouldn’t touch.
But he did allow that the primary could help the party in the formerly red state, which has trended for the Democrats in recent years and backed Mr. Obama last fall, the first time Virginia went with a Democrat for president since 1964.
“The Republican candidate will have a hard time getting visibility because the press loves to cover a fight,” he said.
On another political fight, he was asked whether the Limbaugh situation was getting too much play from the Democrats. Mr. Dean laughed and responded: “Of course it is.”
“You expect people to have fun, and it was fun, but enough is enough,” he said. “The reason it’s fun is because it’s true.”
The conservative radio host has been a top headline for more than a week, and Democratic groups seized on Mr. Limbaugh’s remark that he wants Mr. Obama to “fail” and pushed the idea that Mr. Limbaugh is the true leader of the Republican Party.
That was only furthered when Republican National Committee Chairman Michael S. Steele first dismissed Mr. Limbaugh as “entertainment” who offers “ugly” comments but then apologized after being excoriated by the radio titan.
Mr. Dean told The Times it was “an embarrassment” and “ridiculous” that Mr. Steele felt he had to apologize to Mr. Limbaugh.
He said he can’t blame Mr. Steele, adding as the leader of the Republican Party he shouldn’t have to apologize for pointing out the party’s sorry shape.
He said the inner-party squabble “reminds me of what happened when I got here,” though disputes he had with entrenched party leaders were kept private “instead of a public fight with a very prominent figure.”
Don’t you dare: Howard Dean