Dean warns GOP not to op­pose Obama health plan

The Washington Times Weekly - - Politics - BY CHRISTINA BEL­LAN­TONI

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.”

cour­ses.

“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

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