"Are You For or Against Children?"

Robert Pear thinks the GOP should just give up on stopping the expansion of a federal health care program for children.

Health care reporter Robert Pear is liberal-leaning but generally mild in tone, but Wednesday's piece, "Children's Health Plan Focus of New Struggle," was more agitated than usual.

"The Children's Health Insurance Program has suddenly become a vehicle for an ideological struggle between President Bush and Congress over the future of the health care system.

"But in the short term, members of both parties say, the broader outline of that struggle is likely to be reduced to a simple question: 'Are you for or against children?'

A conservative would of course frame it another way: "Are you for or against paying more in taxes to pay for other childrens' check-ups?"

"Democrats said Tuesday that they were determined to expand the popular children's insurance program, by pushing separate bills through the House and Senate this week.

"Mr. Bush and some Republicans in Congress said they saw these efforts as a stalking-horse for government-run health care, national health insurance and socialized medicine. Democrats disavowed those goals, but Mr. Bush said he would veto either bill to expand the program, which is set to expire in two months.

"Democrats relish the idea of using the veto against Republicans in the 2008 campaign. Senator Hillary Rodham Clinton of New York, a former chairwoman of the Children's Defense Fund, regularly champions the children's program in her campaign for the Democratic presidential nomination.

"A rival, Senator Barack Obama of Illinois, said: 'We should be ashamed that the president is fighting providing health insurance coverage to all children because he's worried that's socialized medicine. He would rather fight an ideological battle than make certain that children who have preventable illnesses like asthma are getting regular checkups. If the president decides to use his veto to deny insurance to America's children, that is a fight we should have.'

"On the Republican side, Representative John Shadegg, an influential conservative from Arizona, said, 'This debate is the opening salvo in a battle over the future of health care in America.'"

In addition to the labeling slant (Shadegg is conservative, but Obama and Hillary aren't liberal?), isn't it the parents' responsibility to ensure their children get regular checkups, rather than President Bush's?

Pear characterized the GOP as doomed on the issue.

"Before seeing details of the bills, Mr. Bush denounced them, saying they 'take incremental steps down the path to government-run health care for every American.' He said the bills would cover children from middle-income families and 'crowd out' private insurance.

"Republicans despair of trying to make such arguments to a public vexed by soaring health costs and the erosion of employer-sponsored coverage. But they are trying. Senator John Cornyn, Republican of Texas, said, 'The Senate bill would incrementally federalize health care.'"