CBS Celebrates ObamaCare Achieving Long-Held Liberal Goal
Published: 3/24/2010 3:48 PM ET
Throughout the segment, Smith spoke with left-wing Brown University Professor James Morone, who began by lamenting how much of an obstacle the Constitution has been in achieving nationalized health care: "The founding fathers didn't want to make it easy. And they succeeded beyond their wildest dreams." As Smith began to recite the list of presidents who attempted implementing different proposals, Morone later explained: "Why don't we have it? One word: Congress. We've organized Congress in a way to make it very, very difficult."
In concluding the segment, Smith proclaimed: "Earlier this year, the President said, 'We are close to the summit of the mountain.' Whether or not he reaches that goal will be decided in today's vote." Morone took it a few steps further: "If they get it through, Obama's done something that Roosevelt couldn't do, that Kennedy couldn't do, Clinton, Nixon. Obama becomes, in history, a quite major figure, whatever else happens in the rest of his administration, or he becomes a minor figure. All in one day."
Turning from history to the present day, Smith argued: "health care grew from a concern to what many describe today as a full-blown crisis." She then cited left-wing ObamaCare advocate Ralph Neas, but described him as a "reform advocate...of the nonpartisan National Coalition on Health Care [who] says after a hundred years of trying, the time for change is now." Neas lectured: "More than 50% of all the foreclosures in this country, more than 50% of all the bankruptcies are because people can't pay their medical bills....What good is it to have a job or to go to school, or to do anything, unless you have your health? It's almost a prerequisite to happiness and success in life."
Smith then proceeded to allow Neas to finish her sentences with Democratic talking points on the subject:
SMITH: Those currently getting insurance from an employer will-
NEAS: Keep the same plan, same doctors, same everything. If they want to change jobs, they can't be denied in their future jobs or on the job now, because they have preexisting conditions.
SMITH: If you're buying insurance as a small business or are self-employed-
NEAS: Your costs are going to go way down. The estimates are that they'll be 10 to 15 to 20% lower than they are now.
SMITH: And - perhaps most important - if you've got no insurance-
NEAS: We're going to have 31 million Americans who currently do not have health insurance will get it. If they can't afford it, there will be Medicaid expansion, or tax credits.
Out of the ten-minute segment, Smith devoted less than a minute to ObamaCare opponents, noting: "Dr. Scott Gottlieb is a fellow with the American Enterprise Institute. He opposes the health care bill because of that mandate [to buy health insurance], and the fact that some upper-middle class Americans may see overall health insurance costs go up."
She went on to dismiss criticism from the tea party movement: "And what about those Tea Party protesters against the bill? Their public enemy number one - the public option, a government-run alternative to private insurers - is long gone. In fact, today's bill is a far cry from what many liberals once hoped for." She played a clip of Obama declaring: "This is a middle-of-the-road bill."
Smith actually saw that small degree of moderation in the massive government takeover as a sign of corruption: "Some critics say, just follow the money....Bill Buzenberg runs the Center for Public Integrity, which advocates for transparency in politics. They see the color of corporate money all over the bill."
Despite such flaws in the legislation, Smith defended it: "President Obama promised he wouldn't let the perfect be the enemy of the good."
Here is a portion of Smith's report:
SMITH: Over the past week, hold-out Democrats were whipped into line.-Kyle Drennen is a news analyst at the Media Research Center. You can follow him on Twitter here.
DENNIS KUCINICH [REP., D-OHIO]: If my vote is to be counted let it count now for passage of the bill.
SMITH: And on Thursday, the Congressional Budget Office gave a badly-needed boost to the bill, estimating its cost as 'on-target' at $940 billion - even predicting a deficit reduction of more than $1.3 trillion over the next twenty years.
CROWD: Kill the bill! Kill the bill!
SMITH: But opponents aren't going down without a fight. And if it feels like this long, angry, divisive debate over American health care has gone on practically forever - the fact is, it has.
JAMES MORONE [BROWN UNIVERSITY PROFESSOR]: The founding fathers didn't want to make it easy. And they succeeded beyond their wildest dreams.
SMITH: Brown University Professor James Morone has chronicled the attempts of presidents past to make national health care a reality.
THEODORE ROOSEVELT: The principles for which we stand are the principles of fair play.
SMITH: Theodore Roosevelt made the opening salvo: He campaigned on healthcare-for-all in his 1912 attempt to return to office.
FRANKLIN D. ROOSEVELT: Today, a hope of many years standing is in large part fulfilled.
SMITH: The idea was revived two decades later by yet another Roosevelt, Franklin. But even after getting Social Security approved by his own divided Congress, FDR found that universal health care was simply a bill too far.
MORONE: Why don't we have it? One word: Congress. We've organized Congress in a way to make it very, very difficult.
SMITH: Roosevelt's successor, Harry Truman, learned that lesson the hard way.
MORONE: Truman believed in his bones, in his guts, that national health insurance was the most important thing for America. He took it to Congress. They had hearings. So many groups lined up to scream against 'socialized medicine' that they didn't even take a vote.
SMITH: Not until the 1960s would a savvy veteran of Congress finally make some headway. President Lyndon Johnson, formerly known as 'the Master of the Senate' - had the political muscle to break the logjam.
MORONE: He was always arm-twisting. There's the Johnson treatment of how he would grab up - grab a Congressman, and he'd pluck their jacket, and he'd put his arm around him and he's a big man, 250 pounds. And when you got the Johnson treatment you just wanted to get out there and take a breath of air.
SMITH: With his Medicare and Medicaid legislation, LBJ brought a form of universal health care to the elderly and the poor. His successor - Republican Richard Nixon - wanted to extend coverage to everyone else.
MORONE: Throughout his career he had a soft spot for health care; he was a liberal on health care. He came up with the great national health insurance proposal: we're not going to go with a single payer, 'socialized medicine.' We're going to leave the things that are in place in place. We're going to leave employers in place. We're going to leave Medicare and Medicaid, and we'll just try to cover everybody else using competitive mechanisms. It was the most creative new national health insurance bill, maybe in the entire story. And, at the last minute, in spring of 1973, as Nixon is going down, the Republicans in Congress balked. And before any - anything else happen, Nixon had been - resigned his office.
SMITH: And health care reform was dead once again?
MORONE: And health care reform was dead once again, but the Nixon plan is one Democrats would embrace.
SMITH: Indeed, with the 1992 election of Bill Clinton, reform was back at the top of the agenda.
BILL CLINTON: This health care system of ours is badly broken and it is time to fix it.
SMITH: First Lady Hillary Clinton presided over the closed-door drafting of legislation. Analyst David Gergen:
GERGEN: It was written at the White House and then presented to - to the Congress almost as a fait accompli. And then Congress said, 'Not invented here.' Threw it away and started over again.
SMITH: That, plus opposition from special interest groups proved fatal to the plan.