The Thinker: Rich Galen


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The Nuclear Reactor
Core of Politics

Rich Galen

Monday June 19, 2017

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  • I Tweeted this on Saturday:
    "If Social Security has been the third rail of U.S. politics, then health care - whichever side is proposing - is the nuclear reactor core."

  • After defeating George H.W. Bush in the Presidential election of 1992 with 43 percent of the popular vote, Bill Clinton set about making major changes to America's health care system.

  • More correctly, his wife Hillary, took the reins of changing health care in America. In fact, the plan that emerged was called, by detractors, Hillarycare.

  • In an article written in August of 1993, NY Times reporters Adam Clymer, Robin Toner, and Robert Pear wrote:
    "It was � a move of remarkable hubris, a President elected with 43 percent of the vote expecting Congress to allow him to rearrange one-seventh of the American economy under the streamlined, fast-track procedures of a budget bill."

  • Sound familiar? Twenty-four years later a President elected with 46 percent of the popular vote tossed the "repeal and replace" hand grenade into the Well of the House. Trump had to endure the embarrassment of having the House healthcare bill pulled for lack of GOP support 62 days into his Presidency. Then, when the House did pass its health care bill, Trump (a) held a victory photo-op in the Rose garden to celebrate and, (b) later called it "mean."

  • The point of all this is the political damage health care has done to the Members of the House and Senate who are unfortunate enough to share a party label with the President.

  • In the famous Gingrich Revolution mid-term of 1994, Republicans picked up 54 House seats and control of the Chamber for the first time in 40 years. To be sure there were all the elements of the Contract with America that pushed voters to the R column, but HillaryCare was a major talking point.

  • In fact, the aforementioned Adam Clymer wrote a piece in the NY Times in September 1994 - just weeks before the mid-terms - which led:
    "National health insurance legislation, President Clinton's grandest legislative goal and the dominating issue before Congress all year, officially died today."


    Just a quick reminder. I had nothing to do with the Contract for America. At the time I was busy running the Middle East for the firm founded by Ross Perot, EDS. In fact, I flew in from Abu Dhabi on election night 1994 to help out with the press operation.

    I didn't rejoin the political fray in Washington, DC until January 1996 during the shut-down fight between Speaker Newt Gingrich and President Bill Clinton.


  • President Barack Obama also started healthcare legislation talk immediately after assuming office in January 2009. Votes in the House and Senate (both under Democratic control) kept the issue not just alive, but pouring gasoline on the fire that provided momentum for the then-nacent Tea Party movement.

  • The Obama healthcare bill, according to a timeline published by ABC News, was passed in March 2010 by the Senate (under reconciliation, thus needing only 51 votes) 56-43. The House approved it by a vote of 220-207.

  • In the mid-term elections eight months later, American voters thanked Democrats by handing John Boehner the Speaker's gavel with a 63-seat pickup. Senate Republicans picked up 6 seats which was not enough to take control, but did lower the Ds Senate majority to 53-47.

  • All that brings us to the current situation. The GOP-led U.S. Senate has a small group - reportedly five Senators - working on drafting legislation that Trump might consider to be less mean.

  • But five Senators leaves 530 other elected Members of the House and Senate in the dark. According to RealClearPolitics the nation is still not in love with ObamaCare - the numbers average out 40.4 for to 49.4 against.

  • But, even without knowing what is in the GOP bill, a recent Quinnipiac poll showed only 20 percent of voters saying they would be more likely to vote for someone who supports the republican plan, while 44 percent say they are less likely. According that Q poll, 31 percent say it won't affect their vote one way or another.

  • We're 17 months away from the mid-terms, so a lot of water will flow down the Potomac between now and then.

  • But healthcare has not been a big vote getter over the past quarter century, and there is scant evidence that will change next year.

  • On the Secret Decoder Ring page today: Links to the two NY Times pieces, a handy time line for how ObamaCare went through the process, and the Quinnipiac poll.

    The Mullfoto is of a brick. Yes, a brick left on a garbage can. Tradecraft, I think.

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