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Jewish World Review Oct. 6, 1999 /26 Tishrei, 5760

Chris Matthews

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Bradley's got the right Rx -- A BOLD BILL BRADLEY showed last Tuesday that he learned the right lessons from Hillary Clinton's health-care debacle of 1994, while rival Al Gore remains captive to the wrong ones.

Bradley's proposal to bring medical insurance to 95 percent of American families carries the grandeur of Franklin Roosevelt, the pep of Jack Kennedy and the street smarts of both these great Democratic presidents. He's offering voters a national program many need, most believe is right and none have reason to fear.

That last point is the most vital. Bill Bradley follows the physician's first precept, to "do no harm." Existing medical plans will not be touched. No benefits will be cut. No options will be denied. No one will be forced into managed care. No one will be shuttled to a strange medical facility to face the cold stare of an unknown doctor.

Secondly, there will be no dreaded marriage of health care with welfare. Unlike the horrid plan put forth five years ago, the Bradley plan will not treat working families as wards of the state. What Bradley offers instead is a chance to afford the kind of private medical insurance now available to so many middle- and upper-middle-income families.

"We are not talking about the indolent or the negligent," he said in offering his plan. "We're talking about people you and I know... the waiters and waitresses... the home-care workers who sit with our aging parents... the taxi drivers, gas station attendants and department store clerks.

"We're talking about Americans who get up every day, do a full day's work, but who know if they get sick or hurt, they have no back-up." Nobody, not even the arch-Buchananite, mocks the hopes and fears of the dutiful working stiff who drags himself or herself out of bed each dawn, makes breakfast for the kids, and catches the early bus.

Bill Bradley, an 18-year student of congressional politics, knows that fear -- not boldness -- is the greatest obstacle to any new idea. Al Gore, still prisoner to the Clinton catastrophe of '94, does not. Like Hillary in her New York Senate quest, he repeats the pious, self-aggrandizing mantra that the sole moral or political flaw of that earlier Clinton catastrophe, which cost the Democrats their 50-year control of Congress, lay in "trying to do too much too soon." Like Hillary, he speaks of climbing the Everest-like challenge of national health care with baby steps.

Bradley showed us this week that he knows better. Bill Clinton failed to deliver on health care in 1994 for a number of good reasons. A Gallup poll taken in August of 1994 asked people which group would be helped most by the Clinton health plan and hurt most by it. The answer to the first question was "the poor." To the second it was "the middle class."

Public-opinion analyst William Schneider offered this damning post-mortem of the Clinton team: "It turned health-care reform over to a 500-person task force of self-anointed experts, meeting for months in secret, chaired by a sinister liberal activist and a driven first lady. They came up with a 1,300-page document that could not have been better designed to scare the wits out of Americans. It was the living embodiment of Big Government."

Where Al Gore continues to recite the sonnets prepared by Hillary and Bill's paid apologists for the death of their much-ballyhooed plan, Bill Bradley proved last week that he had the brains and the guts to read the autopsy. For that, he, the Democrats, the country, and especially those deserving, working families out there may soon garner the benefit.

JWR contributor Chris Matthews, chief of the San Francisco Examiner's Washington Bureau, is host of "Hardball" on CNBC. Send your comments to him by clicking here.


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09/27/99: Here's a millennial checklist for candidates
09/22/99: The biography battle
09/20/99: Buchanan's new book is a must-read
09/15/99: Don't rule out Beatty
09/13/99: The man with the sun on his face
09/08/99: W. vs. Jr. on dope and the draft
The FALN: Hillary's Willie Horton
08/26/99: Bill's guilt fuels Hill's race
08/25/99: The seemingly inexhaustible strength of America's free enterprise
08/23/99: GOP candidates are weak also-rans
08/16/99: Bubba on Bubba
08/11/99: Hillary's agonizing attempts to understand
08/09/99: With warm regards, Richard Nixon
08/04/99: Weicker: real third party is on the Left
08/02/99: Dubyah's last hangover
07/27/99: Ho, Ho, Ho Chi Minh; capitalism is gonna win

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