Hillary Clinton ‘Dares’ Lazio to Attack Health Record
In New York's U.S. Senate race, first lady Hillary Rodham Clinton (D) "virtually dared" rival Rep. Rick Lazio (R-N.Y.) to "unleash" his long-awaited attack on her "failed" 1993 national heath care plan, urging Lazio to "[b]ring it on," the New York Daily News reports. Clinton added that Lazio's "assault" would only highlight his own "lack of plan." At a campaign stop in Brooklyn, she said, "I read in the newspaper that my opponent is planning to attack me on health care. Well, here I am." She added, "If you want to talk about what went wrong in 1994, well, that's fine. I'm going to talk about what we can do right in the year 2000." Lazio plans to launch a campaign today -- beginning with visits to health care facilities in the Albany area -- that will include radio ads airing in upstate New York. Questioned by reporters at a campaign event, Lazio "scoffed at Clinton's dare," stating, "Let's talk about the fact that even the Democrats, the people in her own party ... said her plan was an absolute disaster for New York." He added, "It would have devastated New York health care. It would have devastated our teaching hospitals. It would have destroyed 75,000 jobs" (Lewine/Siegel, New York Daily News, 10/23). Lazio also accused Clinton of trying to "run away" from her failed health care proposal. While Clinton said that she "learned a lot" from the "failed health care effort," including the importance of taking "change step-by-step." She has proposed raising the income eligibility for CHIP and allowing Americans ages 55 to 65 to buy into Medicare (Harpaz, AP/Albany Times Union, 10/23). According to Lazio strategists, Clinton still remains "highly vulnerable" because of the "colossal" failure of her 1993 health care plan and her otherwise "limited" public record. Clinton aides maintain, however, that the first lady can "withstand any assault" (New York Daily News, 10/23). The New York Times probed the "puzzling questions" that "hover" over the 1993 failure and its possible repercussions on Clinton's current Senate bid. The Times asked, "[H]ow ... could someone so smart, so knowledgeable about the arcane details of the health care system, have been so obtuse about the politics of the issue on Capitol Hill, where she now aspires to work?" According to critics, the 1993 failure illustrates that Clinton "lacks the temperament and experience" to serve in the Senate," citing her "fail[ure] to work with Congress." ABC pundit George Stephanopoulos, a former Clinton adviser, said, "Having Hillary run health care was a mistake" partly because "compromise didn't come naturally" to her. In addition, Clinton's plan received criticism for the "secretive process by which it was developed" and her failure to "assimilate [members'] comments or criticism." The Times also reports that Clinton often "displayed a combative style," failing to "build the coalitions or round up the votes needed to win the battle." Clinton backers argue, however, that the health plan "fell victim" to "Republican partisanship" and "relentless attacks" from insurance companies, drug firms and small businesses. While GOP leaders opposed the plan, Democrats also sent "warning signals" that the plan "was headed for trouble" in Congress. In 1993, Rep. Pete Stark (D-Calif.) called the proposal a "fairy tale," and Sen. Daniel Patrick Moynihan (D-N.Y.) said that the plan's financing relied on "fantasy," warning that it would "devastate the New York City hospital system." While Clinton now backs Moynihan's efforts to increase funding to teaching hospitals and medical schools, Lazio and other critics have attacked the first lady on the issue during the campaign (Pear, New York Times, 10/21).This is part of the KHN Morning Briefing, a summary of health policy coverage from major news organizations. Sign up for an email subscription.