Saturday, June 07, 2008

What Hillary Wants

In her speech today suspending her campaign and endorsing Obama, Hillary said:
We all want a health care system that is universal, high quality and affordable so that parents don't have to choose between care for themselves or their children or be stuck in dead-end jobs simply to keep their insurance. This isn't just an issue for me. It's a passion and a cause, and it is a fight I will continue until every single American is ensured - no exceptions and no excuses.

With this statement, Hillary declared her determination to achieve universal health care for Americans - "with no exceptions and no excuses" - even though Obama opposes universality. In fact, during the campaign Obama released a series of ads attacking Hillary for seeking universality. More than one carried the slogan "Hillary's health care plan forces everyone to buy insurance, even if you can't afford it." Paul Krugman estimated that under Obama's plan, at least 23 million Americans would remain uninsured.

Everything else in her speech was aimed at subsuming Hillary's political machine into Obama's to help him become president. On this one issue did she defy him. And I think that gives us a little ray of insight into her goals.

The pundits have been opining that Hillary has been using her photo finish power to force Obama to give her the vice presidency, or the supreme court, or some other big job. I think it's more likely that what Hillary wants is to finish what she started in 1993 and obtain health care for all Americans. It's more than a Herculean task - it's the sort of monumental achievement that might use up the entire career of a great person. And she seems ready to give it her all.

Now that's a legacy to make the vice presidency seem pretty trivial.

(Note: Thanks to my friend Ellen for pointing out that Hillary broke with Obama on this issue. It sailed right by me when I first listened to the speech, and all the pundits also seemed to miss it.)

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1 comment:

Joseph said...

I did notice that during her speech. I believe the heart to heart they had the other night probably included a discussion on this very topic, in which Hillary made it clear she was determined to continue to push for the realization of universal health care.

My guess is Obama agreed to work towards that goal as well, perhaps out of deference to her on the issue.

During the primary I always thought he (perhaps wisely) did not want to be seen as shifting his plan to provide truly universal coverage once he had already outlined a plan that expanded health care tremendously but fell short on universality.

I just think he didn't want to be seen as admitting any weakness against Hillary's plan or be seen as shifting towards her position during the campaign. But I would not be surprised to see him embrace the idea going forward or at least moving closer in that direction.

I found her speech very inspiring and genuine. Despite all the punditry beforehand, I never expected anything less. I just don't think the US recognizes what a truly remarkable person she is, and are all too willing to buy into the caricature of her as ruthless and mean-spirited. I just don't think it has ever really fit, and it may actually be how sexism is exhibited towards her.

The one thing I will say, however, is I do think her campaign sometimes hindered her. Not to compare them to closely, but it seems to me Hillary is at her best when she speaks from her heart or instinct, much like McCain. She shines brightest when the deck is stacked against her, and she gets into trouble when she is too scripted or trying to hard to fill some niche or checklist of the campaign.

Today, when she felt it was ok to open up more than ever, she may have well given the best speech of her political career.