Bob Dole breaks ranks to support health care bill

Bob Dole of Kansas put partisan politics aside Wednesday and urged support of health care reform at a Kansas City forum.
Despite being asked by Senate Republican leader Mitch McConnell of Kentucky not to do so, the former Republican candidate for president and longtime Senate leader, said the bill is “one of the most important measures members of Congress will vote on in their lifetimes.”
The fact that Sen. McConnell went out of his way to urge Dole to stay silent on the issue is all the proof the public need have that handing President Barack Obama a defeat is more important to the Republican congressional leadership than solving the nation’s health care dilemma.
Dole — the very personification of conservative Republicanism — takes the opposite approach. Republicans, he believes, should put their country and the welfare of the American people first.
He may also believe that providing health care for all Americans is a moral issue, rather than a matter of partisan politics. Nicholas D. Kristof took that point of view in a New York Times essay Thursday.
He wrote: “ ... our existing insurance system is not simply inequitable but also lethal: a very recent, peer-reviewed article in the American Journal of Public Health finds that nearly 45,000 uninsured people die annually as a consequence of not having insurance. That’s one needless death every 12 minutes.
“When nearly 3,000 people were killed on 9/11, we began wars and were willing to devote more than $1 trillion in additional expenses. Yet about the same number of Americans die from our failed insurance system every three weeks.
“The obstacle isn’t so much money as priorities. America made it a priority to provide tax breaks, largely to the wealthy, in the Bush years, at a 10-year cost including interest of $2.4 trillion. Allocating less than half that much to assure equal access to health care isn’t deemed an equal priority.
“... The plan emerging in the Senate is no pan-acea. America needs to promote exercise and discourage sugary drinks to hold down the rise in obesity, diabetes and medical bills. We need more competition among insurance companies. And conservatives are right to call for tort reform to reduce the costs of malpractice in-surance and defensive medicine. But those steps are not a substitute for guaranteed health coverage for all Americans.”
Kristof also made a tongue-in-cheek proposal that since 15 percent of the American people are uninsured and 8 percent are underinsured it might help Congress understand their plight if the same percentages of that august body, chosen randomly, were reduced to similar status.
For those who view universal health care as “socialism,” Kristof commented: “ ... If they object so passionately to ‘socialized health,’ why don’t they block their 911 service to socialized police and fire services, disconnect themselves from socialized sewers and avoid socialized in-terstate highways?”

ARGUMENT BY analogy usually falls short, and, of course, one cannot imagine Congress giving up health care on any of its own members to prove a point. None-theless, Bob Dole surely is morally right (and therefore politically right) to urge bipartisan support for fundmental reform of the nation’s health care system, which is careening to-ward bankruptcy on an unsustainable course.
The Republicans who looked up to him for guidance for so many years should heed his wisdom today.

— Emerson Lynn, jr.