Dean: No 'Appeasement' on Public Option

Howard Dean signs books at Netroots Nation, a gathering of self described progressive bloggers and online activists in Pittsburgh,  Friday, Aug. 14, 2009. (AP)
Howard Dean at Netroots Nation in Pittsburgh on Aug. 14, 2009. (AP)

When President Obama told a townhall this weekend that a "public option" was “just one sliver” of health care reform, and HHS Secretary Kathleen Sebelius told CNN that the public option is “not the essential element” of reform, it set off a firestorm among progressive Democrats. The White House has since insisted that there’s been no change in the president's position on a public option, but headlines have sounded death knells and liberal lawmakers are rallying to defend it.

Former Vermont Governor Howard Dean, until last January chairman of the Democratic National Committee, joined us Tuesday to explain why he thinks the public option is “not only essential for real reform, it’s also essential for passing the bill.” He said health care co-ops -- often cited as the alternative to a public option -- won't help more Americans get insurance and won't curb the rising costs of health care.

But Dean's sharpest words were for centrists in his party who, he says, are letting bipartisanship stand in the way of reform. "I hate to see the Democratic Party backslide into this appeasement routine," Dean said.

Here’s more of what Dean had to say:

HOWARD DEAN: I went through the Clinton stuff too. And I think a lot of the problem that Democrats have in general is that we think the Republicans are our friends. They’re not. They’ve made it very clear what their agenda is. Even if we could get two or three Republicans on board, which I don’t think is possible, the principal agenda of their party is to take down President Obama, not to pass health care reform.

Why not do it right? We have the power to do that. We have this enormous majority. What is the point of having this enormous majority if you can’t get anything done? Do you think Franklin Roosevelt would have compromised with the Republicans on social security? No. And he went on and was one of the few presidents to gain seats in the off-year election.

So, I hate to see the Democratic Party backslide into this appeasement routine. It’s fine to work with Republicans when they want to work with you. But these Republicans don’t want to work with us, and we ought to pass the bill the way it ought to be passed, which is with the public option.

You can listen to the full interview here, and tell us what you think.


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