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Obama Draws
Clinton Contrast

Barack Obama took another step today in his sometimes-tentative attempt to make an explicit case against Hillary Clinton as the Democratic nominee, saying he would be in a better position to actually enact universal health care because he had drawn lessons from the mistakes she made in failing to overhaul the health insurance system in 1993.

"We will convene an open process which the American people will be watching," Obama told about 50 people at an informal coffee in Sac City, Iowa, according to the Associated Press. "What the president can do is shine a spotlight on the process and (involve) the American people and keep the pressure on and that is something that didn't happen. In many ways it didn't happen in '93."

When a questioner brought up Clinton's leadership of the failed 1993 effort to enact health care reform, Obama said his effort would be different.

"It was a closed process and not everybody understood what was taking place, so when the insurance companies and the drug companies started running those 'Harry and Louise' ads, nobody really knew what was what. That's why the American people have to be involved."

The remarks were a new twist on the health care debate that has played a dominant role so far in the Democratic race -- until now, most of the candidates have focused on the differences between their plans, not how they would go about actually getting reform enacted. The comments also represented a variation on a theme that Obama first introduced in an interview with The Washington Post last month -- that he would be in a better position to unite the country than would Clinton, given her polarizing reputation among many voters. And it is a rebuttal of sorts to the argument Clinton has been making on the trail in recent days -- that she, unlike Obama, has the experience to know how to work within the system to get things done. In Clinton's highest-profile bid for reform, Obama is reminding voters, the system won.

--Alec MacGillis

By Washington Post editors  |  September 5, 2007; 6:08 PM ET
 
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