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An Impossible Promise From John Edwards

John Edwards

The Ad: When I'm president I'm going to say to members of Congress and members of my administration, including my Cabinet: I'm glad that you have health care coverage and your family has health care coverage. But if you don't pass universal health care by July of 2009, in six month, I'm going to use my power as president to take your health care away from you. There's no excuse for politicians in Washington having health care when you don't have health care.

Analysis: John Edwards's new Iowa ad is very effective rhetorically--and based on a false premise. A president has absolutely no power to rescind federal health insurance for members of Congress, as the Edwards campaign admits.

"He would introduce legislation, that's all it is," spokesman Eric Schultz said. "He would introduce legislation and ask them to set a deadline for themselves." While a President Edwards could mount public pressure based on the 47 million Americans who lack health insurance, Congress is, to put it mildly, unlikely to relinquish its own coverage. In fact, some experts argue that such a law would violate the 27th Amendment's ban on "varying the compensation" of members of Congress without an intervening election. Schultz said Edwards would ask senior administration officials to voluntarily give up their health coverage if he fails to pass universal coverage.

The ad captures the former senator's passion and underscores his message that the Washington political system is broken. But Edwards is making a promise he can't keep.

--Howard Kurtz

Posted at 1:19 PM ET on Nov 13, 2007  | Category:  Ad Watch
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I saw JRE in Iowa at WITCC (Western Iowa Tech Community College) and I was impressed! I liked his position on just about everything and will likely go caucus for him in January.It's unfortunate that he and Barack are in the same race against Hillary, I'd hate to see Obama drop out, but if he does I think Edwards' numbers would improve considerably. (And for you Obama supporters out there, I would say the same thing if Edwards drops out.) Anyone but Hlllary seems to be the current sentiment of many Iowans.

Posted by: creaser | November 15, 2007 4:37 PM

Howard Kurtz is losing the forest for the twig. John Edwards is fully justified to make creative use of the bully pulpit of the Presidency to stand up to entrenched interests. I respect Edwards for having some backbone.

Picture this: 47 million Americans are uninsured. Many work full-time but cannot afford to pay for medical insurance. Because they are uninsured, they have nobody in their court to bargain their bills down, so they will face hospital bills that are two and a half times larger than those with group insurance.

And because uninsured people do not receive care for conditions such as high blood pressure and diabetes, when they get sick, they get really really sick, which is why emergency room and Medicare costs are going through the roof.

Posted by: CyberCitizen | November 15, 2007 11:06 AM

When a candidate begins resorting to gimmicks in order to gain traction, it's all over for that candidate.

I, for one, will not miss John Edwards and his negativity. He's an embarrassment.

Posted by: audart | November 14, 2007 8:04 PM

I like how the staffer from the campaign says "he'll introduce legislation to do it." Is he a numbscull? The president can't introduce legislation anymore than I can. Only Members of Congress can introduce legislation.

Posted by: Eric12345 | November 14, 2007 2:32 PM

"I'd pay to see Congress explain to their constituents why Congress has coverage but they won't give the American people coverage."

Um, maybe beacuse health insurance is part of the compensation package that comes with their employment? I love the way the comment's author seems to see the Congress as some great font from which all things, including health insurrance, may flow if only they wish. "Give" me coverage? Hell, I'll be paying for it, along with you and everyone else. I defy anyone to tell me how adding the government as yet another middle man in the health care soup will make it cheaper in terms of real cost. Does it work this way with the VA or Medicare or Medicaid?

Insanity has once been defined as doing the same thing over and over but expecting different results. I'm not sure what the answer to goverment regulation induced cost bloat is, but I'm damn sure it isn't more government regulation.

Posted by: submandave | November 14, 2007 10:37 AM

Gosh, you're right, Howie. The President of the United States and leader of the free world has no bully pulpit. He can't work with friendly congresscritters to introduce legislation. He can't set an agenda.

Why the heck are we all so worked up over who gets elected President, anyway?

What a stupid objection this is! Here's the deal: millions of people are uninsured. Millions of people are under-insured. Millions of people can't afford to retire because they can't pay for the health insurance on their own.

And the current argument is...we can't right that wrong because our Constitution protects injustice?

Guess what - when our constitution promotes injustice, or doesn't protect people from injustice, we CHANGE IT. You know, that whole amendment making slavery illegal and removing the language about slaves being 3/5ths of a person is a great example of this.

What in the world is this country coming to when folks just shrug their shoulders in the face of injustice and say there's nothing we can do...BECAUSE DOING SOMETHING ABOUT IT IS UNCONSTITUTIONAL?

Sigh...

Posted by: grannyhelen | November 14, 2007 10:01 AM

Ah, but you see, whether he actually CAN take away Congress's and Cabinet officials' health-care coverage is immaterial. It is a powerful statement of a priority he would fight for as president and, as such, it's a brilliant ad.

It also may be possible to have legislation introduced that members of Congress might actually have to vote on, forcing them to go on the record about whether their own coverage is more important than the coverage of 47 million uninsured Americans (let alone the many more millions of underinsured Americans who must shell out $7,000 to $8,000 a year in premiums and deductibles before they see ANY benefit).

He will do what he can, through the power of the presidency, to fix this broken system. That's what's important -- AND you'd better believe he gets asked/challenged about it at the debate tomorrow night -- and he'll shine.

Posted by: editrix | November 14, 2007 3:21 AM

Edwards has made the health insurance issue crystal clear to the American public. What a joy it would be to see him in the White House making other issues clear to the public as well.

Posted by: ff | November 13, 2007 10:28 PM

I really don't think this is that far fetched an idea. We should expect, no let me rephrase that, DEMAND that the people we elect to serve in Congress watch our backs. They (Congress) should not forget it is in their job description to ensure that "we" their constituents are taken care of and that they are doing what we ask of them, if not, let's vote them out already.

We forget the power is ours not theirs to give and take away.

So come on America, let's join John Edwards and take our America back!!

Posted by: pab0824 | November 13, 2007 8:25 PM

I said this earlier tonight on this blog:

What I want to know is did the media get together and decide it was Whack Edwards day? Seriously, I've seen so many negative stories today about Edwards. Oh no wait, maybe Edwards is just rising in the polls. That's always good for negative media stories about him.


Well guess what I just read on the CBS website:

In Iowa, the Democratic contest is knotted up. Among likely caucus-goers, Clinton came out on top with 25 percent support, but she was trailed closely by Edwards at 23 percent, and Obama at 22 percent. With a margin of error of 4 percentage points, there is no clear leader. Trailing behind was Bill Richardson, at 12 percent, with all other candidates in single digits.

http://www.cbsnews.com/stories/2007/11/13/opinion/polls/main3497993.shtml

Yup, Edwards is moving up in the polls.

Posted by: pmorlan1 | November 13, 2007 7:44 PM

You can pry my Insurance ID card from my cold dead hands.

Posted by: sonodoc | November 13, 2007 7:41 PM

After I read Howie's column I ran across another column about this commercial. This one was by Jake Tapper at ABC. Evidently Jake & Howie, like most inside the beltway columnists, think alike.

This is part of what Jake said about Edwards plan.

This is a silly debate on one level -- I don't actually think there's any way a president can take Congress's health insurance away. (His Cabinet's may be another matter.)

But then he went on to say this and it was very revealing:

And even if he could, the move might seem awfully cruel for those members of Congress with bad health (or relatives in bad health) who depend upon health insurance.

Say what?

You guessed it, ole Jake thought it would be CRUEL to deny healthcare to members of Congress and their families.

This is what I said to Jake and it also goes for all those other Jake's out there in the media who don't get Edwards commercial or his campaign because they don't understand the lives that most Americans are living.

My comments to Jake:

Oh, so not having health insurance would be hard on Congress members and their relatives? Welcome to the world of the millions of American people who don't have health insurance.

I think this argument shows how insulated the press has become. There was a time in this country when the press represented the people, now they just represent the people with power. Jake is very sympathetic to Congress and their family members but he just doesn't get it when it comes to the rest of us.

Amen.


Posted by: pmorlan1 | November 13, 2007 7:01 PM

I am heartened by many of these responses. People are finally getting it. The media has been marginalizing Edwards by either no coverage or just plain bad coverage. Why? well quess what... the MSM knows he is the only real threat to the business as usual DC insiders and the complicit corporate owned media. People are tired of the media choosing who our candidates are. They are self serving and are not for "we the people" But John Edwards is!
Edwards 2008 'The Peoples President'
returning the government back to "We The People"
Go John Go

Posted by: asher13 | November 13, 2007 6:40 PM

I cheer Edwards's position to take away health insurance from Congress until they do something about health care for 47 million fellow citizens who have none.

I think his position is gutsy in the style of Harry Truman. In 1946 Truman told the CEO's of coal companies that he'd shut them down unless they granted coal miners a five-cent royalty on every ton of coal workers produced. The nation applauded his decisive action for standing up to greed.

The CEO's came quickly to the bargaining table. The only way to get the attention of the powerful is to take away someting MEANINGFUL (profits, health insurance). It's amazing how quickly they'll see the light and share the bounty they have.

Posted by: marsha.sompayrac | November 13, 2007 6:26 PM

At the very least, Congress would face pressure from the White House and from voters. There are 47 million Americans without insurance. Add in consumer advocacy and health provider groups, and that's a lot of letters to representatives.

I like the strategy. It's fair and it serves warning that, even if he can not pull it off within a 6-month time frame, those members who oppose it will lose their jobs come election time.

The lack of access to health care in this country amounts to a death sentence for people who can not afford private, non-group rate insurance or who have been dropped by their insurers because they have run up too many bills.

Edwards "gets" that. With him on our side, we can do this. And join the ranks of developed nations that consider health care a basic right.

Posted by: healthvtr | November 13, 2007 5:51 PM

Everyone knows that Howard Kurtz is a tool anyway, so who cares what he thinks.

I haven't seen Howard Kurtz's big freaking nose sniffing about what Bush "CAN'T" do. There are plenty of things that the Bush administration COULDN'T DO, that they did.

I'm sure there's a way, otherwise someone as clueless as Howard Kurtz wouldn't have said that there isn't.

Posted by: framecop | November 13, 2007 5:49 PM

I think Howard got his wires crossed, this was supposed to go to his RNC e-mail address. Oops.

Posted by: zukermand | November 13, 2007 4:59 PM

glhass writes
" For some reason, congress wants to deny the populous the benefits that they enjoy. Aristocracy?"

No, not 'aristocracy'. The problem is in the system that presumes health care should be supplied by one's employer. Our Congresscritters are our employees, so we buy them - and all their staffers - health insurance. The solution is to change the system such that health care is not tied to employment.

Posted by: bsimon | November 13, 2007 4:38 PM

All the people running for president are politicians; however, that doesn't make the concept invalid. For some reason, congress wants to deny the populous the benefits that they enjoy. Aristocracy?

Posted by: glhaas | November 13, 2007 4:12 PM

I disagree with you Howie.

I think Edwards has a great idea on this. I'd love to have a ringside seat watching Congress either vote down a bill to take away their healthcare or never call it up for a vote all the while Edwards is using the bully pulpit to get the American people behind universal coverage. I'd pay to see Congress explain to their constituents why Congress has coverage but they won't give the American people coverage. Oh yes!

I bet Edwards has got a lot of creative ways to take back this country for the average voters and that's probably why there are so many entrenched interests lined up against him. What a pity that so many media hacks are trying to keep the Edwards message from the voters.

It reminds me of the old movie Mr. Smith Goes to Washington. Mr. Smith tries to get the word out about corruption in Washington and the corupt politicians use their media connections to bury him. Too bad this Mr. Smith doesn't have the opportunity to do a filibuster to get the real word out. Maybe Senator Edwards will have to use the internet instead.

Posted by: pmorlan1 | November 13, 2007 4:11 PM

Okay, so Edwards is "desperate" because he wants to force Congress to act on an issue that affects millions of Americans instead of allowing them to focus on dumb crap like changing the dates of Daylight Savings Time. That makes sense.

The fact of the matter is that Edwards actually cares about the people of this country, which is more than we can say for someone like Hillary. She's in it for what she can get out of it, not for what she can do for others. I don't mean to imply that Edwards is a saint by any stretch, but I believe that he's honest and decent and really wants to do something to help people.

Perhaps if more people did their own research instead of relying solely on the MSM, they would see that Edwards is someone who really wants to make a difference; and he has always been the leader of the pack when it was time to lay out ideas and plans for the future. Most of the others can't say that, especially not Hillary, and usually not Obama.

Real issues aren't sexy or fun, but they are what will shape our future for better or worse; and I would much rather have someone who is willing to take a stand and get beat up for it than someone who is not.

Posted by: skpedersen | November 13, 2007 4:02 PM

What I want to know is did the media get together and decide it was Whack Edwards day? Seriously, I've seen so many negative stories today about Edwards. Oh no wait, maybe Edwards is just rising in the polls. That's always good for negative media stories about him. And what is Howard Kurtz doing reporting on Edwards? Isn't he supposed to report on the media?

Posted by: pmorlan1 | November 13, 2007 2:57 PM

"Edwards is making a promise he can't keep."

In other words, he's a politician running for office.

Its hard not to agree with the underlying message that the system is broken; the question is how misleading ads will help fix the system. Is anyone buying into this?

Posted by: bsimon | November 13, 2007 2:03 PM

Edwards is increasingly desperate and nothing he would claim would surprise me. Is any of this working for him?

Posted by: rdklingus | November 13, 2007 2:00 PM

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