Emanuel Talks Sanford and Health Care at Monitor Breakfast
By Michael D. Shear
As if South Carolina governor Mark Sanford needed another piece of unsolicited advice, here's one from White House Chief of Staff Rahm Emanuel.
"There's a guy who needed a cigarette!" Emanuel told reporters this morning, perhaps riffing off of the recent interest in whether his boss still smokes on occasion.
Emanuel was holding forth at the St. Regis Hotel, where about 40 reporters gathered for a breakfast hosted by the Christian Science Monitor's Dave Cook. Emanuel asked for indulgence -- and long questions -- to eat his food, but managed to talk plenty during the hour.
His agenda: Health care. The chief of staff started there, and repeatedly sought to steer the conversation back to the subject. His message to the skeptical audience: It's going to get done this year.
In service of that message, Emanuel drew comparisons to the1993-1994 effort by then-President Bill Clinton and his wife, Hillary, to pass health care reform. Emanuel was part of that effort, serving as Clinton adviser at the time.
But the comparison he drew was not pretty. His current boss, he said, is pursuing a collaborative process, letting lawmakers craft the bills they want to craft with an eye toward a satisfactory outcome in the end. The 1993 effort was far different, he said.
"Here's our bill, we designed it behind closed doors and here it is and now we know the truth and you guys have to get along with it," he said, describing the ultimately unsuccessful health care battle 15 years ago. "On a host of fronts, today is different than then."
Emanuel cited other differences: He said opponents of the 1993 effort are now either openly supportive or not fiercely opposed. And he said the AARP's support of the effort as something that will be looked at as a key.
More importantly, there was a different "psychology" in the Congress back in Clinton's day, he said. Now, he said, "they know failure is not an option. That was not the psychology going into 1993, 1994."
And he was drawn into a bit of Clinton-Obama psycho-analyzing as well. The difference between the two? Obama's mind, he said, is "incredibly disciplined," while Clinton's is "unbelievably creative."
Posted at 12:51 PM ET on Jun 25, 2009
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