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Opinion: Doug Thompson

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Shrewd move by Hillary

As this went to print, the United Auto Workers went on strike.
Keep that in mind while considering the timing of Sen. Hillary Clinton’s proposal on health care.


Health care costs caused the deadlock over a new UAW contract. Car companies want union workers to take over retiree health benefits. The union is willing — if they get guarantees for their jobs. They don’t want more layoffs, especially if the members who remain have to prop up a retiree insurance system.
Clinton’s health care plan wouldn’t address the autoworkers contract directly. However, the current health care system makes U.S. business uncompetitive. There’s no better example of that than the costs added to making American cars.
It’s hard to attack the senator’s plan as a costly, unnecessary government program while a dying, once-great American auto industry faces a strike in a direct clash between health costs and job security. Clinton’s decision to come forward with a health plan just before this foreseeable breakdown is shrewd.
This may just be coincidence, but I don’t believe in coincidences when a Clinton campaigns.
The shame is that health care costs are not the American auto industry’s core problem. The core problem is that a Toyota or Honda is far more reliable than the average American car. Health care costs are just one thing auto company management is willing and able to change.
The car industry has been mismanaged for decades. It’s grossly unfair that the workers have to pay for trying to salvage it through loss of much of their health care benefits.
Ah, but who said life was fair?
I had several friends express some surprise that Clinton, D-NY, would bring up health care. She was put in charge of it after he husband became president in 1993. It flopped so hard it didn’t even come to a vote. Why did she bring it up again?
Two reasons:
Her history on the subject was going to come up again anyway. This was her way of saying, “See? I was right.” Fifteen years of rising health care costs have passed. It’s not hard to conclude that Clinton tried, at least. Nobody’s done more than that in the meantime.
She also let her significant Democratic opponents go first, then put together a plan that improves on both of theirs’. This helps her performance as the Democratic candidate who knows what she’s doing.
On another Hillary-related topic, would-be GOP opponent Rudy Giuliani accused Clinton of partisan mercenary motives in recent statements opposing the Iraq War. “These times call for statesmanship, not politicians spewing political venom,” his honor said in a newspaper ad.
I’ve had my patriotism, his good sense, my moral and physical courage, my manhood and my support for the troops routinely questioned, mocked or both for the past four years because I was right all along about the Iraq War.
Therefore, I find the former mayor’s little hissy fit perversely amusing.
The Republican Party is in a crisis in the 2008 election precisely because they can’t find one credible presidential contender who is untainted by partisan grandstanding with the Iraq War. They all licked the boot. Then they borrowed it to kick Democrats.
Next time somebody wants to showboat on a war, they should win it.
Speaking of showboating, I continue to be amazed at the superficial state of American political reporting.
I was reminded of how bad it is while researching this article. The best coverage of the campaign comes from the British magazine “The Economist.” This is hardly surprising, considering my bias. I consider “The Economist” to be the best news magazine extant.
American political coverage reads like bad sportswriting by comparison. “Who will win?” “Can Hillary be stopped?” “Who will Republicans pick for quarterback/head coach/ presidential nominee?”
Meanwhile, for instance, The Economist reports that Hillary Clinton is doing very well among blue-collar, white Democratic men without college degrees — union types.
Are these men prejudiced against Sen. Barak Obama, who’s African-American? Maybe. Or maybe they remember the good times and hands-on treatment of the economy by the first Clinton administration.
Maybe they’re worried about health care, too.

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