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Dreaming Of The Hillary Clinton Presidency

I used to feel pretty certain that, if Hillary Clinton were president, she would have pulled the plug on health care reform after Scott Brown's Senate election. A person who spoke with her about that subject at the time recently convinced me otherwise. But now I see that anonymous former Clinton campaign advisers tell Dana Milbank that she would have abandoned health care reform, and further argue -- that this is a reason why we'd be better off with her as president:

Clinton campaign advisers I spoke with say she almost certainly would have pulled the plug on comprehensive health-care reform rather than allow it to monopolize the agenda for 15 months. She would have settled for a few popular items such as children's coverage and a ban on exclusions for pre-existing conditions.

Just focus on banning exclusions for pre-existing conditions, huh? As it happens, you can't do that -- if you could, it would have happened a long time ago. If you just force insurers to offer coverage at reasonable rates to people with pre-existing conditions, then people will wait until they're sick to buy insurance, causing the system to spiral out of control and collapse. That's why you have to add a mandate that everybody gets insurance -- so people can't game it -- and subsidies for those who can't afford insurance.

Gee, what Clinton adviser could be the one suggesting this totally unworkable fantasy moderate solution? It sounds just a bit like Mark Penn, who argued for that alternative over and over despite every health care wonk screaming themselves hoarse that it was impossible.

Another telling Penn trademark is his certainty that the most popular solution for Democrats is to suck up to business, a belief Penn takes even to extremes of self-parody:

Some differences would have been stylistic. As a senator from New York, Clinton had good relations with Wall Street. As the heir to her husband's donor base, she would have had more executives in government - envoys who would have been able to ease the uncertainty about tax and regulatory policy that has been crippling business.

Wait. Clinton would have been more popular because she was closer to Wall Street? This is actually not a joke. There actually is a belief among a set of rich people that the Democrats' main problem is excessive hostility to the titans of Wall Street. I'm not entirely sold on the belief, advocated by my TNR colleagues like Noam Scheiber and John Judis, that a robust populist strategy would have materially improved Obama's fortunes. But the notion that Obama's major problems include excessive hostility to Wall Street represents some kind of demented upper-class myopia.

I don't ultimately know what Clinton would have done about health care as president when the going got tough. But the fact that she retained a charlatan like Penn as chief political adviser is, by itself, good reason to be glad she didn't win.