Wednesday, April 7, 2010 | 2 a.m.
Howard Dean has been chairman of the Democratic National Committee, a governor and presidential candidate. Yet the physician has had some unflattering things to say about his party’s health care reform bill.
Still, Dean will defend it and Democrats’ positions on other issues in a debate Friday with Karl Rove, President George W. Bush’s chief adviser. The free event, at 7:30 p.m. in UNLV’s Artemus Ham Hall, is part of the university’s Barrick Lecture Series.
You recently said that if you were a member of President Barack Obama’s administration, you would have resigned over the health care bill. Why?
The health care bill is certainly a step forward, but I would not call it reform. It puts a ton of money into the existing health care system, but doesn’t change it all that much.
There are some changes to insurance, which are good, but there is a lot of stuff under the radar — that they charge three times as much for older people than younger people. The bill didn’t go far enough.
Still, people like a winner. People want their president to succeed, and the president did succeed.
Harry Reid caught a lot of heat over the deals cut to pass the bill. Has this made voters more cynical about government?
I am a huge supporter of Harry Reid. Washington has been doing these kinds of deals for two centuries. And in some ways it was the transparency of the process that opened people’s eyes to what happens in Washington, but this isn’t anything different.
What effect will passage of health care reform have on the November election?
It has rallied the base. When you have Republicans who say no to everything, you really want to stand up for your representatives and your party. So the Republicans really energized the Democratic base.
Furthermore, it’s unseemly for Republicans to complain about Harry Reid’s deal-making when the two top Republicans in this state are deeply, ethically tainted. (Democrats) didn’t do anything illegal to pass that bill, which is more than I can say for Sen. John Ensign and Gov. Jim Gibbons.
What are your thoughts on socialism becoming the new buzzword among conservatives — and beyond that, the real sense some people have that government is overstepping its bounds?
The health care reform bill was really a Republican bill. Mitt Romney, as governor, signed a bill just like this in Massachusetts, using the private sector to get to universal health care. If President Obama is a socialist, then so is Mitt Romney.
I find this argument that government is overstepping its bounds to be ludicrous. If you believe this bill is socialism, then you believe Medicare is socialism and I haven’t heard any of the Tea Party people asking the government to take their Medicare away.
What effect will the Tea Party play in the November elections?
It’s a mixed bag. There are some people who are crazy in it, cutting people’s gas lines. But I kind of like the idea of the Tea Party movement, but it’s a grass-roots movement, so you have to figure out how not to get branded by the relatively few crackpots.
The press wants to pick out the sensational types. But they all will get stuck with that label if they’re not careful.
You said you support Harry Reid. How does he win re-election when Nevada is faced with high unemployment? We’re now at 13.7 percent statewide, and it’s higher in Las Vegas.
The question is, do you want to elect a Republican who is in favor of big banks, voted in favor of health insurance companies, opposed health care reform, will dismantle Medicare and Social Security? A Republican administration is clearly not good for Nevada and it hasn’t been.
My argument if I’m Harry Reid is, “I’ve done a good job for Nevada while the Republicans have supported a lot of things that have hurt Nevada.”