The Clinton White House was painfully aware of the political damage done to former President Clinton’s agenda after his failed push for healthcare reform in the mid-1990s, newly released private documents show.
White House health adviser Ira Magaziner warned Clinton in a memo meant to prepare him for a sit-down with authors David Broder and Haynes Johnson on July 17, 1995, that he would have to explain what was seen as the “health care debacle” of his administration.
“Right now, as you know, the First Lady and I and to some extent you, are blamed for the so called ‘health care debacle’ by the Washington conventional wisdom,” Magaziner wrote.
“You were influenced by your ultraliberal wife and ‘wonky’ old college friend to accept this unwise venture over the objections of most of your advisors,” Magaziner said, of public perception of the push. “Your presidency, the Democratic party and any chance of reasonable health reform went down the drain due to this grave error.”
Magaziner counseled Clinton to push back on such assessments, previewing talking points that most recently become a part of President Obama’s arsenal of responses to criticism of the healthcare law from both parties.
Magaziner noted that the major planks of reform pushed by Clinton “were considered moderate when first proposed,” and reminded the president to note that “there’s no way to solve the problems of the health care system without creating fierce controversy.”