No, No, NO!

by digby

I wrote the other night about that Blue Dog ass Jim Cooper and how he stuck the shiv into Obama and the stimulus. And I noted this important piece by Mike Lux about Cooper's important role in the tanking of the Clinton health care plan in 1994.

Well, guess what? He's being discussed as the replacement for Daschle at HHS, which is only slightly less ludicrous than the silly idea of Newt Gingrich in the job.

Jim Cooper is an enemy of universal health care. He will, howver, work to ensure that the insurance industry and the Big Pharma gets more of your tax dollars.

Here's the history:

I was part of the Clinton White House team on the health care reform issue in 1993/94, and no Democrat did more to destroy our chances in that fight than Jim Cooper. We had laid down a marker very early that we thought universal coverage was the most essential element to getting a good package, saying we were to happy to negotiate over the details but that universality was our bottom line.

Cooper, a leader of conservative Dems on the health care issue, instead of working with us, came out early and said universality was unimportant, and came out with a bill that did almost nothing in terms of covering the uninsured. He quickly became the leading spokesman on the Dem side for the insurance industry position, and undercut us at every possible opportunity, basically ending any hopes we had for a unified Democratic Party position. I was never so delighted to see a Democrat lose as when he went down in the 1994 GOP tide.

Here's a 1994 article from the great chronicler of the media during the Clinton years, Trudy Lieberman, on how Cooper operated:

In early October Representative Jim Cooper of Tennessee, the conservative Democrats' guru on health care reform, called a press conference to announce he was throwing his version of reform into the congressional mix. That event should not have been particularly newsworthy since the year before Cooper had introduced similar legislation, which resulted in only a few brief press references.

But this time Cooper was a more clever marketer, and he positioned his plan as a middle-of-the-road approach with bipartisan appeal. At the press conference, he distributed a chart that showed his bill -- a laissez faire version of managed competition -- smack in the middle of all the proposals on the table. Cooper's bill does not require employers to purchase insurance for their workers; it doesn't require individuals to buy insurance; nor does it establish a mechanism (aside from market competition) for cost control.

"The administration started with managed competition and went to the left. The Republicans took managed competition and went to the right. Our bill is squarely in the middle and is the only one with significant bipartisan support," Cooper told reporters. "It is the first health reform approach since Harry Truman to get major Democrat and Republican support," an exaggeration that went unchallenged. In 1973, Republicans supported federal legislation that propelled health maintenance organizations into national prominence; and in 1983, Reagan Republicans were the driving force behind major changes in the way Medicare pays hospitals, a significant health reform that has since been copied by other countries.

Reporters also received a statement from The Bipartisan Group on Health Reform which asserted that "with over forty co-sponsors ... this bipartisan effort stands to be a major force in developing legislation that can be passed and signed into law during the 103rd Congress." Even with a handful of Republicans on board (19 of the 176 House members), Cooper's proposal had far fewer co-sponsors (48 when it was introduced) than other bills, including the president's with 99, the plan pushed by House Republicans with 138, and the one supported by advocates of a Canadian-type system with 91.

The number of co-sponsors, however, is not necessarily indicative of support, since many co-sponsors of Cooper's bill, as well as those who have endorsed rival proposals, have attached their names to more than one plan.

As for support from the public, the polls showed that ordinary people knew little or nothing about any proposal, including the Cooper brand of managed competition.

Cooper revealed his marketing plan to Roll Call, the newspaper that covers Congress. He explained that one could try to push a bill through the committee route, a perilous strategy for the administration (and for him as well) since the leadership of the major subcommittees in the House with jurisdiction over health care (Henry Waxman and Fortney Stark, both California Democrats) has expressed support for a single-payer, Canadian-type system. Or one could follow what he called a strategy of "preemptive compromise," in which a bill with a groundswell of support or a "supermajority," as he put it, could be positioned as the ultimate agreement. Such a bill could then be substituted on the House floor for a piece of legislation that had gone the committee route. The finer points of this strategy leaked out after a small group of congressmen attended a meeting sponsored by Cooper and Senator John Chafee in late October. Members who were there told The Washington Post that a "goal was to 'control the debate' on health care by positioning themselves in the 'mainstream' or 'centrist' position" and become a force with which the Clintons had to negotiate.

To succeed, Cooper and his allies needed help from the press to give their bill an aura of strong support, generate more co-sponsors, and drum up the public backing the bill sorely lacked. A review of media stories between October and early January shows that the press played right into Cooper's hands. Looking for something new and dramatic to say in the weeks following the president's late-September speech on health care reform, the media seized on the language in the Cooper press releases and elevated Cooper's vision, in the words of Newsweek, to the very "model" of compromise. In a piece decidedly negative toward "Big Sister" Hillary Clinton's approach and positive toward Cooper's, Newsweek pronounced the Cooper bill "less bureaucratically cumbersome," "fiscally more realistic," and "probably closer to the congressional center than the Clinton plan."

Liberally donating space to Cooper's self-serving quotes and sometimes making pronouncements of their own, a number of other influential news organizations helped promote Cooper's grand compromise. Shortly after the press conference, The Washington Times reported that the Cooper bill is "occupying the political center in the forthcoming battle."

ABC Nightly, News pronounced the plan "serious and credible." The Los Angeles Times called it "politically palatable," and U.S. News & World Report reported in its Washington Whispers column that Cooper's proposal was "most likely to succeed" because it has "bipartisan middle-of-theroad support" and will cost less -- the very points made in the Cooper press materials. The New Republic! flatly endorsed the Cooper plan. The New York Times waited longer than other publications, but it too latched on to the Cooper promotion. In MIDDLE-OF-THE-ROADER RIDES HIGH WITH HIS OWN HEALTH CARE PLAN, published in early January, the Times reported that "a lowly Democrat gains notice with a 'Clinton lite' plan," the catchy phrase Cooper himself coined.

Read on. And keep in mind that this person simply does not believe in universal health care and he is perfectly comfortable undermining his own president without a second thought. He's already done it to Obama on the stimulus and he will do it again with his very, very clever GOP-style ability to manipulate the press. They need to keep him away from health care.

The country cannot afford another giveaway to Big Insurance and Pharma and desperately needs a complete overhaul of the system in order to get costs into line and get people covered. This recession is going to end up making more than 50 million people without health insurance, very possibly more than that. Many more are terribly underinsured. Obama cannot put some slimy Blue Dog opportunist in charge of it.

Update: Jane Hamsher has more on Cooper's current reindeer games. He's quite the operator.