White House hits back at Howard Dean attack on healthcare reform bill

White House officials responded forcefully Thursday to former Democratic Party Chairman Howard Dean’s call to defeat healthcare reform bill.

John Beale/AP/File
Howard Dean, former governor of Vermont, pictured here at Penn State University in State College, Pa. on Oct. 27.

The White House responded forcefully Thursday to former Democratic Party Chairman and presidential candidate Howard Dean’s call for the defeat of the healthcare reform bill, which is now struggling to make it through the Senate.

Former Vermont Governor Dean, a medical doctor by training, pushed healthcare reform legislation in his state. But in an essay published Thursday in the Washington Post, Dr. Dean wrote, “If I were a senator I would not vote for the current health care bill. Any measure that expands private insurers’ monopoly over health care and transfers millions of taxpayer dollars to priavate corporations is not real health care reform.”

Fleecing the taxpayer

Dean went on to argue that “the winners in this bill are insurance companies; the American taxpayer is about to be fleeced with a bailout in a situation that dwarfs even what happened at [insurance giant] AIG.”

The first salvo from the White House came from senior adviser David Axelrod, who phoned in Thursday morning to MSNBC’s "Morning Joe” program. “I saw his piece in the Post this morning, and it's predicated on a bunch of erroneous conclusions,” Mr. Axelrod said.

Opposition labeled insane

Axelrod, a key architect of President Obama’s presidential campaign, charged that Dean had phoned Nancy-Ann DeParle, the White House point person on healthcare, before publishing the essay. She explained why he was wrong, Axelrod said, adding that Dean “simply didn’t want to hear that critique." "To defeat a bill that would bend the curve on this inexorable rise in healthcare costs is insane,” Axelrod said.

The assault on Dean continued later Thursday morning during White House Press Secretary Robert Gibb’s morning meeting with reporters. During the 22-minute session in his office, Mr. Gibbs was asked if he had a message for Dean.

“My message is the same as [Democratic Sens.] Jay Rockefeller’s, Tom Harkin’s, Sherrod Brown’s, Sheldon Whitehouse. I think each of those four, many of whom who have worked on healthcare for quite some time, have addressed the notion that Howard Dean believes that this is not a bill worth passing. They think he is wrong. I think he is wrong. I think the American people think he is wrong.”

Gibbs countered Dean’s argument that the legislation would help insurance companies by asking, “if this is such a great thing for the insurance companies, why are they spending hundreds and millions of dollars every day to attack it?”


The press secretary dismissed Dean’s impact on the uphill battle to get 60 votes for the healthcare legislation in the Senate. “I don’t see that Howard Dean has moved anybody,” Gibbs said.

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