Wednesday, August 12, 2009

"Howard Dean stumps for national health care in East Hampton"

East Hampton News (NY):
Former Democratic National Committee chairman Howard Dean’s whirlwind visit to East Hampton last Thursday and Friday was a rare chance for the public here to talk with a major political figure about the health care debate and the state of the newly resurgent national Democratic Party.
Dr. Dean, who is a medical doctor and an East Hampton native, first met with supporters at the home of Democracy for America activists Bonnie Maslin and Yehuda Nir in Springs on Thursday evening, along with his mother, Andrée Belden Maitland, and his brother, Jim Dean, who is the chairman of DFA, a political action committee that Howard Dean formed after his unsuccessful 2004 presidential bid.

Ms. Maslin, who introduced Dr. Dean with an almost tearful gratitude, credited him for bringing about a national sea change in favor of Democrats as a result of his strategy of working to strengthen party organizations in all 50 states.

“Not only did Howard give us hope in the time of our greatest despair, but after he was not able to be our presidential candidate, he took over the party and created an unwavering commitment to the 50-state strategy. No political office is too small,” she said.

“The whole purpose of DFA is about helping folks take responsibility over the political process,” said Jim Dean. “It is the stuff that makes the world go round. Seventy percent of our candidates are local.... We’re changing the way Democratic politics operates.”

As the sun set in front of him over Gardiner’s Bay, Dr. Dean first praised the youthful voters who volunteered their time and came to the polls in record numbers in the 2008 election.

“It’s just an earthquake,” he said. “It’s the first multicultural generation in history and it is an amazing generation. They view what we did in the ’60s as history.”

“We made a big mistake,” he said of his generation, which he said turned to the excesses of drugs and the counterculture, and then to the comfort of material success in the ’80s and ’90s when they saw little progress through the political process. “We exhausted ourselves and decided we could take a vacation from politics,” he said. “Being in politics is community activism. It’s investing in your society.”

Dr. Dean, whom President Obama replaced as head of the party with Virginia Governor Tim Kaine at the beginning of the year, has taken advantage of his respite from the public eye to write a new book, “Howard Dean’s Prescription for Real Health Care Reform.” He said that he believes Governor Kaine shares his commitment to the 50-state strategy, and said that he believes Democrats have a good chance to win Texas in the 2012 presidential race.

The bulk of his talk Thursday, and of his appearance at a book signing at BookHampton in East Hampton on Friday, was about the health care debate.

“Obama’s plan is the best plan I’ve seen, politically,” he said of the current health care bill, which he said had a greater chance of success than previous bills because it provides a choice for people who already have health care.

“Eighty percent of the American people have health insurance and 80 always beats 20 in a democracy,” he said. “We want to make sure nobody can be turned away and that they have health care that follows them everywhere. That is the public option.”

Dr. Dean said that 72 percent of Americans believe they should have a choice of health care plans. He added that the primary reason that the free market does not work in the area of health care is because the consumer finds it nearly impossible to direct his or her own course of treatment, and instead must rely on the health care providers, whose incentives are not always in patients’ best interest.

Dr. Dean said that he believes the opposition to the bill from conservative Democrats, the so called Blue Dogs, helped create a stronger bill that provides more health care options for small-business owners.

“I welcome the participation of the Blue Dogs,” he said. “They represent people who are real. The Democratic Party is a big tent.”

Dr. Dean said that he believes the bluster of the bill’s opponents, which has become more animated as members of Congress returned home to find angry crowds of anti-health care reform protesters at town hall meetings during the summer recess, will be just hot air before Democrats turn to a reconciliation bill in October that can pass in the Senate by a simple majority, with little opportunity for filibusters from the plan’s opponents. He said that he believes Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid is in favor of a reconciliation bill.

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