From the Wish I Could Take That Back file: Almost exactly three years ago, Newsweek’s Eleanor Clift hailed Gov. Rod Blagojevich for his "fresh" approach to health care. He was "worth listening to," and with his "cherubic face," he reminded Clift of "another eager young governor, Bill Clinton circa ‘92." He was a rarity for daring to rest on a self-proclaimed "moral standpoint."
The Web-exclusive Clift column headline on December 16, 2005 was: "It’s Big Issue Time; If Democrats want to draw a line between themselves and the Republicans on a topic people care about, they should look at the Illinois governor's fresh approach to health care." Clift was eagerly sharing Blago’s enthusiasm:
For a party bereft of ideas, Blagojevich is worth listening to. His enthusiasm is contagious. He told NEWSWEEK that he feels like a method actor when he’s talking about his All Kids program because he is so focused on the role of advocating its adoption. He likens it to the movement for public education that was started by Horace Mann in Massachusetts and became a universally accepted right.
"I believe in the long scope of history, we’re going to look back and say ‘Can you believe it was possible for children not to have health-care coverage?" he says. With his shock of black hair and cherubic face, he is reminiscent of another eager young governor, Bill Clinton circa ’92, even using much the same language about the forgotten middle-class that launched Clinton on the national scene.
Blagojevich was hailed for "bludgeoning" his own party into submission:
The Illinois legislature is controlled by Democrats, and every one of them voted for All Kids, but that doesn’t mean passage was easy....it took a series of special sessions and overtime legislative bartering for Blagojevich to bludgeon his own party into backing him, and he got only one Republican vote in the Senate, a woman who is an unelected replacement legislator.
Clift concluded by suggesting Blagojevich was a role model for the Democrats – on a "moral standpoint" of doing what’s right for the people:
If Democrats want to draw a bright line between themselves and the Republicans on an issue people care about, health care for children is a good place to start. Republicans in Illinois called All Kids welfare and questioned why the state should subsidize people making $70,000 a year. "Because the state is subsidizing you, and you make substantially more money," Blagojevich says he responded, turning the question back on those asking it. His confrontational governing style has made him his share of enemies, including among those who were his friends. A prosecuting attorney in Chicago before he went into politics, Blagojevich enjoyed heavy financial support from trial lawyers. But after he was elected and faced with doctors leaving the state because of high malpractice insurance, he supported caps on malpractice awards. "From a political standpoint, it was a difficult decision," he says. "From a moral standpoint, it was easy." That's the kind of tradeoff rarely made in Washington.