President Barack Obama heads for Capitol Hill tomorrow to address a joint session of Congress on one of the most pressing issues of the day, healthcare reform. For those with middling-to-long memories of Washington, this may have a familiar ring. Another Democratic president argued for healthcare reform on another September day some 16 years ago, and somehow healthcare remains unreformed.
Tales from the Trail
WASHINGTON – Republican Senator John McCain says North Korea was attempting to use former President Bill Clinton’s visit for propaganda purposes and enhance the prestige of Pyongyang.
It turns out that it was North Korea which had suggested that former President Bill Clinton would be the best person to come and negotiate the release of two journalists who had been sentenced to 12 years of hard labor in the Stalinist state.
The U.S. government — particularly Secretary of State Hillary Clinton — had been working for months on trying to free the two journalists. The secretary of state reportedly proposed sending various people to Pyongyang, including Clinton’s former vice president Al Gore, to lobby for the women’s release.
But North Korea rejected Gore and other possible envoys like Senator John Kerry, Governor Bill Richardson and former ambassador to South Korea Donald Gregg. Pyongyang wanted President Clinton and passed that word along through the two detained journalists, Laura Ling and Euna Lee, who were making occasional phone calls to their families.
“In mid-July during one such phone call, Ms. Ling and Ms. Lee shared what the North Koreans had told them — that they would be willing to grant them amnesty and release the two Americans if an envoy in the person of President Clinton would agree to come to Pyongyang and seek their release,” a senior administration official said.
from Left field:
It's one thing they can agree on... baseball.
Major League Baseball is bringing all five living U.S. presidents together at next week's 80th All-Star Game.
President Barack Obama turned his chief rival in the 2008 Democratic primaries, Hillary Clinton, into his secretary of state, but is he tapping her for advice on healthcare reform too?
Not clear. Clinton, who spearheaded a failed attempt to overhaul the U.S. healthcare system in the 1990s while her husband, Bill Clinton, was president, will be in Europe on Thursday, when Obama holds a “summit” on healthcare reform.
So has the White House consulted with the former first lady about the issue?
“You know, I don’t know if they have had wide-ranging conversations specifically with Secretary Clinton,” spokesman Robert Gibbs told a White House briefing.
“There are still a number of people around that were part of that effort that can be consulted,” he said.
Clinton’s failed efforts in the 90s were widely blamed for hurting her husband’s adminstration, with critics citing the secrecy of the process as one of its downfalls.
Thursday’s summit is meant to set a process in motion to reduce healthcare costs and extend insurance benefits to millions of Americans who are not covered.
Gibbs hinted that the White House would not repeat the former first lady’s mistakes.
“I think even those involved in previous efforts would acknowledge misgivings that they had about the way the process worked,” he said. “Tomorrow’s effort is intended to bring about a process that people can be assured is open.”