Ghosts of Clinton Health Care Past Haunt Obama

This is a rush transcript from "On the Record," September 3, 2009. This copy may not be in its final form and may be updated.

MARTHA MACCALLUM, FOX NEWS GUEST HOST: (INAUDIBLE) history repeats itself, and President Obama is set to address a joint session of Congress. He's going to do that next week to try to rev up, revamp his health care plan. In fact, as you might remember, President Clinton went the same route not long before his health care plan ended up biting the dust. So the question is still open. Will President Obama's plan repeat history?

Dick Morris is back with us. He's a former adviser to President Clinton. Dick, I want to get to that in just a moment, but as you heard me explaining moments ago, this Van Jones news that has come out...


MACCALLUM: You know, last night, we talk about an expletive that he dropped referring to Republicans, but you know, there's other stuff that is getting a lot of attention that may be, you know, more serious than that. What do you think about the fact that he reportedly signed this petition as a 9/11 truther, and he's now saying, I didn't believe that there was any, you know, conspiracy theory -- I think that's what he's saying -- then and I don't believe it now. Is this enough?

MORRIS: Well, of course not. He signed a petition calling for an investigation, not as we had the 9/11 commission about what went wrong with our intelligence system. That of course we needed to have, and I'm glad we did. But to -- an investigation as to whether it was an inside job or not? You have got to be kidding! And this guy is in the administration and they're not calling for him to quit? What does Obama use for vetters?

MACCALLUM: You know, what's your hunch on this -- and I don't -- you know, maybe you know more than that -- about whether or not President Obama -- how well he knows him? Did he know that this -- this kind of thing was in his past?

MORRIS: I -- I...

MACCALLUM: And if so, do you expect him to step up and say, you know, that, This is not the kind of person that I want in my administration, or not?

MORRIS: Well, I hope -- I hope he does step up and say that, but let's realize the responsibility he gave this guy. This guy basically was in charge of running the cap-and-trade legislation. He would be in charge of basically deciding how American manufacturing could cope with the need to reduce carbon output, which firms lived and died. And Obama trusted a guy like this with those kinds of decisions? He's the czar, the green jobs czar. Incredible.

MACCALLUM: As a czar, he didn't have to go through Senate confirmation. What do you expect now? I mean, does the president either have to...

MORRIS: Oh, I think he...

MACCALLUM: ... make a statement in support or fire him?

MORRIS: He's got to...

MACCALLUM: One or the other?

MORRIS: Yes, but he's going go. I mean, he has to resign after that. It's unbelievable.

But let's get back to the Hillary thing. First of all, I hope in Obama's case, history doesn't repeat itself because when Bill Clinton gave his speech to Congress, the kid put the wrong speech into the teleprompter...

MACCALLUM: That's right!

MORRIS: ... and Clinton had to deliver the correct speech from memory, the whole text, until the kid finally realized his mistake and put the right speech in, and then the president picked it up without missing a beat. Now, I don't think that Barack Obama could do that.

MACCALLUM: Yes, he's been trying to, you know, learn from the mistakes of what went wrong with the Clinton health care program, and one of those things that he did was to not to come up with his own plan. Now it looks like he's going to have to come with his own plan, at least to some extent, on Wednesday night. How specific do you think he needs to be to have a different outcome than the Clintons had?

MORRIS: Well, I don't think he can have a different outcome. He's got a basic political problem. If he drops the public option, he'll never get it through the House. The people's republic of Pelosi won't approve of it. If he keeps the public option in and it just goes up for a straight vanilla up-or-down vote, it'll get 55, 56 votes, not the 60 he needs to shut off debate.

If he goes for the 50, which means there can be no debate and it goes right through under reconciliation, he'll not only lose the three or four Democrats he would have lost normally, but he'll lose 6 or 7 or 8 or 9 others who are going to say, I'm not going to do a bill this controversial on an expedited reconciliation procedure. I'm just not going to be party to that.


MORRIS: So he really has no way that he can get himself a majority at this point, particularly as his job ratings crash.

MACCALLUM: But Dick, I'm just curious...

MORRIS: Just one second. The big difference...

MACCALLUM: If you're in the Obama administration and he turns to you and says, you know, I got to save things here, I got to turn this around, what would you advise?

MORRIS: I would say go out and come in again and settle for a bill that reforms the health insurance industry...


MORRIS: ... and declare yourself a winner.

MACCALLUM: I bet that's what we're going to get.

MORRIS: The big difference between Clinton's approach and his approach, though, is that Clinton never tried to emasculate Medicare. Obama is. The Clinton approach was not to take money from the elderly and give it to others. Obama has targeted Medicare for $500 billion of savings in this bill, something Hillary never did.

MACCALLUM: All right. Dick Morris, good to talk to you, as always. Thank you very much.

MORRIS: Thank you.

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