Forget Hillary vs. Obama or Edwards or Giuliani or Romney -- the real battle is Hillary '07 vs. Hillary '93. "Hillary Clinton seemed more focused on distinguishing herself from herself Monday than from her opponents for the 2008 Democratic presidential nomination," writes Thomas Beaumont of the Des Moines Register, who counted at least six references to her failed attempt as first lady in her speech yesterday.
It's "this year's most daring act of political jujitsu," Washington Post columnist E.J. Dionne Jr. writes. "This time, she will coax and charm the country toward universal health coverage. Cold analysis has given way to warm persuasion."
By Clinton's own admission, the plan is influenced more than a bit by the last go-around. "Mrs. Clinton promised to cover everyone without big new bureaucracies, without a complicated reorganization of one-seventh of the American economy and without affecting people who are insured and happy with their coverage -- all features that helped doom the Clinton administration's plan 14 years ago," Patrick Healy and Robin Toner write in The New York Times.
"In what her advisers hoped would be the final stage of a long political rehabilitation on the issue, Mrs. Clinton told her audience here that she had been scarred by the old battle but had gained some valuable lessons," Healy and Toner continue. Said Clinton: "I learned that people who are satisfied with their current coverage want assurances that they can keep it."
Clinton herself is as conscious of the symbolism as she is of the substance: This is a proposal that shows the country her "scars." Clinton "aims to be bolder than the plan offered by Sen. Barack Obama, D-Ill., while still being more pragmatic than her failed 1993-94 effort to reform the nation's health-care system," ABC's Teddy Davis reports.
As for the GOP, Romney, R-Mass. -- the Republican candidate who knows more about the issue than anyone else in the field -- chose to give a political response rather than a policy one (and did it in front of a New York City hospital that boasts the Rudolph W. Giuliani Trauma Center, per ABC's Jake Tapper).
Romney was quick to condemn Clinton's proposal as "a European-style socialized medicine plan." But the plan isn't all that different from what Romney did in Massachusetts, The Boston Globe's Lisa Wangsness reports: "The central premise of Clinton's plan -- an 'individual mandate' requiring that every American have health insurance -- is precisely what Romney proposed in the Bay State, in what was seen as a bold approach to attaining universal coverage. The idea became a pillar of the law, which he signed in April 2006."
Romney responds that he didn't propose tax increases, and that it's wrong to impose a one-size-fits-all solution on all states. But how long before this factoid makes it into a Republican debate? Clinton's plan "does not open any new government agency, according to the campaign, unlike the Massachusetts law, which created the Health Connector to help uninsured people obtain insurance," Wangsness writes.
Back on the Democratic side, Edwards had an unusually harsh response to Clinton's plan: "The cost of failure 14 years ago isn't anybody's scars or political fortune, it's the millions of Americans who have now gone without health care for more than 14 years and the millions more still crushed by the costs."