Transcript: Sebelius, Specter and Hatch

Photo: Kathleen Sebelius, Arlen Specter and Orrin Hatch on "This Week with George Stephanopoulos"

ABC NEWS, THIS WEEK WITH GEORGE STEPHANOPOULOS INTERVIEW WITH HEALTH AND HUMAN SECRETARY KATHLEEN SEBELIUS AND SENATOR ARLEN SPECTER AND ORRIN HATCH.

TAPPER: Good morning, and welcome to "This Week." From town halls...

(UNKNOWN): You don't trust me?

TAPPER: ... to the airwaves...

(UNKNOWN): Government should never come between your family and your doctor.

TAPPER: ... a summer seared by the health care debate.

OBAMA: This is not some government takeover. This is not about politics.

TAPPER: Can President Obama get his health care push back on track? Our headliner this morning, the president's top cabinet official in charge, Health Security Kathleen Sebelius.

And...

(UNKNOWN): You are talking down to the American people if you think we are that stupid!

TAPPER: ... caught in the town hall crossfire. Two key senators on health care reform, Democrat Arlen Specter and Republican Orrin Hatch, a "This Week" debate. Then...

CLINTON: You asked my opinion, I will tell you my opinion. I'm not going to be channeling my husband.

TAPPER: ... the nation's top diplomat has perhaps an undiplomatic moment. That and the rest of the week's politics with Donna Brazile, Bush White House veteran Ed Gillespie, the National Journal's Ron Brownstein, and Anne Kornblut of the Washington Post.

And, as always, the Sunday funnies.

COLBERT: A death panel is a disgusting plan that I will support only if it's televised and called "America's Got Six Months, Tops."

(END VIDEO CLIP)

ANNOUNCER: From the heart of the nation's capital, "This Week" with ABC News chief Washington correspondent George Stephanopoulos, live from the Newseum on Pennsylvania Avenue. Filling in this morning, ABC News senior White House correspondent Jake Tapper.

TAPPER: Good morning. George Stephanopoulos is taking a well- deserved vacation this week, but no such rest for President Obama, who took to the road with three campaign-style town hall meetings to respond to attacks on Democrats' health care plans, such as false claims that legislation in the House creates so-called death panels to deny life-or-death care to seniors to save money.

And last night in Colorado, the president struck a personal note.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

OBAMA: I just lost my grandmother last year. I know what it's like to watch somebody you love who's aging deteriorate. So the notion that somehow I ran for public office or members of Congress are in this so that they can go around pulling the plug on Grandma, I mean, when you start making arguments like that, that's simply dishonest.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

TAPPER: Joining me now from Michigan, the president's top cabinet official in charge of health reform, Secretary of Health and Human Services Kathleen Sebelius.

Secretary Sebelius, thanks for joining us.

SEBELIUS: Good morning, Jake.

TAPPER: Critics say they're uneasy about end-of-life care measures being discussed within the context of cost-cutting. Can you understand that discomfort?

SEBELIUS: Well, I think end-of-life discussions are very, very personal and very difficult, very difficult for family members, very difficult often for people to confront. My own mother spent 10 weeks in three different hospitals before she died, and I can tell you, it was the most agonizing, most painful, most terrible time for not only me and my siblings, but for my dad.

And what every family wants is good information and an ability to make a decision that suits their loved one the best way that the family is involved and engaged. And I think it's really horrific that some opponents of the health reform bill have used this painful, personal moment to try and scare people about what is in the bill.

Nothing could be further from the truth that there's somehow a death panel. If anything, you know, seniors should welcome the fact that doctors would have a payment provided to sit down with family members, if they choose, and -- and have a discussion.

We were desperate to do that. There were way too many specialists in and out of the room and way too little time to actually sit with someone and try to understand what was going on in my mom's case. And I -- I talk to people each and every day who are having that same difficulty.

We wanted to make sure doctors were reimbursed for that very important consultation if family members chose to make it, and instead it's been turned into this scare tactic and probably will be off the table. And that's not good news for the American public and not good news for family members.

TAPPER: Well, that's what I was going to ask, because it's not just opponents who have discomfort about talking about end-of-life care within the context of cost-cutting, because the reports are that the Senate Finance Committee is not going to include anything having to do with end-of-life care measures, and that -- that was dropped even before this brouhaha prompted by former Alaska Governor Sarah Palin. The House Democratic bill, of course, does have those provisions.

How important is it to the Obama administration that end-of-life care be addressed in health care reform?

SEBELIUS: Well, again, it isn't about cost-cutting. It's really about providing some comfort and opportunity for family -- to empower family members and to empower, actually, often the patient who is coping with some steps that need to be taken and to make good decisions.

What you need is somebody who can sit down with some medical advice, who knows the family, who knows the patient, and -- and have a conversation, and often that doesn't happen or it's very difficult to have happen. Doctors are too busy; people are rushing in and out of hospital rooms; you're trying to make decisions.

So this was actually to provide reimbursement for that consultation, if the family chose to have it. I'm hoping that, at the end of the day, that it will be part of the overall package, because it's one of the most important conversations a family may ever have. And certainly to try and get some good information, make some decisions, include the patient in those decisions, have a realistic discussion about what's happening and -- and what the next steps might be, I think, is -- is so beneficial for family members, who often are operating in the dark and -- and very conflicted about what to do next, what's best for their loved one, what's best for the next steps.

TAPPER: So you're hopeful, but if I'm reading you correctly, it's not a deal-breaker?

SEBELIUS: Well, I don't think, again, this is a -- a comprehensive measure that looks at all of our health care system, lower costs for all families, providing good coverage, changing the rules finally for insurance companies so they don't get to pick and choose who in America gets coverage and who doesn't, making sure that the bill doesn't add to our deficit.

I mean, those are fundamental principles. I hope this element is part of it, because it's something that people talk to me about all the time. And as I say, I've been through it personally with a -- with a mother who was very ill at the end of her life, and just having that kind of conversation and consultation, which we finally did, but it was weeks into her hospitalization that the conversation took place, it was very helpful, but it would have been a lot more helpful if it had taken place weeks earlier.

TAPPER: OK, I'll -- I'll take that as a "yes" and then we'll move on. The president often -- and he did last night in Colorado -- says to the American people that, if they like their doctor, they can keep their doctor. If they like their insurance plan, they can keep their insurance plan. But according to the Congressional Budget Office, if a public plan, if a public option is introduced, at least 2 million Americans will be switched by their employer from a private plan to the public plan.

Now, that doesn't get into the whole issue of employers dropping health care coverage in general and all the people that will be added to the rolls, and I understand that. But how can the administration make the promise that if you like your insurance plan you can keep it, when CBO and other analysts estimate that some people will be switched from private to public?

SEBELIUS: Well, I think, Jake, if you -- if you think about a marketplace option and new plans being created in Toledo, Ohio, or in California or in Florida, the network of doctors is likely to be pretty identical. A lot of plans exist in the same marketplace, and doctors are part of a variety of networks. So the idea that you would keep your own doctor is highly likely.

The other thing about the -- the new marketplace is, I think, the president is eager to stabilize the employer marketplace. Small- business owners right now are dropping coverage because they can't any longer afford it. They can't stay in the market.

With the new tax incentives that are part of health reform, small-business owners would be encouraged to actually stabilize their insurance plans, to offer coverage to their employees. They'd have tax credits. They'd have some help for the low-income employees to be able to afford the coverage.

So I think, if anything, it wouldn't dismantle the present market. It would actually help to provide a more stable private marketplace, which right now serves 180 million Americans very well. People like those plans. They want to make sure that if they have employer-based coverage that they like, they can keep it. And this would actually encourage and help employers to stay in the market.

On the other hand, if you lose your job, right now you lose your coverage. And -- and the new reform plan would make sure that you had an affordable option even if you lost your job, if you wanted to go out on your own and start your new business, which lots of people want to do, you wouldn't lose your health coverage.

So it would have some choices for consumers to make so they wouldn't have the kind of job lock that we see now across America.

TAPPER: Lastly, Secretary Sebelius, and I would remiss if I didn't bring up that this is back-to-school season and there are a lot of parents, including me, who are very anxious about H1N1 and the pandemic that is expected in the U.S. More than 400 Americans have died from H1N1.

What should parents do as they send their kids back to school? We know the vaccine won't be ready until October. What steps do they need to take now?

SEBELIUS: Well, we want every parent to have at a minimum a back-up childcare plan, to know if their child gets sick, who's going to be home and -- and take care of that child? What's the alternate caregiver strategy?

Because this virus spreads quickly child to child. Schools are taking preparation to get ready with hand sanitizers and frequent hand-washing, teaching your children to wash their hands, singing "Happy Birthday" to themselves as they wash their hands is good strategy. Coughing into their sleeve, not into their hands is also a really good strategy, because we know that we want to limit the number of germs that spread from child to child.

And I think, hopefully, we will engage schools as good vaccination partners. We anticipate having school-based vaccination clinics as soon as they're available and getting kids the protection that they need.

But in the meantime, it's about limiting the spread of the disease, and there's lots of, you know, kind of mitigation factors, washing your hands, coughing into your sleeve, staying home when you're sick at least 24 hours after the fever disappears, the CDC says that's the safe time to send your child back to school, but don't share it with their classmates and playmates.

TAPPER: All right, Secretary Sebelius, thanks so much. We wish you luck with the H1N1...

SEBELIUS: Thanks, Jake.

TAPPER: ... and we hope for the best there.

Now, for a sense of where the health care debate is going in the Senate, we're joined by Republican Senator Orrin Hatch from Utah and Democratic Senator Arlen Specter from Pennsylvania.

And, Senator Specter, let me start with you, since you were in the rhetorical line of fire in town halls throughout the Keystone State this week, let's take a look.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

(UNKNOWN): You're a socialist, fascist pig!

(UNKNOWN): Go back to Washington, D.C., and tell those people to do what the president said that I should do, is shut up and get out of the way.

(UNKNOWN): One day, God's going to stand before you, and he's going to judge you.

(UNKNOWN): There is nothing un-American about me.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

TAPPER: That's a lot of anger. Where does it come from, Senator Specter?

SPECTER: A variety of factors, Jake. I think people are very nervous because so many have lost their jobs, and I think that the uncertainty of the health care bill -- remember, we don't have one in the Senate yet, and none has come to the House floor, but I think we have to bear in mind that, although those people need to be heard and have a right to be heard, that they're not really representative of America, in -- in my opinion.

We have to be careful here not to let those town meetings dominate the scheme and influence what we do on health policy. There are a number of issues here. One is that, while they were organized and have a right to be organized, as John Podesta has pointed out, there's real effort here to make this the president's Waterloo. That was stated specifically by a Republican senator.

And we also can't allow these kinds of town hall meetings to dominate the political process. That would be destructive of what we need to do to figure out, what is the best approach?

TAPPER: And, Senator Hatch, let me go to you. Speaking of dominating the political process, former Alaska Governor Sarah Palin referred to a provision in the House bill as a death penalty -- as a death panel, rather. Your colleague, Alaska Senator Lisa Murkowski, said this in response to Senator -- to Governor Palin.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

MURKOWSKI: It does us no good to incite fear in people by saying that, you know, there's -- there's -- these end-of-life provisions, these death panels. I'm so -- quite honestly, I'm so offended at that -- that terminology, because it absolutely isn't.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

TAPPER: Senator Hatch, who's right, Governor Palin or Senator Murkowski?

HATCH: Well, Jake, I don't think I'm going to make that decision. You know, there are many different people who have many different opinions on what is meant by these programs.

But what I do know is that the Democrats want a government plan, where the government will take over health care. They want to cut Medicare in order to pay for that plan, even though Medicare has $39 trillion in unfunded liability. They want to -- to do a number of things that -- that I find objectionable, such as an employer mandate, a job-killing employer mandate that hurts -- hurts people on the lower spectrum who really are low-income wage-earners.

They want to move, according to the Lewin Group, up to 119 million people into Medicaid. If that happens, it would destroy the -- the health insurance programs throughout the country. Eight of ten Americans really -- really want their health insurance coverage. They don't want to lose it.

In fact, 64 percent would prefer health insurance to the 19 percent who say that they would like a government plan where the federal government -- nameless, faceless bureaucrats -- set what the terms and conditions are of our health care system.

Having listened to Arlen, I have to say that I thought Arlen handled his town meetings very, very well. I disagree with Arlen that they're not representative of the American people. I think they are. I've found people just up in arms everywhere I've gone on health care.

On the other hand, I compliment Arlen for the way he handled it. He showed respect for the folks who were there. And, look, there are people on both sides who are attending those meetings. Don't think the unions don't have everybody they can get there, and the Democratic National Committee, they're encouraging people to get there, as well as, I'm sure, Republicans.

The important thing is, is that we handle it well. And I want to compliment Arlen on that.

TAPPER: Well, Senator Hatch, if I could just stick with you for a moment, in 2003, when you voted for a Medicare reform bill, part of that bill required a care management plan for a targeted beneficiary, which shall be developed with the beneficiary and shall include the following, the provision of information about hospice care, pain and palliative care, and end-of-life care.

If the government has no business telling the American people that they should engage in end-of-life consultations, as many in your party seem to think is the case, why did you support that?

HATCH: Well, every doctor that handles senior citizens -- and both my parents were 89 years of age when they died -- every doctor that handles those works with end-of-life care. I mean, we expect that.

But to -- but where people are concerned is that, with a government plan -- keep in mind, the Democrats want to have an IMAC. That's an Independent Medicare Advisory Council of five people appointed by the president who will determine what kind of health care you're going to have. And guess who they're going to have to ration? It's going to be senior citizens.

And senior citizens are naturally concerned about that. So am I. And I think that's where these type of things come about.

But when doctors give end-of-life care, I don't know any doctor who does that who doesn't do it as well as he can or she can.

TAPPER: Well, I think, actually -- I think IMAC is supposed to be recommendations and not determinative, but -- but moving on, Senator Specter...

HATCH: Well, that's what they want. Jake, that's what they want. That's what they're suggesting. That's what this administration is suggesting. In all honesty, I don't want a bunch of nameless, faceless bureaucrats setting health care for my -- for my aged citizens in Utah.

TAPPER: Senator Specter, is -- is Senator Hatch describing the health care bill properly?

SPECTER: No. Let me come back to the question that Senator Hatch didn't answer. You asked him, did he agree with Governor Palin or Senator Murkowski on the basic issue as to whether the plan provides for death councils. Senator Hatch didn't answer that. The fact of the matter is that it's a myth. It's simply not true. There -- there are no death panels. And when Senator Hatch comes to his basic point, that this is a government takeover, that's simply not true, either.

The government option is an option, pure and simple, and the private sector will be maintained, and people will be able to keep their current health care plan if they like it. And the employers can be given incentives to stay with the plan that their employers like.

TAPPER: Well, Senator Specter, let me stick with you, becauseabout that government plan, the public option, in May, you said you would oppose that. And you -- you have changed your mind and you -- at least as -- as I understand it, in town hall meetings, you're saying that you do support the inclusion of a public plan in a health care reform bill. What changed your mind? SPECTER: Well, I really had only one question on a TV interview, and I gave a negative answer, but that was before -- listen, I don't want the kind of a bureaucracy that puts a gigantic bureau between the doctor and the patient, which some people have proposed, and I'm against that. And my negative answer really went to that.

That was before Senator Schumer, for example, has come out with some specifics on a government option. And the government option, according to his plan, is going to maintain a level playing field. And the option is not going to force out the private sector.

And I think competition is good. And it is just an option, oneof many alternatives with a government option.

TAPPER: And, Senator Hatch, you were at the negotiating table in the Senate -- with the Senate Finance Committee members talking about a bipartisan solution. You walked away, saying you didn't think that a bipartisan solution, you could sign off on it.

But let me ask you a question, because obviously one of thebig...

HATCH: No, that isn't what I said. That isn't what I said.

TAPPER: Well, tell me what -- tell me why you walked away.

HATCH: I still think -- I still think we should have a bipartisan solution, but what I can't tolerate is a government plan. And there's no way you can make it coequal, have a government be on an equal playing field, because -- because they have -- the government basically -- if we turn over this -- this country's health care to a government plan, and we open up a government plan, the Lewin Group, one of the best analytical groups in -- in health care in the country, if not the best, said that up to 119.1 million people would transfer from private insurance into the government plan.

TAPPER: Well, Senator -- Senator Hatch...

HATCH: If that happens...

TAPPER: ... we should point out, first of all, that the Lewin Group is owned by UnitedHealthcare, although they -- they insist...

(CROSSTALK)

HATCH: Fine. But they're still highly respected.

TAPPER: Yes, I'm not disputing that.

HATCH: They're highly respected.

TAPPER: But let me ask you a question. You are one of the chief co-sponsors of the State Children's Health Insurance Program, bringing health insurance through the government to millions of children. You've been heralded for that by liberals. At the time you introduced it, then-Senate Majority Leader Trent Lott accused you of creating big government. What's the difference between the SCHIP program on a theoretical basis, in terms of getting the government involved, and what you're now talking against?

HATCH: The way it was originally designed, it was the Hatch- Kennedy bill. We wrote it together. And I have to say that that plan basically provided block grants to the states for the states, according to their own demographics, to set up their own Children's Health Insurance Program. It worked amazingly well until -- until the liberals started to push more and more Medicaid -- more and moreMedicaid people into the CHIP program and started to expand the CHIP program in ways that were never contemplated.

We did CHIP for the only -- for the kids -- the only kids left out of the health care system, children of the working poor. Now it's being used to push Medicaid people into it.

And everything the Democrats are doing is pushing towards what's called a single-payer system, where the government basically controls everything. And this public plan, this public government plan, don't think for a minute that that will not destroy the current insurance system.

Eight out of ten Americans are basically pleased with the – with their health care insurance. They'd like to improve it. They'd like to make sure that they have guaranteed issue and that people with pre- existing health care problems are taken care of. And we all want to do that.

And 64 percent of them say they'd prefer that over a government plan. And yet we're just pushing like mad to get a government plan here.

TAPPER: Seventy-nine percent of the American people do say, though, that their premiums are too high, they pay too much.

HATCH: Well, we all agree with that.

TAPPER: We only have a -- we only have a couple minutes...

HATCH: We all agree with that.

TAPPER: We only have a couple minutes left. I want to get both of you to weigh in. What needs to be done to contain health care costs, Senator Specter? What tangible things need to be done to bring costs down?

SPECTER: Just an introductory comment, with Orrin's filibuster. I would use this program to invite Senator Hatch back to the bargaining table, back to bipartisanship. Senator Hatch is a very smart, experienced fellow. I've worked with him for a long time.

Directly answering your question, what can we do to bring down costs? Many things. First, National Institute of Health Research,which I have pushed, cuts down on the mortality in many lives.

Secondly, examinations, early detection on cancer. I was thebeneficiary of early detection on cancer, which has solved my problem.

But, third of all, having a doctor examine so that you don't getinvolved in chronic ailments, which are so debilitating. Next, there ought to be criminal prosecutions that result in jail sentences, not just a fine on Medicare or Medicaid fraud.

TAPPER: And, Senator Specter, I...

SPECTER: And also the...

TAPPER: I have to interrupt you. I'm sorry. We only have aminute left...

SPECTER: OK.

TAPPER: ... but I want to see if Senator Hatch will take you upon your offer to come back to the bargaining table before we go.Senator Hatch?

SPECTER: I want to see, too.

TAPPER: Do you want to -- do you want to go back to thebargaining table and make this bill better?

HATCH: I'm always ready to go back to the bargaining table.Heck, I've probably helped pass more bipartisan health carelegislation than anybody I know, Hatch-Waxman, Hatch-Dodd, Hatch-Kennedy. You know, we've just had one bill after another, and theywork. And the main reason they work is because we rely a lot on thestates.

Utah is not Massachusetts. We don't want the Massachusetts planimposed on Utah. Massachusetts is not Utah.

TAPPER: I have to cut you off there, Senator, but we look... HATCH: So I would make it work...

TAPPER: ... but we look forward -- we look forward to you joining the bipartisan conversation. That's what we do here at ABC.

We bring people together. Senator Specter, Senator Hatch...

HATCH: That's great.

TAPPER: ... thanks so much for joining us. We really appreciate it.

SPECTER: Jake, that's -- Jake, that's -- that's your answer.Bring Senator Hatch back.

TAPPER: OK.

SPECTER: We'll have some bipartisanship and solutions. HATCH: Well, I'll try to get back, if they'll open it up and (inaudible)

TAPPER: All right. Thanks to both of you.

The roundtable is next, with Donna Brazile, Ron Brownstein, Ed Gillespie, and Anne Kornblut.

And later, the Sunday funnies.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

FALLON: But at the same meeting, he said twice that the AARP supports his health care plan, even though the AARP hasn't endorsed it. He's probably thinking of the other senior citizens group --what's the name? Oh, yeah, Congress.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

CLINTON: ... to Africa growth and opportunities...

... new funding to present and respond to gender and sexual violence in the DRC...

We need the police support. Thank you. Thank you all.

You want me to tell you what my husband thinks? My husband is not the secretary of state. I am.

In 2000, our -- our presidential election came down to one state where the brother of the man running for president was the governor of the state. So we have our problems, too.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

TAPPER: Some highlights from the secretary of state's 7-country, 11-day trip to Africa, which we'll get to in a moment with our roundtable.

Joining me this morning, Ed Gillespie, former White House counselor for President Bush, Anne Kornblut from the Washington Post who's working on a book on women politicians called "Notes from the Glass Ceiling," Ron Brownstein from the National Journal, and, as always, Donna Brazile.

Thanks so much for joining us. And, Ed, I want to start with you. President Obama has an op-ed in the New York Times today. The pull quote right here is, "Loud voices have drowned out some basic facts about our plan." And it is true that a loud voice, even if it's via Facebook, is purporting something that is not factually correct about death panels. Does it bother you when leading voices in your party, such as former Governor Palin, say things like that that are just not factual?

GILLESPIE: Well, it bothers me when leading voices in either party use evocative language like that. And I think Governor Palin knew exactly what she was doing in terms of trying to jar this debate.

There are legitimate concerns about the Medicare reductions, about the rationing of care. But, you know, I think we have to be thoughtful in our language. I think that's true of Sarah Palin. I think it's true of Majority Leader Reid in the Senate, who talked about people coming to town meetings as "evil-mongers." I think it's true of the top two Democrats in the House, who referred to the actions of the people going to the town meetings as un-American.

That's evocative language, too. And I think, you know, health care is a very important issue, and -- and we ought to focus on the -- on the facts in this debate and let people come to their own conclusions about it. I think that's happening right now, by the way, and they're coming rapidly to a conclusion that they are not in favor of this reform proposal.

TAPPER: But you agree that there are no death panels in the bill?

GILLESPIE: I -- I agree that characterizing the panels that are in there, in terms of the -- you know, determining how to -- how to make spending decisions on care, that there's a legitimate concern about those. I agree that they shouldn't be characterized as -- as death panels.

TAPPER: OK.

Anne, Governor Palin is one of the -- the subjects of your book. My father-in-law, who is a conservative from Missouri, referred to Governor Palin in an e-mail to me earlier this -- this week as genius, controlling the world from her Facebook page.

And it is remarkable that a woman who left the governor's office and everybody was like, all of the intelligentsia in Washington was like, "She's over. She's through." She, with one Facebook entry, as Ed said, really shook up the debate.

KORNBLUT: That's -- that's right. And we're back to the, "Is she crazy or is she crazy like a fox?" debate about Governor Palin. You know, we all wrote her off a month ago. We said she would have no platform if she was not the governor of Alaska.

And here she is actually driving the debate, whether it's honest or not, whether what she's saying is true or not. And as you point out, she's doing it from Facebook. When this White House was supposed to be the Facebook White House, she's the one using new technology to drive the debate.

Now, the White House will say to you and Democrats will say, "You know, she's hurting herself. She doesn't seem legitimate. What she's saying is absolutely ridiculous." But at the end -- and we saw Robert Gibbs talk about her from the podium repeatedly this week, you know, bringing her up. But at the end of the day, they were responding to her, not the other way around, and that can't be good for them.

BROWNSTEIN: But it is true. I mean, look, the basic problem that Sarah Palin has as a political figure is that she is kind of the king or queen of a narrowing island. And this does that further.

I mean, the basic problems that she has is that on Election Day 60 percent of the public said that she was not qualified to be president, and these kind of comments may further engage her with the Republican base, but it deepens the problem with everybody else. And I think in many ways this will contribute to her long-term marginalization as a potential president, if not a potential leader of the Republican Party.

And the other point, though, I think which is larger, which is -- if it wasn't this charge, it would have been something else, because the health care debate is about much more than health care, especially from the point of view of the opponents.

I was out Friday at town meetings in Colorado in Frisco and Edwards with Senator Bennet, and it's very clear that health care is part of a -- is a subset of a much broader set of concerns about the overall direction of the Obama administration among the conservative base who feel that they are spending too much, taxing too much, intruding the government too much into the lives of Americans.

And if it wasn't death panels that was, you know, causing these people to come out, it would have been something else, because the injury, the anger is really much broader and isn't tied, I think, to these specifics in the bill as it is to the general direction of the administration.

TAPPER: And, Donna, but that gets -- that gets at a point I -- I brought up actually in a White House briefing this week, which is, if you're the president of the United States standing at a town hall meeting, telling the American people that you're not in favor of creating a bureaucracy that will kill off their grandparents to save a few bucks, somewhere along the line you've lost control of the message.

And is Ron right? I mean, is this not indicative not only of Governor Palin's savvy or strength, but also a weakness in communication by the Obama administration?

BRAZILE: Well, the administration has been off the mark for several weeks, but there -- there are signs now that they have gotten control of their message, and starting with this op-ed, but more importantly starting with the town hall meetings.

I want to go back to Sarah Palin, because facts are stubborn things. Did Ronald Reagan say that? Am I quoting Reagan this morning? That's all right. I can channel him this morning.

TAPPER: John Adams, I think...

BRAZILE: Well, thank you for your history lesson. Governor Palin was for end-of-life counseling before she was against it. As governor, she signed a proclamation on April 16, 2008, to encourage Alaskans to seek out counseling services for these important decisions.

She's not the only Republican who was for so-called death panels, which, by the way, does not exist in the bill. The Republicans supported it as part of their Medicare reform effort back in 2003. That was 204 Republicans, 42 in the United States Senate.

So I think, again, this misinformation has sort of got the White House now getting the facts out, spinning as much information on Facebook, tweeting and everything else out there. By the way, Al Gore invented all of these things when the Internet was created.

BROWNSTEIN: Can I come back to your point about the message, the White House message? Because I agree. And they've had a fundamental conflict between their inside strategy and their outside strategy, trying to learn from Bill Clinton, who was -- when you look back on health care in '93 and '94, one of the principal complaints was that he handed up tablets to Capitol Hill. So trying to respond to that, they are giving the legislators in each chamber maximum flexibility to figure out what the water line is.

I mean, they are not drawing hard and fast lines. They're saying, "You put in the bill what you need to get it through your chamber, to get it to conference, and then we can try to shape it."

The cost of that -- because that's been the inside strategy, and they've had some success with it. The cost of that is in the outside strategy. They have not had a specific bill that they can go to the country with and say, look, if you pass health care reform, you're going to get X, Y and Z.

Now, as Donna says, they've begun to rectify that, because now they're focusing on one piece that is a common element of almost all bills, which even Orrin Hatch endorsed when you were talking about him, and that is the idea of trading fundamental insurance reform for a mandate on individuals to buy insurance.

That's an idea that's now supported even by the insurance industry all of the way over to Ted Kennedy and Barack Obama. So it's given them something to talk about, but there's no question they've been hurt by the -- the public consequence of their internal strategy.

And right now, we are in a situation where I think the one thing that's clear about these town halls and that is true about the town halls is there is more intensity in the opposition than there is in the support.

TAPPER: Absolutely.

BROWNSTEIN: And that's clear even in the polling.

TAPPER: And the poll indicates that, as well. Speaking of Bill Clinton, he did weigh in this week on -- on health care reform, speaking to the Netroots convention in Pittsburgh, liberal bloggers and activists, and -- and we have a clip of that. (END VIDEO CLIP)

B. CLINTON: It is not only the morally right thing to do. It is politically imperative for the Democrats to pass a health care bill now. One thing we know and that I have lived through is that, if you get out there and then you don't prevail, the victors get to rewrite history.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

TAPPER: Now, he also talked about -- he also talked about the substance of -- of -- of the bill, we should point out, but that's the raw politics of it.

And, Ed, you've been on the losing side on some of these big debates, both working in Congress and in the White House. Does this remind you at all of President Bush's push for Social Security reform?

GILLESPIE: Yes, a little bit. I've been on some winning sides, too.

(LAUGHTER)

(UNKNOWN): Including the health care.

TAPPER: You've been on some winning sides, as well. Absolutely true.

GILLESPIE: But it does. And I'd, by the way, make a point about Palin's death panel comment. It's worth noting the Senate Finance Committee dropped the provision...

(CROSSTALK)

TAPPER: They said they -- they dropped it weeks before, they said.

GILLESPIE: They came out and said we're -- made clear to the public that we're not going to have it in our markup, so I think she deserves, you know, should get a little credit for having moved the debate.

Let me go back to this, though. This does have a feel of -- it reminds me a little bit of President Bush's push for Social Security reform, by the way, in terms of town hall meetings. There were a lot of folks from MoveOn.org, a lot of folks from the labor unions, a lot of folks, obviously, from Code Pink who protested a lot of town hall meetings over time, didn't get as much attention as these are, but it does have that feel. They are having a hard time.

But I think it's not just a communications problem. I think it is a policy problem. People are concerned, as Ron pointed out, about the size of government, about the deficits, about the debt. It's not just the conservative base, by the way. Independents are showing real concern over that, and they're moving away from this White House as a result.

And they have a problem explaining how it is they're going to spend $1.6 trillion and bring down costs. They have a problem explaining to people how they're going to increase the deficit, according to the CBO, by over $250 billion, how they're going to get savings out of Medicare and not affect the quality for Medicare beneficiaries, so they've got a real policy problem that they're having to deal with here.

And they have to explain how it is that they're not going to end up transferring tens of millions of people, as Senator Hatch pointed out, from their private insurance that they're comfortable with into this government-run plan.

BRAZILE: But the CBO estimates, revised estimates is $1.045 trillion, not -- not $1.6 trillion.

GILLESPIE: I'm happy to debate $1.6 trillion versus $1 trillion in new spending.

(CROSSTALK)

BRAZILE: It's sausage-making. But -- but what's not in dispute is the fact that most Americans with health insurance are concerned about the rise in cost, the rise in premiums that exist. Most self-employed Americans are worried about whether or not they have more market options. So I...

TAPPER: So why is President Obama losing the debate?

BRAZILE: Because, in the sausage-making exercise that we all -- at least some of us who -- Hill staffers, he lost control of the debate. But he has an opportunity in September to not only regain control of the debate, but to really put forward his own principles that will guide the Senate. It may not be -- the final bill may not be as sweeping as the House bill, but I'm sure it's going to be a lot better than the Senate bill.

KORNBLUT: That's why Ron's point earlier was right. I mean, what they've lost control of just isn't the public message out in the country, it's up on Capitol Hill. And you have a Democrat in the Senate Finance Committee, and the White House was supposed to have a lot of juice with that particular Democrat, and it still hasn't come to fruition yet.

TAPPER: Max Baucus.

KORNBLUT: I think -- I think that the real problem is going to be that the White House has to go dark when the president goes on vacation. So in terms of the message, we saw these three town hall meetings, and now he's going to go away, and there's going to be a week-and-a-half now of other town hall meetings that could really dominate.

BROWNSTEIN: Well, you know, what Bill Clinton said, though, in that clip is, I think, the counterintuitive conclusion that many Democrats are reaching about these town hall meetings, starting from the assumption that it is broader -- it is a broader complaint than just simply the health care bill.

It is -- it is a mobilization of the conservative base largely that is opposed to the overall direction of the Obama administration. And I think that rather than convincing Democrats to back off, what I have been hearing the last few days is that, look, it underscores the danger of allowing this to go down for Democrats.

If -- if -- if this uprising defeats health care and derails health care, it is the -- it could be the beginning of an unraveling, as it was, certainly, in '93 and '94. Now, there's risk in going ahead, obviously, for Democrats, because you could see a conservative surge to the polls in 2010, as you did in '94, 9 million more Republican votes in '94 than in 1990. And there's no doubt the conservative base has been awakened by this and the overall direction of the administration.

But I think the conclusion that most Democrats are reaching is that they have no choice but to go forward and to finish this and to provide an accomplishment they can run on in 2010. It's not going to be easy going -- you know, finding something that they can pass is not going to be easy, but in some ways it's even riskier to do nothing than it is to do something, because I think it would be seen as a defeat that would further empower and -- and energize this conservative base that is awakening.

So the effects of these town halls may not be exactly what we are assuming at this point, because in some ways it may make the Democrats convinced they have more to lose by dropping it than by going forward.

TAPPER: And that's -- that's certainly the point that Bill Clinton's been making, is that it's better to have something passed than nothing, and progressives and liberals should prepare...

(CROSSTALK)

TAPPER: ... and should prepare for -- for a weaker bill, but it's better than nothing.

Let's switch to the other Clinton in the news this week, Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, who went to Africa to do some important work and got a lot of media attention, as is the wont of the superficial media -- and I include myself in that group -- to focus on gaffes.

But, Anne, as somebody who has covered Hillary Clinton, as somebody who is writing a book about women and politics, what was that eruption in the Congo when she thought -- was so offended somebody would ask her about her husband's view on whether or not the Chinese should loan the Congo some money? Whether or not there was a mistranslation, why would she get so upset about that?

KORNBLUT: Well, and, in fact, I think we've reported out that there was no mistranslation, that she was asked about her husband. The reporters who were there said it was very hot. She was very tired, so maybe her demeanor is not the one she would have wanted, but that the underling sentiment, that she's the secretary of state, is one that she intended to convey, especially in a region of the world that is so male-dominated.

But these incidents are kind of bigger than that. It's sort of the perfect encapsulation of the burden of being Hillary Clinton, that you are seen in relation to your husband wherever you go, not just by the media, but by the world, and asked questions about him.

And it reminded me a lot of the campaign, when she was seen in relation to him and having to respond and trying to be her own person. But it also raises the question of what kind of secretary of state she's going to be and if she's going to be able to harness the celebrity, which, of course, is the reason we're all talking about it, you know, to a larger purpose.

Some people, when this whole incident happened, said to me, "You know, she looks kind of like a first lady on this trip. She's out there. She's been gone 11 days, 7 countries. She's away from the center of action here."

So I suspect we may see some shorter trips from her, ones where she's not going to get as tired when she's on the road. But at the end of the day, I think her -- again, the underlining sentiment, is one that certainly the White House and she defend, that she had the right to say that.

TAPPER: Donna, school me. What should we -- what should we have been covering on -- on the news?

BRAZILE: Well, first of all, we're using the wrong metric to judge her performance. This is a very serious secretary of state who, I believe, did a lot of good in Africa, not only in renewing old ties, but also broadening our reach in certain countries that the United States clearly needs to engage, Angola, for example, with their vast commodities.

But more important -- and I know how she might have come across to some people, that she was not diplomatic -- but, you know, she was in the Congo, in the east Congo, where women are basically being raped, there's genital mutilization, there's a lot of gender violence. And, you know, if she showed a little bit of emotion, so be it.

BROWNSTEIN: You know, also, I mean, this was like President Obama's speech in Ghana. She said this was a tough-love message for Africa, and in some ways that was the overriding point of this trip, and I think continuing a policy tone that he set.

I would say, though, this is what -- what you saw -- the focus on the gaffe is the downside of the upside of her -- of her -- of her position as secretary of state. She is a global celebrity.

And we saw in the coverage that she was extraordinarily public on these trips. She was not only engaged in private diplomacy; she was engaged in public diplomacy. She can do that because of her celebrity. And part of the cost of celebrity, as we're talking about with Sarah Palin, is that, when you say something that isn't quite right, you get disproportionate attention to it.

She has to live with that as the cost of what is undeniably a benefit, her ability to engage not only leaders and elites, but publics around the world, because of the media attention she can attract not only here, but everywhere she goes.

TAPPER: I think what surprised me about this, Ed, was the fact that she is so smart and so savvy in so many ways that she has to know that, with the media, superficial and evil as we are, if she does something like that, that's what we're going to be focusing on.

GILLESPIE: Yes, it was a -- it was a breakdown in discipline, obviously. And it's disappointing, I have to say. Just, you know, setting aside all partisanship, I think the fact is that what this administration is doing in Africa -- I should also point out, building on a lot of the good work that was done by the Bush administration...

TAPPER: Which President Obama has said.

GILLESPIE: ... in Africa -- has said -- very important and -- and to distract from that, I think, is unfortunate. I think it was too long a trip. As someone who's done these trips, 11 days is a long time to be out there. And I think that they will probably dial these back, I suspect, in terms of duration in the future.

TAPPER: Ed, there's something I want to come to you on, completely switching topics. You and I are both Eagles fans.

GILLESPIE: Yes.

TAPPER: You're from south Jersey; I'm from Philly. And there was news in the last few days about Michael Vick, who had served his time for his involvement with dogfighting, being signed by the Eagles. We have a clip of the press conference.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

VICK: As we all know, in the past, I made some mistakes. I have done some terrible things, made a horrible mistake. And now I want to be a part of the solution and not the problem.

LURIE: If we don't have an extremely proactive player here, off the field, then this is a terrible decision.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

TAPPER: That's the owner of the Eagles, Jeff Lurie, talking about the need for Vick to continue with his rehabilitation process through the judicial system. I have to say, I am uncomfortable. As an Eagles fan, I don't want to root for Michael Vick. And I know that there are people in the NFL who have done far worse to humans -- or maybe not far worse -- but they've -- they've -- you know, they have other problems with the law. Tell me why I'm wrong. Why -- how am I going to root for Michael Vick?

GILLESPIE: I think you're not wrong to be uncomfortable. I think, though -- I bring some conflict to this. I am an Eagles fan. I also own two dogs.

TAPPER: You heard that, by the way, "Iggles" fan. I don't know if you heard "Iggles."

BRAZILE: I heard that.

GILLESPIE: But, look, I think that he served his time. We have to be a society that believes in redemption. He has confessed to, you know, his remorse.

And I'll tell you, if you were going to pick someone to be a mentor, to help to turn a young man around, I don't think you could pick anyone better than Tony Dungy. And so if Tony Dungy says, "I see in Michael Vick signs of hope and redemption," I will take his word over pretty much anybody else I can think of in the NFL.

TAPPER: Donna?

BRAZILE: If there's no hope for Michael Vick, there's no hope for many other people in our society who've done wrong and need a path back to society.

What he did was absolutely horrible. I'm a dog-owner. I love animals. And he paid the price. He served his sentence. And he's paid a -- a much larger price, a price in terms of his reputation.

But I hope that the Eagle -- the fans of the -- what did you call them, the Eagles?

TAPPER: "Iggles," I-g-g-l-e-s.

(CROSSTALK)

BRAZILE: We just pronounce Saints, and there you go. I'm a New Orleans Saints fan. But I -- I would hope that they would give him an opportunity to -- to make amends to society.

I believe in redemption. I believe in forgiveness. And I think Michael Vick deserves an opportunity to come back.

TAPPER: There's one -- there's one other thing that happened this week and that I want to touch on, which is, it's the 40th anniversary of Woodstock. And there's been a lot of celebration by baby boomers of baby boomers and this concert. Ron, I know that my generational -- my generational bias is -- is showing and unfair, but wasn't this just a concert?

BROWNSTEIN: Yes, well, you know, we are now as far from Woodstock as Woodstock was from the crash of 1929. You know, so I mean, look, I mean, yes, it was -- you know, it was a moment that seemed to symbolize, you know, an entire decade. It has that kind of outsized, almost like Bill Clinton's presidency, where he came -- you know, he came to bear all of the pros and cons.

Yes, it was -- it was just a concert, but it was also kind of a symbol of what was a pretty broad change in social and culture mores that we're still arguing about 40 years later. In some way, though, I think it's -- it's kind of -- it is worth noting that Woodstock was halfway between -- exactly halfway between the crash of '29 and the crash of 2008. It was an artifact of an age of affluence, and we could worry -- when the societal worries were about self-expression and individual kind of fulfillment.

We have -- you know, we have much weightier problems now, much more immediate concerns, and we've had for several decades, average family. It's a very different world. I kind of look at this as almost like I'm, you know, excavating something from an ancient civilization. BRAZILE: (inaudible)

BROWNSTEIN: To think -- to think -- to think that that is what we were worrying about then...

TAPPER: We're going to have to continue this conversation in the -- in the green room. And you can see that on abcnews.com. Ron, the spokesman for baby boomers, we appreciate it.

BROWNSTEIN: Yes.

END

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