Harry and Louise Part Deux?

By Nitya

Feb 1, 2008 1:43pm

ABC News’ Kate Snow and David Wright Report: Remember Harry and Louise?  Hillary Clinton’s campaign sure does.

And they are none too happy about a glossy mailer that’s being sent to voters in at least two states by the Obama campaign.

The new mailer features a middle-aged white couple sitting at their dining room table with the words: "Hillary’s health care plan forces everyone to buy insurance, even if you can’t afford it.  Is that the best we can do for families struggling with high health care costs?"

"I am personally outraged by this picture,” said Len Nichols, Director of the Health Policy Program at the New America Foundation.  Nichols was described as unaffiliated with any presidential candidate but joined a conference call for reporters to rail against the new mailer.

"This ad goes so far over the line I felt compelled to raise my voice," Nichols said.  "It’s just untrue to claim Senator Clinton’s plan is not addressing affordability."

Nichols called the flier "totally evocative of Harry and Louise" and "ridiculously inflammatory". 

And at one point on the call Nichols went much further– comparing the Obama mailer to the attempt by members of the Nazi party to march on Skokie, Illinois in the late 1970s.

"It is outrageous as having Nazis march through Skokie, Illinois, or some other things we could think of probably if I had more time and my heart was beating less quickly."

Later on the call, Clinton’s Communications Director Howard Wolfson tried to make clear that Nichols was not speaking on behalf of the Clinton campaign.

"That is not a comparison we would make," Wolfson said.

The Obama campaign planned its own conference call later on Friday to respond to the charges and explain the use of the mailer.

"There are honest policy differences in this debate," said Obama spokesperson Bill Burton, defending the mailer.  "That’s what a mandate is.  Everybody is forced to buy health care."

Burton said the comparison to the Harry and Louise ad campaign of the mid-90s was "reading a little too much into the tea leaves."

Burton also said Len Nichols had worked with the Clinton campaign on health care issues in the past.

He found the comparison to Nazi efforts outrageous.

The Clinton camp insists the flier is an unfair portrayal of her plan.

Indeed, Senator Clinton’s health care plan does include provisions meant to lower the cost of health insurance for all and specific provisions meant to make insurance more affordable for lower income Americans.

"A central element of our plan is that every American can afford it," said Neera Tanden, Policy Director for the Clinton Campaign.  "We do more than Senator Obama on cost, on reducing costs," she said.

Dr. Irwin Redlener, Professor of Public Health and Pediatrics at Columbia University and an adviser to the Clinton Campaign said the mailing from the Obama campaign was tantamount to a Republican attack.

"This is clearly a battle that we knew would come up when the Democratic candidate would face the Republican candidate," he said.  "To have one of the two remaining Democratic candidates pull out the Republican playbook for November at this point in the calendar is not just disingenuous and wrong for the campaign dynamics here…but potentially could be damaging to the cause of getting this health care crisis solved someday."

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