Clinton-Gingrich is just the ticket to a lame health-care sequel

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The Tallahassee Democrat

So now Hillary and Newt are going to put aside their partisan differences, team up like Spider-Man and Superman in one of those comic-book special guest appearances, and rescue us from our villainous health-care system?

Please… We’ve seen this movie before – in more ways than one. The original saw HRC spearheading her hubby’s plan to overhaul health care as we know it … and Newt helping to kill it, then feasting on the carcass (it’s what gave him the superpowers that enabled him to leap tall colleagues in a single bound on the way to the speakership).

Then there was Clinton-Gingrich II: The End to Big Money Politics. It was a blockbuster release in the summer of ’95, this time co-starring the speaker and the president. In case you don’t remember the plot (and don’t hold your breath waiting for the director’s cut DVD to come out), it involved the president-hero and his chief adversary joining forces to clean up the capital’s toxic swamp of special interest money and pay-for-play lobbying.

The key scene took place at a town hall meeting in New Hampshire. The dialogue has become classic – the political equivalent of “Here’s looking at you, kid,” “Plastics” and “Hasta la vista, baby.”

“In a heartbeat, I accept,” said the president to an audience suggestion that the unlikely pair join forces to take on campaign finance reform.

“Let’s shake hands on it in front of everybody!” enthused Speaker Newt. “How ‘s that? Is that a pretty good deal?”

“I accept” reiterated Clinton, not wanting to cede the last line. Then they shook on it. Brought the house down. Luke and Han blowing up the Death Star. Big.

Of course, that handshake eventually became synonymous with broken political promises, preceding as it did the memorable cameo appearances of John Huang, the Buddhist temple fund-raisers, the renting out of the Lincoln Bedroom, the Marc Rich pardon, and one of the most shameless fire sales of public policy ever (“everything must go – even our principles!”).

So now it’s the next installment in the trilogy. Clinton-Gingrich III: Takin’ on Health Care. Unfortunately, the series is starting to show its age. And, as so often happens in these kinds of franchises, the action, action, action has been superceded by lots o’ laughs.

“At our first meeting,” says Hillary in the opening scene joint press conference, “when we were agreeing so much with each other, I think people thought: ‘The end is near’.”

“I don’t know if we’re going to be one of Tim Lahaye’s future novels,” adds Newt.


And their proposal is even funnier. Far from taking on the massive health-care crisis that is surely threatening our economy and our country, it aims to … get this: reduce medical paperwork by implementing high-tech information technology throughout the U.S. health-care system.

Really? Wow. Quick, somebody call them a script doctor!

In touting their proposal (which, by the way, isn’t really theirs), Gingrich said e-health-care info systems would eliminate medical mistakes caused by illegible prescription orders. “Paper kills,” he warned ominously. I can hear the TV ad now: “Making the world safe from bad handwriting!”

The bill would also create a national “technical assistance” center for doctors. Hurray! We’ve got 42 million uninsured Americans, health-care costs are going through the roof (Americans now spend $1.7 trillion on health care a year, 15.3 percent of our GDP) … and these guys are excited about the idea of offering tech support to your MD’s billing dept.

Just picture the state-of-the-art call center located in Bangalore, helping overworked medical office staffers input their diagnosis codes (“No, prostatitus is 2.17, 2.18 is colitis.” “Thank you, Pradeep” “Please, call me Bob”).

It would be hilarious if it weren’t so tragic. And yet another example of the photo-op politics that has come to rule the day in Washington.

I’m not saying that the Hillary-Newt idea is a bad one (for that, read HuffPost blogger Jamie Court ) – just an unimportant one. It’s either a small good idea or a small bad idea – despite the gossipy buzz the “When Hillary Met Newt” pairing created on cable news.

It calls to mind those other big-press, low-impact releases from Clinton Studios, including School Uniforms, 48-Hour Maternity Stays and Midnight Basketball.

Someone – anyone! – desperately needs to step forward and take the lead on dealing with the health-care crisis. But it won’t be Hillary and Newt… at least not in this installment.

They’re too busy making the deal for Clinton-Gingrich ’08: This Time It’s for All the Marbles.
Contact Arianna Huffington at [email protected]

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