The New Republic's Jonathan Cohn has just debuted a clever new feature in the health care debate, "What would Harry do?" It's a left-of-center look at the health care debate, in which Cohn tabulates the judgment of 13 liberal-left health care experts and asks them to rate, for example, Max Baucus' health care plan.
Harry Truman, of course, first proposed a national health insurance plan in November 1945, less than three months after VJ Day. It was defeated, but Truman's name lives on as a champion of what he called "compulsory social insurance." (Obviously the focus groupers, and their honed and honeyed phrases, never got to Plain Speaking Harry.)
It's a smart choice for Cohn & Co. to use Truman. He is after all, one of our most admired presidents, albeit mostly, these days, for his successful architecture of the politico-military framework that ultimately won the Cold War.
But even fans of Truman might ask: What would the 33rd President really think of what his fellow Democrats are doing on health care?
Although there's no doubt that Truman would have been strongly for national health insurance, one wonders if he would think that it was a good idea for trial lawyers to be looting the system?
As a fan of Truman, I kinda think that Truman would be more likely to "give 'em hell." That is, he would call out the trial lawyers who are putting all through "lawsuit hell," as Newsweek put it six years ago.
He might even agree with Sarah Palin: No health care reform without tort reform. Of course, Truman understood that politics was the art of the possible, and so in the end he might have made some compromise if he concluded that he had to, but he surely would have first called 'em out for the bad and costly things that they were doing.
But don't look for Cohn and The New Republic to start rating health care plans according to the Palin index. They can't even bring themselves to mention the issue of tort reform.
In the meantime, of course, proponents of a Serious Medicine Strategy see little or nothing in the Baucus bill that would actually move America toward curing more diseases.