Ted Kennedy, the iconic senator from Massachusetts who passed away last year, was responsible for the failure of then-President Jimmy Carter’s health reform plan in the 1970s, the result of a personal rivalry between the two politicians, Carter says.
In an interview with 60 Minutes, to be broadcast Sunday and previewed at the CBS News site, Carter asserted that Kennedy was determined to see Carter fail as president, apparently in an effort to boost his own chances of taking the White House in 1980.
“The fact is that we would have had comprehensive health care now, had it not been for Ted Kennedy’s deliberately blocking the legislation that I proposed,” he told CBS’ Leslie Stahl. “It was his fault. Ted Kennedy killed the bill.”
Kennedy “did not want to see me have a major success in that realm of life,” Carter said. Stahl quoted an excerpt from the diary Carter kept as president:
Kennedy continuing his irresponsible and abusive attitude, immediately condemning our health plan. He couldn’t get five votes for his plan.
Carter also lamented his successor Ronald Reagan’s partial dismantling of his energy policy, saying if the policy had stayed in place, the US would be less dependent on foreign oil today.
“Unfortunately, now we’re probably importing 12 million barrels a day, since part of my energy policies were abandoned,” he said.
Kennedy died in August of 2009, after a battle with brain cancer. At the time, he was cast by his Democratic colleagues as a life-long champion of health care reform, and his impassioned words were used to bolster the case for the health reform effort that was winding its way through Congress at the time.
In his memoir, Kennedy wrote that he and Carter had an “unhealthy” relationship.
“Clearly President Carter was a difficult man to convince — of anything,” Kennedy wrote.