Lawrence O'Donnell, substituting for Keith Olbermann on MSNBC's Countdown, spoke on Thursday with former Governor Howard Dean about the relatively weakened version of health care reform that is now moving through the House of Representatives.
Dean's reaction to the House bill was, "It's not the best we can do, but it's a very good start."
Leaders of the progressive caucus had hoped to see a stronger form of the public option in the bill, and Rep. Dennis Kucinich (D-OH) asked on the floor of the House, "Is this the best we can do? Mandating private insurance? Forcing people to buy private insurance policies or pay a penalty? ... Only 3% of Americans will go to a new public plan."
'I don't disagree entirely with Dennis," Dean told O'Donnell, but he pointed out that "they were fighting uphill against a very well-organized opposition, which has trouble telling the truth, and against an incredibly well-organized health insurance industry, which has given millions and millions of dollars to some of the people who are going to have to vote on this stuff."
"The fact is, this is real reform, Dean emphasized. "That's all I really care about, is real reform. ... It's not the kind of reform that I would have loved, but this is pretty good stuff, and it really is going to make a difference."
Dean, who served as chairman of the Democratic National Committee from 2005 to 2009 and played a major role in securing the Democrats' current majority in Congress, appears to be thinking most strongly at this point about the possible impact of health care reform on the 2010 elections.
"The most important thing that probably needs to be changed in conference committee is more people need to get into this system before the 2010 elections," Dean remarked. "The only way to defeat all the things the opposition is saying that aren't so is to show them how the system actually works."
"It's going to be very good for a lot of people," insisted Dean. "The only way that we can show the country that the Republicans have just not been telling the truth for the last six or eight months about thiis bill is to actually have it put in effect. ... The one thing you've got to do is get as many people as you can, particularly kids, into the system."
This video is from MSNBC's Countdown, broadcast Oct. 29, 2009.