On health care, Democrats 'should have started with single payer,' he alleges

Comedian and political commentator Bill Maher said Wednesday that President Obama's insistence on courting Republican votes on his legislative priorities has weakened his presidency and the outcome of health care reform.

"I think the biggest mistake that he has made in his first year was to put bipartisanship ahead of fixing the country," Maher declared Wednesday on MSNBC's Countdown With Keith Olbermann.

He said Obama should have "com[e] in with all the energy from the election and saying, you know what, we're in a crisis mode, I won this election by a sizable mandate -- here's what we're going to do; if you don't like it, Republicans, you can suck on it."

The host of HBO's Real Time With Bill Maher has for months skewered Democrats on his show as too timid and lacking the courage to fight for their beliefs. Last summer he famously said, "We don't have a left and a right party anymore" because "Democrats have moved the right, and the right has moved into a mental hospital."

"They should have started with single payer," he told guest host Lawrence O'Donnell. "It's the one program that makes sense, but okay, we live in a country that doesn't make sense... If they had started from that, then the fall-back compromise position would have at least been the public option," Maher said, assailing Democrats for their ostensibly poor negotiation skills.

"I think [Democrats] wussied out on standing up [for] the things that were actually going to be cost-cutting," said the controversial but popular comedian.

But he added that "a quarter-loaf is better than none" and the current package, while flawed and unlikely to save much money, will save lives and is worth passing.

The comedian said he was baffled that it's acceptable for up to forty thousand people to die every year due to an inadequate medical system. "Can you imagine if that many people were dying in Iraq or Afghanistan -- or a terrorist attack?" he asked.

Arguing that Democrats should have framed the debate to warn people who are satisfied with their health insurance that their premiums would surge, Maher alleged that "Democrats need to use fear the way the Republicans use fear."

Sen. Bernie Sanders on Wednesday also critiqued the White House for not being forceful enough on health care and wasting months trying fruitlessly to recruit Republican support. Acknowledging Obama's more aggressive posture in recent weeks, Sanders said the president has "finally got that message."

This video is from MSNBC's Countdown, broadcast March 10, 2010.

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