“Harry and Louise” Redux

Yet another reason why the notion of a Hillary/Obama ” dream ticket ” is pure fantasy:

Clinton’s team held a conference call today in which a handful of health experts denounced a new mailer [PDF] being sent out by the Obama campaign, which attacks Hillary’s proposal for a universal mandate. One person, Len Nichols of the New American Foundation, compared the mailer to the “Harry and Louise” ads from 1993, paid for by insurance companies, that helped turn public opinion against health-care reform. (Nichols also said it’s “as outrageous as having Nazis march through Skokie, Illinois,” but Clinton spokesman Howard Wolfson later distanced the campaign from that comment.)

The original H&L spot showed a couple anxiously leafing through piles of papers at a dinner table and discussing the mandate; Obama’s mailer features a photo of a man and a woman sitting at a table.  

It’s not the first time that comparison has been drawn. In early January, an Obama radio ad made the same case against Hillary’s mandate plan, arguing that it would force people who can’t afford insurance to buy it anyway. (A claim Hillary’s campaign deems a deliberate distortion .) Paul Krugman, among others , made the H&L comparison and called Obama’s argument “the audacity of cynicism.”

Both Obama ads—the January radio spot and the new mailer—also cite an endorsement article from the Daily Iowan , the student newspaper of the University of Iowa in Iowa City, as its source for the claim that Hillary’s plan would be “punishing those who don’t fall in line with fines.” Ben Smith tracked down David Axelrod, who called the Iowan “a respected newspaper.”

Please. Anyone who has worked in campus journalism knows that even the best publications probably shouldn’t be used as the sole source for political literature. After taking flak for that same move in January, the Obama’s people should have learned from their mistake.