Andrew Sullivan was the editor of The New Republic when the magazine ran a famous article that has been widely cited as one of the main reasons the Clintons’ attempt to overhaul health care failed. From a Benjamin Sarlin piece in The Daily Beast (emphasis mine):
[New York Lt. Governor Betsy] McCaughey’s piece painted the Clinton plan as a nightmare in the making that would “prevent you from going outside the system to buy basic health coverage you think is better” and leave millions of Americans with insufficient treatment thanks to government rationing.
The core arguments were quickly adopted by conservative opponents of the health-care plan. While McCaughey was a fellow at the conservative Hudson Institute and her background was in law and not health-care policy, the fact that her analysis had run in the traditionally liberal New Republic bolstered her credibility as an objective observer. The Clinton administration put out a detailed response and noted that provisions in the bill specifically said that “nothing in this act shall be construed as prohibiting… an individual from purchasing health-care services” despite McCaughey’s key assertions that patients would be prevented from paying their doctors or seeking private coverage. But the meme stuck. When the dust had settled in the 1993-1994 health-care wars, Newt Gingrich singled out McCaughey’s article as “the first decisive breakpoint” in the plan’s support.
Sullivan, who infamously hated the Clintons, was an enthusiastic supporter of George W. Bush, but became disenchanted with him over the Iraq War, torture, and other issues. He eventually became an enthusiastic supporter of Obama. Now, the self-identified gay, HIV-positive, Irish Catholic, English-born libertarian conservative has come out in favor of the health reform he helped spike in 1994:
Real conservatives should point out that the current proposals are not tough enough on costs – and criticize Obama for that, not for fantasies like a communist takeover or euthanasia program for special needs kids.
The Romney-Obama model will require fiscal boundaries to healthcare provision and this will mean a trade-off that will be hard to postpone much longer. We’ll get less innovation, and probably some rationing at some point. But that is already happening – the rationing is done by insurance companies.
While Sullivan is now an Obama fan, he’s definitely maintained his conservative/libertarian outlook, so for him to come out in favor of health care reform is both astounding and (kind of) brave.
For that matter, for The New Republic to go from publishing McCaughey’s story to hosting Jonathan Cohn’s (frequently brilliant) blog on healthcare, The Treatment, is a similarly astounding reversal.