Five Democratic presidential candidates gathered on a stage in Davenport tonight for a discussion that began with a focus on health care reform.
Hillary Clinton just this week unveiled her health care plan. But rival Chris Dodd pointed to Clinton’s fumble on health care reform 13 years ago and questioned her ability to get her new plan enacted.
"It’s not enough to talk about efforts that have been made and failed. We need to talk about people who know how to do this," Dodd said. "…We now need leadership in the country that can truly bring people together to get this done."
John Edwards labeled Clinton’s health care plan "very good." "It’s very similar to mine, so it’s very hard for me to be critical of it," Edwards said, as the audience laughed and applauded. "And I’m proud that six or seven months later, Senator Clinton came out with a plan that is very similar to mine."
Clinton told the crowd Republicans are unwilling to address the concerns Americans have about the health care system. "I think it’s tremendous that we have unanimity here, that what was a lonely struggle all those years ago is now the accepted set of convictions for the Democratic Party," Clinton said. "Compare that to the Republicans."
Bill Richardson touted his work as the governor of New Mexico."We have dealt with first of all insuring kids, then working people and then the chronically unemployed," Richardson said. "I believe by 2009 we will have insured everybody in my state."
Joe Biden suggested his decades in the U.S. senate were better preparation for getting health care reform passed as president than the five years Richardson’s been New Mexico’s governor.
"His state’s a couple of million people. Give me a break…That’s like saying, you know, I played halfback when I was in high school, I can play in the pros. It’s a different deal," Biden said, as the audience laughed.
"Are you saying he’s not qualified to be president?" the event’s moderator asked. "I’m saying he’s a great governor. He’s a great governor. He’d make a great secretary of state," Biden replied, joking about the suggestion that Biden and Richardson are really in the race to raise their profiles so they’ll be named a cabinet member.
Tonight’s event was organized by AARP and broadcast on Iowa Public Television as well as PBS stations nationwide. Democrat Barack Obama did not participate, as he has vowed only to attend debates sanctioned by the Democratic National Committee.