Jonathan Cohn

Senior Editor

Last month the Service Employees International Union (SEIU) issued an ultimatum to the Democrats running for president: Issue detailed plans for universal health care by August 1. Or else. OK, it wasn't quite that dramatic. There was no threat of specific reprisals against candidates who fail to meet the deadline.

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This is the second part of a four-part debate. To read the previous installment, click on the link below. Part 1, Monday: David Gratzer   Tuesday, April 17 Dear David, One reason I was pleased that you would be debating universal health care with me is that you are a physician. I know that these issues are not mere abstractions to you. They are human lives, which you've seen up close.

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Dear Jonathan, Millions without insurance, rising health costs, uneven quality--on this, we agree: American health care is riddled with problems. It's enough to make a person look for a sweeping new proposal. In your book, you do just this, flirting with some type of government solution. Then, in an essay last week, you explained that countries with such systems "outperform" American health care. I understand that argument. In fact, not that long ago, I shared your point of view. I was born and raised in Canada.

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This is the final part of a four-part debate. To read the previous installments, click on the links below. Part 1, Monday: David Gratzer Part 2, Tuesday: Jonathan Cohn Part 3, Wednesday: David Gratzer   Thursday, April 19 Dear David, Thank you, again, for the gracious response--and for participating in this debate. The perspective of physicians is, for all the obvious reasons, crucial as we talk about redesigning our health care system. And you have already contributed many insights. Still, I have to take issue with some of your concluding thoughts.

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This is the third part of a four-part debate. To read the previous installments, click on the links below. Part 1, Monday: David Gratzer Part 2, Tuesday: Jonathan Cohn   Wednesday, April 18 Dear Jonathan, First, let me thank you for the kind words. I also respect your desire to better American health care.

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Depending on where you get your political commentary, you may have heard that John Edwards is a bad husband or father for sticking with his presidential campaign even though his wife, Elizabeth, was recently diagnosed with stage four breast cancer. But did you know that he is also a hypocrite--or, at least, a fool? That's what conservative critics of his health insurance plan have been implying. "One hesitates to intrude upon a personal tragedy to make a political point," Michael Tanner, of the Cato Institute, wrote recently.

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Nation First

You can't blame Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger for moving California's primary earlier in the schedule. It's been a long time since the state with the most people had anything close to the most influence over the presidential nominating process. In fact, it's been a long time since California had any meaningful influence at all, except as a source of campaign contributions. Now the state holds its primary on February 5--probably along with Florida, Illinois, Michigan, and New York.

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Great Danes

"If you want a lower standard of living," conservative policy experts Grace-Marie Turner and Robert Moffit wrote in an op-ed last week, "the Europeans have the right prescription." The topic of discussion was universal health care, but it just as easily might have been government-sponsored child care or generous unemployment benefits.

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`This vote was stolen from us by the Republicans," seethed HouseMinority Leader Nancy Pelosi following passage of President Bush'sMedicare drug benefit in November 2003. She was referring to theegregious effort by the GOP leadership to keep the vote open untilthey achieved a majority--three hours of browbeating, arm-twisting,and even alleged bribery that culminated in a razor-thin victory inthe wee small hours of the night.

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The Golden Ticket

The fairy tale began to unravel in the most unlikely of locations: The electronics aisle at Target. It was late September, the day after the Anderson family, as they had come to be known, first made their journey from a shelter in Houma, Louisiana, to a home in Kalamazoo, Michigan. The family, all of them refugees from Hurricane Katrina, had relocated to the Midwest at the invitation of a Catholic church group based in Kalamazoo.

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