The Plank

See, They Play Nice Sometimes

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Ezra Klein and Kevin Drum have sharp words for Ruth Marcus over her new Washington Post column -- and rightly so. In the column, Marcus writes

Democrats -- if they care more about addressing health-care needs than scoring political points -- ought to be finding ways to improve and build on the Bush proposal, not condemning and mischaracterizing it. Given that nothing's going to pass without Democratic approval, what's the risk in engaging in the discussion?

This comes immediately after Marcus has noted all of the serious deficiencies in Bush's plan -- actual, meaningful flaws that a legislator in good conscience ought to be opposing, particularly when there are already many other, far more appealing options on the table.

I would add just one thought: If Marcus needs proof Democrats can adopt a more constructive attitude towards Republicans, I'd urge her to consider Mr. Health Care Liberal himself: Senator Ted Kennedy. He not only praised Republican Mitt Romney for trying to bring universal health insurance to their shared home state of Massachusetts. He also helped Romney navigate the plan through the state's treacherous political straits -- even though the plan, which relies mostly on private insurance, isn't the kind Kennedy himself would draw up.

Keep in mind, too, that in relatively recent history Democrats worked closely with Republicans on two important health care initiatives: The establishment of the State Children's Health Insurance Program (S-CHIP) -- which happened at the height of '90s Gingrich-era partisanship -- and the push to create parity for mental health benefits. If the ideas Bush put forth last night were even remotely as serious and worthy, I supsect Democrats would have reacted with less hostility.

--Jonathan Cohn

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