- The Washington Times - Wednesday, July 29, 2009

LIMITED ENGAGEMENT

Former Vermont governor, presidential hopeful and Democratic National Committee Chairman Howard Dean is not going to make like Mike Huckabee and go for a permanent spot in the pantheon of politicians-turned-broadcast-analysts.

“No, I wouldn’t do that full-time. A couple of times, though. That’s fun,” Mr. Dean tells Inside the Beltway.

Mr. Dean began a brief stint as guest host on MSNBC’s “Countdown with Keith Olbermann” on Tuesday night with health care reform on his mind. Which makes sense, seeing that Mr. Dean just authored a book entitled “Howard Dean’s Prescription for Real Healthcare Reform.”

Though there is considerable caterwauling and partisan angst over the huge bill, Mr. Dean has praise for some lawmakers, particularly those who worked on the versions approved by the Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions Committee and a trio of House committees.

“They’re on to something,” he says, “but we need change. Americans need real health care reform, not just insurance reform, and nobody should mistake the two. They should all read my book. That’s my advice to them.”

Mr. Olbermann, meanwhile, is in Cooperstown, N.Y., poring over memorabilia at the Baseball Hall of Fame and pondering the status of disgraced star Pete Rose - blogging away, he says, “on the front porch, on one of the prettiest streets of the Democracy.”

HOLA, GOP

Wimps. Wusses. Softies.

Scott Wheeler, executive director of the National Republican Trust, a conservative political action committee, is vexed with Republicans over their tactics in the face of JudgeSonia Sotomayor’s nomination to the Supreme Court.

“Throwing marshmallows while walking on eggshells was the wrong strategy,” Mr. Wheeler says. “History has been made, not because she will be the first Hispanic high court justice, but because Republicans engaged in the biggest ‘marshmallow fight’ in the history of the GOP.”

Like the Stay Puft Marshmallow Man? Well, not exactly.

“Republicans refused to treat Sotomayor as any other justice nominee, but instead walked on eggshells while tossing softball questions out of fear of appearing anti-Hispanic,” Mr. Wheeler explains.

BREW HA-HA

“Obama Names Thursday ‘Drink A Beer With Someone Who Arrested You Day’ ” - parody headline courtesy of comedian Andy Borowitz, as President Obama prepares to host Harvard professor Henry Louis Gates Jr. and Cambridge Police Sgt. James Crowley at the White House Thursday evening.

WHAT’S UP, DOC?

Even President Obama’s former doctor doesn’t like Obamacare. Dr. David Scheiner, who was Mr. Obama’s primary-care physician from 1987-2009, will step forward Thursday to point out that the White House and Congress are “moving in the wrong direction” if they’re looking to reduce costs and provide universal coverage.

Along with Dr. Sidney Wolfe, acting president of Public Citizen, and Dr. Margaret Flowers of Physicians for a National Health Program, Dr. Scheiner favors improving and expanding Medicare as “the only way to provide health care to all, regardless of their ability to pay,” he says.

The consortium will present an open letter to Mr. Obama urging him to endorse the “single-payer” model - signed by Dr. Scheiner and 3,500 other doctors. Naturally, there’s a big rally in Upper Senate Park. A hundred taxis - and hopefully no ambulances - will circle the park bearing signs in support of the single-payer idea.

CALL O’ THE DAY

More hospital concerns, and a different reform, perhaps. A former Marine who requested anonymity called to complain that a “big” glass display case in the main atrium of the Veterans Administration Medical Center in the District showcases the accomplishments of gay troops.

“It’s right next to the eligibility office, so everybody sees it. There’s a picture of [Massachusetts Democratic] Rep.Barney Frank, too. A lot of us old guys out there waiting just don’t think this display is appropriate,” the vet says. “The patient advocate said there have been a lot of complaints. This isn’t a civilian hospital. And I thought, this was the era of ‘don’t ask, don’t tell.’ So what’s this doing here? We want to know.”

POLL DU JOUR

• 66 percent of Americans say members of Congress do not have a good grasp of health care reform issues.

• 27 percent say lawmakers do have a good understanding.

• 51 percent of Americans say they personally do not understand the issues.

• 48 percent say they do understand the issues.

• 58 percent of Republicans and 47 percent of Democrats say they personally understand the health reform issues.

Source: A Gallup poll of 526 adults conducted July 26, 2009.

Tales, tattles, rattles etc. to jharper@washingtontimes.com or 202/636-3085.

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