September 20th, 2007
05:38 PM ET
11 years ago

Clinton ripped off Edwards' health care plan says wife

Watch Mrs. Edwards criticize Clinton's health care plan in an interview with CNN.

COLUMBIA, South Carolina (CNN) - Elizabeth Edwards, the wife of Democratic presidential candidate John Edwards, attacked Sen. Hillary Clinton's health care plan Wednesday as a carbon copy of her husband's plan, and accused the New York Democrat of selling lobbyists insider access to the government.

In an interview with CNN before attending a rally here for protestors on behalf of six African-American students in Jena, Louisiana, Mrs. Edwards accused Clinton of "insider cronyism" and trading political access for campaign donations. This comes on the heels of similar sentiments put forth by her husband in recent weeks.

"You can have a meeting with a member of Congress if you donate to Hillary's campaign," said Mrs. Edwards. "What this is saying is she's willing to sell special access to the government if you just have the check. Isn't that just exactly what John is saying we shouldn't be doing?"

Mrs. Edwards also said that she sees almost no differences between Clinton's health care plan, unveiled Monday in Des Moines, and that of her husband.

"I don't call it Senator Clinton's health care plan," Edwards said. "I call it John Edwards' health care plan as delivered by Hillary Clinton. The truth is that anyone who tries to describe Hillary's health care plan will run through every material part of John's health care plan.

"I just have to wonder, if John released his plan at the beginning of February, what took her seven and a half months to endorse it? We're glad for the endorsement."

Clinton has said she is the best qualified candidate to deal with health care reform because she learned from mistakes made in 1993 and 1994 when, as first lady, she introduced health care reform to Congress. Edwards took issue with that suggestion, saying that the Clinton administration abandoned universal health care in the nineties in favor of passing NAFTA.

"I don't think we should engage in revisionism," said Mrs. Edwards. "I am glad she did that health care plan. I was impressed with her when she did it. But did she learn something from it? I can't see what she's learned."

Mrs. Edwards also struck back at criticisms in recent days from the Clinton campaign that her husband’s White House bid is "flagging."

"Whenever we make a substantive statement with respect to some way in which we think Sen. Clinton is not behaving in the best interest of the American public, not representing the kind of president that we need in the future, the response of that campaign is exactly the same every single time," she said. "They use the words 'flagging campaign' as if you can erase, just erase everything John said. There's no merit to it whatsoever."

Mrs. Edwards also suggested, as she has before, that the presidential race at this point is about celebrity rather than real issues. Her husband trails Clinton and Sen. Barack Obama, D-Illinois, in most national polls, although he remains in first or second place in recent Iowa polls.

"When we quit having the People magazine race and start having the actual race for president, when people are deciding which candidate best represents their aspirations and their expectations for government, that's when John succeeds," Mrs. Edwards said.

The Clinton campaign did not respond to a request for comment on Mrs. Edwards' remarks.

- CNN South Carolina Producer Peter Hamby

soundoff (194 Responses)
  1. George, Seattle, WA

    "You can have a meeting with a member of congress if you donate to her campaign."

    Elisabeth is missing the $41.5 million dollar elephant in the room. Bill Clinton speaks in front of lobby groups for between $150,000 and $400,000 a speech. Between the years 2000 and 2006, he has made over $1.6 million speaking in front of health care lobbiests. This includes $150,000 from "America's Health Insurance plans" which is the lobby group for the health insurance industry.

    All this, of course, while Hillary is serving in the Senate and proposing health care legislation. I wonder if he will charge more per speech now that Hillary has finally come up with a plan?

    September 20, 2007 11:48 am at 11:48 am |
  2. Jonathan Dallas, TX

    Way to go Mrs. Edwards! She is not afraid to speak the substantive truth.

    September 20, 2007 11:50 am at 11:50 am |
  3. AJ; Montpelier, VT

    At first I liked E. Edwards. Now she just looks like a pathetic idiot.

    September 20, 2007 11:53 am at 11:53 am |
  4. Pat, Bloomington IL

    As a registered Independent, I've taken a look at several candidates' health plans in order to determine who will get my vote.

    Mrs. Edwards is correct when she says Hillary's newly announced Health Care Plan is an almost carbon copy of the John Edwards plan.

    What's that old saying, "Imitation is the sincerest form of flattery?"

    Hillary must really admire John!

    September 20, 2007 11:53 am at 11:53 am |
  5. Matt, Columbus OH

    Um, if Clinton is so paid off by the lobbyists, and she can't be trusted to handle health care......

    Shouldn't her package be very different from Edwards?

    You can't have it both ways Mrs. Edwards

    September 20, 2007 11:54 am at 11:54 am |
  6. Dan (Columbia, MD)

    When is she going to give John his pants back?

    September 20, 2007 12:01 pm at 12:01 pm |
  7. pl. at the UN for a while.

    You may be right about the "substantive" issue. However, I do not see a catastrophy, now or later, in Ms Rodham Clinton's way to nomination. Mr Edwards should position himself for a ticket place; begnning right now.

    That having been said, I should also shower admiration on Ms Edwards. I have a soft spot for women in the political process–and possibly winning.

    September 20, 2007 12:02 pm at 12:02 pm |
  8. Scott, Greenville, NC

    Clinton's campaign better not dismiss Edwards. He's on track to pulling off the upset for the Democratic nomination. While Clinton eats up the press time she's recieving, as well she should, Edwards is putting together a strong organization on the ground. I'd like to know a bit more about what the campaign organization's look like, actually. Haven't heard much on that issue. Nuts and bolts will beat media time anyday of the week.

    September 20, 2007 12:05 pm at 12:05 pm |
  9. Angela, alexandria, VA

    I'm really happy that she went to Jena.

    September 20, 2007 12:07 pm at 12:07 pm |
  10. Lisa Metzger, Raleigh, NC

    I admire Mrs Edwards. But, evertime Hillary comes up with something, why does Elizabeth has to open her mouth? Sometimes you wonder who is running the election, is it her or her husband? She is loosing all the sympathy.

    September 20, 2007 12:09 pm at 12:09 pm |
  11. Tricia M Charlottetown PEI

    Where's the Beef?

    Just because Elizabeth says Hillary stole John's plan doesn't make it so.

    Hillary has been working on a Health Care Plan for years. It's just as possible that John stole some of her criteria. In fact, more possible seeing that Elizabeth is so quick to go public to say the exact opposite.

    Will she ever stop molly coddling John in front of the world? If John needs that much mothering and molly coddling he'd better stay home as there's no place for that in the White House!
    America needs a real leader especially after the excuse for one they've had for eight long years. A hen pecked husband and mamma's boy a President does not make.

    September 20, 2007 12:10 pm at 12:10 pm |
  12. Providence, RI

    A mad, mad, mad woman, who is desperately seeking her husband's white house bid. A 36, 000 sq feet mansion, pool, sauna, $400 hair cuts,and 2004's loss in the primary and general election are not enough for her. They want more, like vampires... She is hurting her husband's bid by continuously attacking Hillary! She is despicable.. She has cancer, and she needs to calm down... His father was a mill worker, his 16 years old son died, two america and so on, and they are the same old theme from 2004.

    September 20, 2007 12:11 pm at 12:11 pm |
  13. roger, conway sc

    I was at one time an Edwards supporter but I can no longer support John Edwards, he & his wife constantly WHINE. There seems to be alot of FAKE in how they really care about the common people, they are always asking someone to give something up (like the SUV's) I do not truly believe he is the right man for the job and the same for Elizabeth as first lady...they sound like cry babys...

    September 20, 2007 12:11 pm at 12:11 pm |
  14. Bea, Hoboken, NJ

    With all due respect to Elizabeth, she is NOT the candidate and it's grating to hear her continuously bashing the only female candidate in the race. What's the matter Liz, your hubby can't speak for himself? I have yet to hear Bill Clinton bash any Democratic candidate or any on the Republican side for that matter. The job of the spouse is to extoll the qualifications of her/his spouse, not to do their dirty work!

    September 20, 2007 12:16 pm at 12:16 pm |
  15. Mark R

    Lay it down! Finally, someone telling the truth about how the US is a democracy owned by lobbyists.
    Go John Edwards.

    September 20, 2007 12:18 pm at 12:18 pm |
  16. Mark R, Richmond, VA

    Lay it down! Finally, someone telling the truth about how the US is a democracy owned by lobbyists.
    Go John Edwards.

    September 20, 2007 12:20 pm at 12:20 pm |
  17. Ron, TX

    Mrs. Edwards has a good point...

    September 20, 2007 12:21 pm at 12:21 pm |
  18. OEST, Raleigh, NC

    Right on Elizabeth Edwards!

    Way to take on that ignorant "flagging campaign" diversionary tactic that the Clinton campaign likes to throw around.

    That's the type of logical, thoughtful answer that I love to see. Dissected to a tee.

    September 20, 2007 12:22 pm at 12:22 pm |
  19. Simon Albany, NY

    I wish Elizabeth Edwards would shut up. John Edwards never did anything in the Senate for the 1 term he served, he has no experience in health care, he had no problem taking lobbyists money in 04, and he has no shot of winning a general election. The only reason he is still in the race is because Democrats have this notion that they need a Southerner to win the general election. I wish they would wake up and realize that no one other than Bill Clinton could carry a Southern state. Dems need to worry about Ohio and Florida (not a true Southern state). Edwards "southern charm" did nothing for the Kerry campaign in '04.
    Lastly, Edwards should take a lesson from Kerry: having a wife make scenes every week will not win you an election.

    September 20, 2007 12:25 pm at 12:25 pm |
  20. Alex Lotorto, Milford PA

    I said the same thing as she's quoted here almost word for word when I read the Clinton Care plan...

    The difference btw the two are that John has promised to confront lobbyists for big HMOs while Hillary has lunches with them and plays to their bottom line.

    Also, John has given a time line of 6 months after his inauguration while Hillary hasn't. Most likely she would wait two years for Bush's tax cuts to expire in 2011 since she cites the rollback as a source of paying for the plan. Basically, her health care plan would be analogous to Bush's war during her re-election campaign..."I started it let me finish it".

    Hillary is also the biggest receiver of the health sector's donations. Of the candidates polling over 10%, John Edwards is the last.

    I simply can't trust her. She's no populist and she's too calculating.

    Health care was supposed to be her most important issue and it took her 7 1/2 more months than John Edwards to come out with it.

    She probably wanted to see John's plan resonate with the voters first because she's too calculating to hedge her political capital on something so vital to this country.

    I'd support her if she got the nomination, but John Edwards is the much stronger candidate here.

    September 20, 2007 12:31 pm at 12:31 pm |
  21. Jessica, Saugus MA

    It is a VERY BAD Plan unless you want to increase the Healthcare GDP impact from 13% to 25% overnight.

    Shhh, Elizabeth... This is one of those items that the thief should keep.

    Irrespective, I am voting for the independent Pete Grasso for you are ALL a bunch of crooks.

    September 20, 2007 12:32 pm at 12:32 pm |
  22. Dr. Jonathan S Shapiro, Greenwich CT

    We need a national solution to health care. Small Business can not be expected to pay upwards of $30,000 a year for insurance of its older employees. If Hillary Clinton and John Edwards are for the same health plan, then count me in, too! They are both fantastic candidates.

    September 20, 2007 12:37 pm at 12:37 pm |
  23. Ron, Toronto, Ohio

    Guess it doesnt take long to copy ten pages and some notes.

    September 20, 2007 12:52 pm at 12:52 pm |
  24. dawn -- Gaithersburg, MD.

    All the healthcare plans are going to look very similar to each other because all have eschewed the single-payer route and kept the private health insurance infrastructure intact. Therefore, basic economic theory requires these plans to keep insurance companies from driving up costs or excluding folks with "pre-existing" conditions by providing a robust government alternative. Moreover, to further reduce costs, the plans need the un- and under-insured to pay what they can, hence the individual mandate. The rest has to come out of the public purse. It's commonsense, not brain surgery. Having said that, Sen. Clinton's plan looks to be smarter, cheaper, and more comprehensive than the Edwards' plan.
    On the other hand, the Edwards' plan, with allowances for its national scope, looks a lot like the Massachusetts plan. Both Sen. and Mrs. Edwards are trying to claim an originality for their plan that it doesn't possess while slamming Sen. Clinton for allegedly doing something that they've clearly done themselves.
    Finally, their campaign finance charge completely contradicts their "copycat" allegations. How can it simultaneously be true that healthcare lobbyists are buying influence with Sen. Clinton AND that her healthcare reform is almost exactly the same as the squeaky clean Edwards'? The Edwards' criticisms of Sen. Clinton now begin to verge on silly.

    September 20, 2007 12:54 pm at 12:54 pm |
  25. Bev McM Mesa, Az

    I like Elizabeth Edwards, but I mean how many different ways can a health care program be used or put together.
    Most likely John Edwards got the idea back when Hillary was highly criticized when she first brought it to the Americans attention in the early '90's. I do like the fact that it is vital to our health and progress of a nation to address these issues and take action.

    As much as we would all like to think we are the originators and founders of successful programs, the fact is other countries have been doing this far longer and more successfully than before we ever thought about starting them. However, I do believe it is in the best interest of the Democrats to work together–especially since everything else in the US is falling apart. Stay together–get along.

    September 20, 2007 12:56 pm at 12:56 pm |
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