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. Loyda, WDC

    Dear Mr. Edwards:

    Please stop using your wife to attack Ms. Clinton.... It looks bad on you...

    I mean, comoe on!!! you are the one running for president, yet you can even talk about a woman's ideas....

    And you sell your self as the campion of women, but you can't do the dirty job of attacking one????

    September 20, 2007 01:01 pm at 1:01 pm |
  2. Kim Midland, MI

    It seems as if Mrs. Edwards is trying to get John elected by following in the footsteps of the Clintons, by making the future 1st lady as unappealing as possible.

    September 20, 2007 01:02 pm at 1:02 pm |
  3. Robert, Cleveland, OH

    Here we go again: Elizabeth Edwards and her BIG, BIG MOUTH. Only one person can be compared to her – Michelle Obama. I wish we have a debate between them two (and Bill Clinton as a referee) :))

    September 20, 2007 01:03 pm at 1:03 pm |
  4. Jon, Lincoln, NE

    I agree Jessica, she shouldn't open her mouth about this terrible plan. Clinton said “she could envision a day when ‘you have to show proof to your employer that you’re insured as a part of the job interview—like when your kid goes to school and has to show proof of vaccination". In other words, you’ll need HillaryCare in order to get a job, no word on how you’ll be able to afford it after months of unemployment. Call it a Catch-22, one the scribes over at the Associated Press did bother to mention.

    September 20, 2007 01:05 pm at 1:05 pm |
  5. Tim, Halifax, NS

    Can we hear a little less Liz and a little more John? Maybe I missed the news that the name on the candidacy papers was changed. She's clearly an intelligent and well-spoken woman with a decent amount of 'presence' in front of a crowd, but, if she really wants to be the centre of attention, she might as well just run.

    September 20, 2007 01:05 pm at 1:05 pm |
  6. Eduardo, Los Angeles, CA

    Who is running for President here...Mr. or Mrs. Edwards? Can't he speak up for himself?

    September 20, 2007 01:07 pm at 1:07 pm |
  7. rand sisk, nevada

    Every time Hillary proposes something, Elizabeth starts making noise. I would guess the Edwards are running scared and are now trying every thing they can to stay in this race. I can't wait until this primary is over and hopefully we have our first female presidential candidate and future president.

    September 20, 2007 01:07 pm at 1:07 pm |
  8. DT Wisconsin

    It's funny how John is afraid to go after Hillary himself, and uses his wife instead. Of course, he claims to be the best choice for the female vote, so he can't be seen "picking on the girl". This isn't the first time, of course.

    Edwards is a weakling, and a slimy one, at that. And I can't believe I just defended Hillary.

    September 20, 2007 01:08 pm at 1:08 pm |
  9. Jesse, Burnsville, MN

    So Robert from Cleveland, can we all assume that it is your view that a woman should just keep her mouth shut.

    I truly hope fellow Democrats will begin to realize that it is John Edwards that is coming out with substantive positions and policies on issues such as health care, poverty, and national security. He is the most ready to lead today.

    September 20, 2007 01:10 pm at 1:10 pm |
  10. Larry, West Covina, CA

    What a soar loser! I see the Edwards' resort to mudslinging when they know they can't win!

    HILLARY 2008

    September 20, 2007 01:11 pm at 1:11 pm |
  11. Daniel Cole, New Bern NC

    The problem with both these plans is that it assumes health care is a right. It is not it is something you earn by working.

    John has no chance in a general election because he is a socialist if the democracts nominate him they are crazy and will loose. I have been a life long democract but I could never bring myself to vote for edwards.

    September 20, 2007 01:13 pm at 1:13 pm |
  12. David, Dallas Tx

    Obama raises cash from the American people with few strings attached, Clinton raises cash from lobbyists seeking insider access, and Edwards raises not so much cash, period.

    Do we think Obama and Edwards are principled and Clinton corrupt? Or do we think Obama (and Edwards?) are idealistic, with Clinton the only one of the three who understands how to play the game to succeed in Washington?

    I don't want a president who doesn't understand how things work, doesn't understand how to get things done. I want my president to be competent, able to broker deals and make things happen. I want him or her to understand how power in Washington works.

    I just wish we had a candidate who had demonstrated political acumen on the national and global stage AND wasn't so dependent on special interest money.

    September 20, 2007 01:16 pm at 1:16 pm |
  13. J, Eagan, MN

    Daniel Cole, if you do not think health care is a right, then you are not a Democrat!!!

    September 20, 2007 01:18 pm at 1:18 pm |
  14. Susan, Binghamton, NY

    It seems as Mrs. Edwards is becoming more and more bitter in her public appearances. As a fellow breast cancer patient, I do understand her fervor for making a statement but the obvious nastiness is making the Edwards campaign less and less attractive.

    September 20, 2007 01:20 pm at 1:20 pm |
  15. Ian, Los Angeles, CA

    The one thing I don't understand is the nastiness that these candidates have for each other. I don't want to watch the Edwards camp fighting the Clinton camp. It seems that John Edwards has been attacking anything that walks by him. I know that they want the nomination, but the differences between the Dems and the Republicans is slim to none at this point. Why do I want to vote for any of you?

    September 20, 2007 01:20 pm at 1:20 pm |
  16. Jeffrey, Salt Lake City, Utah

    Two words: Can it, Mrs. Edwards. CAN IT! The only thing your husband knows about healthcare he learned in the courtroom where he made his riches taking advantage of a broken, inefficient system.

    And in parting, Mrs. Edwards, here's another word for you: DESPERATION!

    September 20, 2007 01:21 pm at 1:21 pm |
  17. J.C Vette

    I am so sick of these people attacking each other! Aren't Americans supposed to be on the same side? I never hear Hillary bad mouthing anyone unless she is forced to defend herself. So far she's the only one that has showed any class. As for the "wives", they need to keep their opinion to themselves and let the person running speak up. They're only the "wife" of someone running for president – you're no one yet!!

    September 20, 2007 01:23 pm at 1:23 pm |
  18. cj

    Mrs. Edwards is about the facts and she always gets it right irrespective of the tone. Small business owners will get credits to help offset there costs. Did you undersand the program? Insurance pools will allow lower premiums. This is not a government program. It seems to me healthy employees come to work, right?

    September 20, 2007 01:25 pm at 1:25 pm |
  19. Tricia M Charlottetown PEI

    "I truly hope fellow Democrats will begin to realize that it is John Edwards that is coming out with substantive positions and policies on issues such as health care, poverty, and national security. He is the most ready to lead today."
    Posted By Jesse, Burnsville, MN

    I bet you said the same about Bush. Too bad the majority believed you then but I sure hope they've learned their lesson!

    Matter over Mind


    September 20, 2007 01:26 pm at 1:26 pm |
  20. Jim, Austin, Texas

    Give me a break. Hillary has been working on this issue for more than 15 years. Edwards just jumped in because it is now politically correct.

    September 20, 2007 01:26 pm at 1:26 pm |
  21. Jim B. Malta, NY

    Universal Health Care? We have universal health care already. Every person in the United States has access to medical facilities if they need it. The only issue is who pays for it, which, granted is THE issue.

    I am surprised at Mrs. Edwards' comments as it seems all politians' plans for health care are just taking the strength of weaknesses of the other international countries' healthcare systems. At least Mrs. Clinton has the experience to know what doesn't work....she's at least tried it. Is a politician's plan REALLY unique and original now?

    Who's to say, or not to say, that John Edwards didn't take Mrs. Clinton's healthcare plan from 11+ years ago and used it as a foundation for his ideas now?

    I wish the Democrats would tone down their criticism of each other until weeks of the primary (or not at all). They should be a unified front, especially with the low ratings of congress and the lack of accountability in our government.

    Maybe it would be best for us to experience a terrorist attack, lose thousands of americans in fire and blood so we can finally remember the unity we faced after 9/11 and build a country that our ancestors would be proud of... I'd rather just remember 9/11, skip the attack, and unite now, but hey this is just me. – United we stand.

    September 20, 2007 01:27 pm at 1:27 pm |
  22. Raju Nair, Chicago

    Let's make one point clear:
    John Edwards doesn't have the spine to talk his mind. He is using his wife(sympathetic cancer Survivor) to citicize his opponents
    If he is elected President, then it will be his wife who will be running this country just like Dick Cheney

    September 20, 2007 01:28 pm at 1:28 pm |
  23. Michael, Gallatin, TN

    I am beginning to think I don't even want this woman in the vice presidential mansion.

    September 20, 2007 01:29 pm at 1:29 pm |
  24. joan wheeler

    Spouses of candidates should shut up and sit down! This is really unnecessary back-biting. A candidate should have the guts to make his/her own accusations and not ask a mouthpiece to do the dirty work. It makes both Edwards look bad...just when I was beginning to like John a bit more than Hillary. Maybe she (Mrs. Edwards) can just say she doesn't remember saying it.

    September 20, 2007 01:31 pm at 1:31 pm |
  25. Deb in Kansas

    [sigh] I can't wait for the day when people will be saying "I wish President ______ will tell her husband to shut up!" I really get tired of hearing people bash the male candidate's spouses. WAKE UP! The day of thinking that women are less intelligent is OVER! A lot of these wives are very intelligent and could do a heck of a lot better than what we have in the White House now!!!

    September 20, 2007 01:32 pm at 1:32 pm |
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