September 20th, 2007
05:38 PM ET
14 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. Billy J

    Elizabeth has a right to point out that her husband laid out everything he believes in a loooong time ago. Instead of waiting till he has to say something to stay relevant, like like Hillary.
    Edwards is the only populist candidate that has a chance at getting elected, especially if Wesley Clark would accept Vice with him.
    Hillary is to chummy with the establishment. Obama has too many uber liberals. Edwards is the best choice for an executive that will shoot straight with the country and defend the middle class against the established power mongers.

    September 20, 2007 07:16 pm at 7:16 pm |
  2. SB Maryland

    1. I'm surprised to see so many women taking part in wife bashing.

    2. Thank you Elizabeth Edwards, courageous speaker of truth.

    September 20, 2007 07:28 pm at 7:28 pm |
  3. Vanessa, Chattanooga Tn.

    I think that Mrs. Edward needs to get a grip bout who's stilling from who. If Sen. Edward's healthcare plan was so great, then he should have copyright his plan. I wouldn't vote for Sen. Edward, if he as the last man standing!

    September 20, 2007 07:34 pm at 7:34 pm |
  4. Jennifer, Houston, TX


    Actually, the doctors never told Mrs. Edwards that she had only "possibly 5 years to live." Yes, her cancer is incurable, but she could in fact live a great many years. Had she not discovered the spots during an xray for an unrelated condition, she may have gone years without even knowing her cancer had returned. Currently, she is receiving treatment that is stabilizing her cancer, treating it as though it is a chronic condition, like diabetes.

    Also, they are bringing their children on the campaign trail with them. Imagine how exciting that must be! What a wonderful experience for them to reflect on when they are adults!

    Also, I posted earlier to say that Mrs. Edwards is responding to questions asked of her by reporters, and I would expect her to answer them honestly, rather than stare at them blankly, so why are we criticizing her? I also mentioned that John Edwards did in fact respond to HRC's announcement, before this interview with his wife, so there is no need to criticize him for hiding behind his wife. He isn't – he just isn't receiving coverage of what he says.

    For some reason unbeknownest to me, CNN pulled that comment, which contained no rudeness or profanity, or anything offensive. So, I'll try again.

    September 20, 2007 07:51 pm at 7:51 pm |
  5. Tom Dedham, Mass

    Funny how you Clintonista's are dismissing her and she should shut up, blah, blah.

    But isn't that what you loved so much about Hillary, she was outspoken and protective of her husband in the face of the right-wing conspiracy?

    It's not like Hillary "was home baking cookies". Remember that immortal line from the Queen.

    September 20, 2007 08:30 pm at 8:30 pm |
  6. Leigh, Penna.

    I like Mrs. Edwards and she should continue to speak out!
    She's a very bright and well spoken woman.
    And she speaks the truth about Hillary!

    I'd rather a president with a strong, intelligent wife then what we have now, a first lady in a fog!

    September 20, 2007 08:35 pm at 8:35 pm |
  7. Kathy, El Centro, CA

    My best guess is that Elizabeth Edwards is jealous.

    Both Hillary and Elizabeth are about the same age, very smart women, feminists, law school grads, former working attorneys, and wives of
    ambitious (and gorgeous) men. Look what Hillary has done with her life! Even without being elected president, she's been very near the pinnacle of power in the US as first lady and now a two-time senator. Elizabeth Edwards never made it past a bankruptcy lawfirm and now she's a stay-at-home mom (not that there's anything wrong with that...). Some commentators have said she's angry, and perhaps she is as her husband's campaign can't seem to move beyond 12 percent. But the root cause of this sniping, I think, is her seething jealousy. Remember the comment Elizabeth made about Hillary that Elizabeth thinks she has more joy in her life because of her life choices? Why would this issue occur to anyone except out of jealousy?

    And we all know that no one has bigger universal health care credentials than Hillary. She's been fighting for it since 1992. Elizabeth's sniping is just plain bizarre. I predict Edwards numbers will go down. BTW, I'm an Obama supporter, but I hate this one-sided girl fight.

    September 20, 2007 08:58 pm at 8:58 pm |
  8. Uma, mpls, MN

    When Hillary speaks about health care issues she speaks from her heart. Elizabeth should shout up her mouth. Hillary doesn't need to copy Edwards Health care plan which is carbon copy of Canadian health care system. Hillary knows that Health Care System has different stake holders and successful leader bring the entire stake holder together to make change successful; other wise it fail like in 1992.
    Go Hill you are the best, let looser whine.

    September 20, 2007 09:48 pm at 9:48 pm |
  9. Aj, srq, Florida

    I guess u cannot call her names which is a good thing right not, seems to be saving my morals and personal ethics. Hilary came up with this plan a decade ago...granted it did not work, she is trying again. At the time people opposed the idea because it was new and seemed scary. Now many years later it seems to be the topic of interest at the presidential debates!!! We shouldnt wait for great thinkers like her to be waisted and have her ideas copied ten or twenty years later! It was her idea, your husband stole it, I know we not exactly on the same drugs as she is cause we dont have cancer, no pun inteded, but this is ridiculous!
    Go Hilary 2008!!! And shes great with foreign affairs which is what we need right now, we are getting attacked by every country lets get someone who knows what theyre doing finally so we dont have a repeat history or the Ottoman, Greek etc. empires.

    September 20, 2007 10:11 pm at 10:11 pm |
  10. Joshua, Atlanta, GA

    I think all of these candidates, democrat and republican, need to have a reality check. This idea of health coverage, either by the state or federal government will never work. Clinton talks about building on the parts of the system that work and fixing the problems that exists, but her plan neither anybody elses fixes the problem.

    Lets take a look at this ladies and gentlemen. What is the real problem with our health care system? Is it that over 40 million Americans are without coverage? Or is it just the American people that are the problem?

    All of the large and costly (in more sense than money) plans are just a band-aid over a huge cut. Blood is going to pour over this little fix-it solution, and then we are going to have to not only fix the problem down the road, but we are going to feel the sting of the band-aid being pulled off.

    September 20, 2007 10:16 pm at 10:16 pm |
  11. Rose Hann New London, CT

    Elizabeth, that is a terrible accusation. As a lawyer you need to pay attention to what you accuse people of.
    You sound like a woman so desparate to be first lady, you are making your husband look whimpy! Get a book or three and read them, this way your mind is open and your mouth is closed. Please? It's getting old.

    September 20, 2007 10:41 pm at 10:41 pm |
  12. Henry Miller, Cary, NC

    To Steve who thinks that health care is a right–would you mind citing the article of the Constitution that stipulates that? Or the Amendment? It seems to have slipped my mind...

    The facts of the matter are these: That government does not create money–all it can do is take it from productive people; and that health care costs money. By attempting to assert your "right" to health care, you are attempting to assert that it's your "right" to compel me and millions of other people to pay your bills.

    I don't think so.

    September 20, 2007 11:23 pm at 11:23 pm |
  13. Henry Miller, Cary, NC

    To CATHY of MILLTOWN INDIANA: I'm sorry you don't have medical insurance, but why should it by my responsibility to subsidise it for you? I have a wife and three kids whose medical bills I have to pay–I don't really want to add to that the burden of your bills.

    September 20, 2007 11:33 pm at 11:33 pm |
  14. dawn -- Gaithersburg, MD.

    Sean in Houston:

    The difference between President Clinton and Mrs. Edwards is not that people praise a man for being strong and condemn a woman for the same trait. The difference is that President Clinton believes and has repeatedly stated that he can strongly support his wife WITHOUT being negative about the other candidates. Now if Mrs. Edwards would say and do the same, I don't think anyone would have a problem with her at all.

    September 21, 2007 09:41 am at 9:41 am |
  15. laurinda,shokan,ny

    If I was Mrs. Edwards, I would be more concerned about John's $400 haircuts that he is giving the stylist who is most likely donating it to Hillary so that he or she can have a personal meeting with a member of congress.

    September 21, 2007 09:59 am at 9:59 am |
  16. Mary, Beaver, PA

    I've heard too much from this woman. I've had enough of her, so I certainly don't want her man in the White House so that she can continue to do his talking for him. All of the spouses of all of the candidates can shut up now. They aren't running for office, even though they act as if they are.

    September 21, 2007 10:03 am at 10:03 am |
  17. Haven't Decided Yet, Phx AZ

    I find it depressing that Edwards and Obama are using their wives to attack Clinton – it's as if they are trivializing her bid for the nomination, like its a women's Coffee Klatsch.

    She is a legitimate candidate. Trying to marginalize her like this because she is a woman makes me very concerned for how much the lip-service Edwards ad Obama give as being for women's rights is merely for show.

    September 21, 2007 12:43 pm at 12:43 pm |
  18. Whitney, Ames Iowa

    I do not believe that she stole the idea from Edwards. It is an idea that has been around for a long time and very similar systems are implemented in various countries.

    But if she would have stolen it I would have said great. If you expect every candidate to make up their own stances and not be able to use others for fear of "copying", then you will never get a candidate who wants the best of everything and end up with a lot of good ideas going no where.

    If I was a candidate I'd wait until all the stances on the issues were stated by the other candidates, and then choose those that the people clearly supported and desired the most. Then I'd have a platform built on what the people wanted, instead of stabbing in the dark to what was best for everyone.

    September 21, 2007 03:23 pm at 3:23 pm |
  19. Brianna Webb, McEwen, TN

    You can call it what you want but only Senator Clinton has the intelligence to make it work...

    September 23, 2007 11:20 pm at 11:20 pm |
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