RICHARD NIXON

RICHARD NIXON

The AARP recently pointed out in its monthly bulletin that President Richard Nixon in 1972 proposed a health-care reform program that was shot out of the sky, with U.S. Sen. Edward M. Kennedy wielding one of the guns.

“Nixon’s plan,” editor Jim Toedtman wrote, “required employers to provide health care insurance for their employees. It provided federal subsidies for the poor and created rural health clinics and a network of state committees to set industry standards, guarantee basic coverage and coordinate insurance for the self-employed. In the process, it would have extended health care coverage to almost all Americans.”

SEN. EDWARD M. KENNEDY

SEN. EDWARD M. KENNEDY

According to Toedtman’s commentary, Kennedy told the Boston Globe earlier this year that Nixon’s initiative was a “missed opportunity” and that, “We should have jumped on it.”

Should have. What were the chances that a Democrat, and a Kennedy at that, would support a sweeping program like that coming from Nixon? Ted Kennedy had his own ideas about health-care reform, and the twain never met. As a result, 37 years later, the problems perceived with health care then — cost and accessibility — are exponentially worse, partisanship still trumps the general welfare, and fundamental reform is no more likely, no matter what bill Congress may pass.

Nixon, meanwhile — if he can hear the debate from where he reposes — is probably as surprised as anyone to learn from his own party that he was a socialist.

JOHN KERRY

JOHN KERRY

We all know — Don’t we? — what the Democrats in Congress would be saying if it were Republicans who were trying to change a term-limit law to assure passage of legislation. And they’d be right. The campaign in Massachusetts to legislate a Democrat into the Senate by giving the governor the power to appoint a replacement for Edward M. Kennedy is unseemly, a terrible example of governance.

I am in the camp that believes that health-care reform is long overdue and that it should be passed while the Obama administration and the Democratic majorities in Congress — such as they are — are in place. But I can’t stomach the desperate measure now in the works in Boston, an act of expediency that should embarrass everyone involved — including Sen. John Kerry, who is promoting it.

MICHAEL BLOOMBERG

MICHAEL BLOOMBERG

This measure is of the same stripe and odor as the action taken last year by the New York City Council to alter the law that would have prevented Mayor Michael Bloomberg from running for a third four-year term. Bloomberg, who asked for the change, signed the bill himself with nary a blush.

Although it’s none of my business, I don’t object to Bloomberg serving as mayor another four years or, for that matter, another eight years. But the law should be changed based on some intrinsic principle, not based on the near-term needs and desires of a politician or a political party.

MITT ROMNEY

MITT ROMNEY

As for Massachusetts, the hypocrisy of what is under way there is astounding. The executive power to make an appointment to a vacant Senate seat was rescinded five years ago by the Democratic majority in the legislature in order to prevent Republican Gov. Mitt Romney from filling the seat if John Kerry had been elected president.

It should go without saying that self-interest is the worst motive for changing the law. The grim implication of these shenanigans is that Congress is unable to function except as a partisan cock-pit and that there is not enough political leadership or political will in the legislature or the executive department to overcome the extremism and bullheadedness. A fine nation we have become if we can reform a broken health system only by sleight-of-hand.