At last night's Atlantic dinner and viewing party for the State of the Union, former Massachusetts governor Bill Weld held court about Scott Brown, health care, and President Obama. Before the speech, Weld told Atlantic national correspondent Jim Fallows that he chalked up Brown's win to "a certain amount of fatigue, spending fatigue, bailout fatigue, but not personal to the president." He also said, like many others have, that Martha Coakley's notable gaffes "had to be worth ten points, which means she would have won by five points without the gaffes." We spoke to him after the address.
You said you think health care is dead. Can you elaborate on that?
Well, I don’t think the votes are there for that. I think all the conservative and moderate Democrats are going to run for the hills because of fear of, uh, losing reelection. I noticed the president in his excellent remarks didn’t even refer to health-care reform; he referred to health insurance reform, suggesting a paring down of the initiative to a point where they might be, you know, pruning back alleged excesses of the insurance industry. That’s a far narrower bill.
Do you attribute this to the recent election in your state, the demise of the bill?
Yes, I do.
And you are happy about this?
No. You know, when a lot of people in Washington spend a lot of time to get something passed, I generally like to see them succeed so at least it will be a feeling of accomplishment, and then we can figure out later whether it was a good or bad idea. So I’m not an Obama basher — I endorsed him in 2008, and I’m not a particular foe of the health-care bill. I was up in Massachusetts campaigning with Scott Brown, and I will say you could cut the feeling with a knife there. There was very strong feeling that the government in Washington had gone too far in one direction, and it’s just partly not wanting one-party rule. It’s not a verdict on Obama; I think he’ll be fine. This could even be liberating — look what happened to Bill Clinton when he lost his supermajorities in Congress. He was freed to torment the Republicans for the next six years.
Your state already has universal health care for everyone, right?
Yeah. I think that’s fine. I’ve always been in favor of that bill that Governor Romney signed. I thought that was great.
Do you think we should do it all across the nation?
[Walks away — waves hand.]