Gephardt compares Dean Medicaid stance to Newt Gingrich

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(Host) Democratic presidential candidate Dick Gephardt is highlighting his differences with Howard Dean on Social Security and Medicare. In a conference call with reporters on this afternoon, Gephardt compared Dean’s position on these issues in 1995, with former House Speaker Newt Gingrich. Dean says he’s disappointed that Gephardt is resorting to scare tactics and guilt by association.

VPR’s Bob Kinzel reports:

(Kinzel) The events of this week clearly show that Dean’s rivals for the Democratic presidential nomination see the former governor as a front runner who needs to be taken down a few notches.

Earlier this week, Connecticut Senator Joseph Lieberman accused Dean of abandoning Israel as an ally in the Middle East. Dean had suggested the United States shouldn’t take sides in that conflict if this country wants to be an effective negotiator in that part of the world.

Then North Carolina Senator John Edwards sharply criticized Dean for a comment made at a debate on Tuesday night sponsored by the Black Congressional Caucus. Dean said that he was “the only white politician who discusses racial issues with white audiences.” Edwards said the statement was a disservice to all the work done by many white politicians to further the civil rights agenda.

Now Gephardt is going after Dean. In a conference call with reporters, Gephardt highlighted Dean’s support in 1995 for a plan to turn Medicare into a managed care program; a position Gephardt says was championed by former Republican House Speaker Newt Gingrich:

(Gephardt) “Governor Dean supported those cuts, supported turning Medicare over to a wholly managed care system. I was leading the fight then and now against the privatization of Medicare and deep cuts in Medicare, and I’m glad we won that fight. Gingrich shut the government down over it, but we prevailed because we had the right position.”

(Kinzel) The Dean campaign immediately responded the Gephardt statement. Campaign Manager Joe Trippi said it’s clear that Gephardt made the comments because the Missouri Congressman is trailing Dean in most polls in Iowa and New Hampshire. Trippi says Dean considered a managed care approach for Medicare as one of many options in that debate:

(Trippi) “There’s no Democrat in this race, none that’s anywhere near Newt Gingrich on anything. And to try to do that, to try to link those two names up – on the one hand we’re the McGovern guy, and now we’re the Newt Gingrich guy. Would they makeup their mind?”

(Kinzel) Trippi says he’s disappointed that Gephardt is “resorting to the politics of the past by engaging in name calling, guilt by association and scare tactics.”

For Vermont Public Radio, I’m Bob Kinzel in Montpelier.

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