Support was provided by the Fund for Investigative Journalism and the
Dick Goldensohn Fund, and is gratefully acknowledged. Liza Featherstone
is writing a book about Wal-Mart and women workers, to be published by
Basic Books in late 2004.
Back in the days when the United States government was overtly and covertly assisting Iraqi President Saddam Hussein and the most extreme Muslim fundamentalists in Afghanistan, US Navy Rear Admiral John Poindexter was in the thick of it.
Serving as the Reagan administration's national security adviser, Poindexter helped devise the secret Iran-Contra networks that the White House used to illegally sell arms to the fundamentalist dictators of Iran and then schemed to divert the ill-gotten gain to the Nicaraguan rebels who sought to overthrow the government of Nicaragua.
Poindexter's violations of the public trust were so extreme that in the late 1980s his story came to serve as an internationally recognized example of what happens when government officials begin to operate outside the legal and moral boundaries of civil society.
When the Clinton-Gore administration attempted to reform the nation's approach to financing health care in 1993 and 1994, the one proposal that administration aides always rejected was a single-payer health care system. Even when more Democratic members of the House endorsed a single-payer plan sponsored by US Rep. Jim McDermott, D-Washington, than any other proposal, the administration rejected attempts to cut costs and guarantee quality service for all with a fully government-funded system.
When Al Gore ran for president in 2000, he maintained his opposition to single-payer proposals. Such was Gore's opposition to investing in fundamental health care reforms that he went so far as to criticize costs associated with a plan, advanced by his Democratic primary challenger, Bill Bradley, to take modest steps toward universal coverage.
Now, however, as Gore edges toward another presidential campaign, he is singing a different tune. Wednesday night in New York, as he began a national book tour that many see as an attempt to raise his profile in advance of the 2004 contest, Gore announced that he had "reluctantly come to the conclusion" that the only way to respond to what he described as an "impending crisis" in health care is a "single-payer national health insurance plan" for all Americans.