Onetime Hillary Rival Jim Cooper Wants Love for Clinton Delegates 

Jim Cooper, the congressman from Tennessee’s 5th District, was the representative from the adjoining 4th district and a candidate for the U.S. Senate in 1994 when Hillary Clinton was in charge of preparing a national health plan. Cooper was advancing one, too, but was –- we now know from an abundance of recent disclosures --shut out of the First Lady’s deliberations.

In the end, Hillary Clinton’s plan famously failed, and no plan was ever passed. Cooper, whose campaign fortunes that year would have been boosted by the success of anybody’s health-care plan, lost his Senate race to the GOP’s Fred Thompson and was out of office.

Fade to 2007, when Cooper, now back in Congress and representing Nashville, had become head of the Barack Obama campaign in Tennessee, and, not exactly by coincidence, Obama was pushing a non-mandatory health-care plan very similar to Cooper’s in 1994.

On Tuesday,just hours before Hillary Clinton was to speak to the Democratic National Convention Denver, Cooper addressed the Tennessee delegation at lunch. His main call was for party unity, as he held out hope that Tennessee, which has gone Republican in recent years, might end up in Obama’s column in 2008. He had nothing but praise for Clinton, his onetime rival, and predicted that she would go on to become “a great career as a senator.”

In an interview afterward, Cooper spoke on the sensitive issue of bringing all of Hillary Clinton’s people under Obama’s roof., “We have to give the Hillary delegates time to heal,” he said.”We can’t pressure them at all. We’ll love and respect them and they’ll love and respect us in return. We’ll have this solved by November.”

For all the prognoses of national pundits concerning an intractable corps of unforgiving Hillaryites who might either sit on heir hands or even vote for Republican John McCain, Cooper said firmly, “I don’t know of any in Tennessee. But the Republicans are enjoying trying to divide us and split us apart.”

Did he take satisfaction from ending up close to the catbird seat in the health-care debate? “Well, what did Vince Lombardi say? ‘It’s not whether you win or lose, it’s how you play the game.’ Pause. “Of course, he had a pretty good winning record.”

Cooper, who is now backing the current Wyden-Bennett proposal in Congress, said, “We will have a good health–care plan of some sort if Barack Obama is elected. John McCain won’t do anything. The main thing is to have a plan that is completely bipartisan. Barack’s campaign rhetoric fits very well with that.”

He reiterated: “It has to be bipartisan. Or it will never be passed. That was the key mistake of the ‘90s. We cannot relieve the mistakes of the ‘90s.”

He didn’t need to remind anybody whose mistakes those were.

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