While on the campaign trail, Sen. Barack Obama's constant refrain has been that on legislative matters of great import, he is the one major candidate who could bring all parties to the table. Health care? Hillary has too much baggage. Energy policy? Edwards would alienate the business community.
But back when he was an Illinois State Senator in 2003, Obama himself was thirsting for a fight. And when it came to a prescription drug bill being considered by Congress, he was willing to call out even Sen. Ted Kennedy, the liberal lion, for not showing enough political backbone.
"We've got to call up not just Republicans," said the Illinois Democrat, "but we got to call up Ted Kennedy and say, Ted, you're getting a little old now, and you've been a fighter for us before I don't know what's happening now, Ted get some spine and stand up to the Republicans."
Watch the video, obtained exclusively by the Huffington Post:
The appearance was at an AFL-CIO forum. And Obama was obviously passionate, as many Democrats were, that the then-pending drug bill wasted billions of tax dollars in payoffs to pharmaceutical companies, denied seniors a true choice on prescription drugs, and generally did little in reducing drug costs.
Kennedy, for his part, forged a bipartisan compromise because he believed the legislation would provide millions of seniors with drug benefits for the first time in history.
It should be noted that while on the campaign trail Obama has frequently argued that the Democratic Party should not compromise on its main principles. And on the issue of prescription drugs he has continued his call for the closing of the "doughnut hole" in Medicare Part D, which limits benefits for seniors with more than $2,250 but less than $5,100 in annual drug costs.
But in his run for the White House Obama has also positioned himself as the one candidate who could bridge partisan divides and forge effective legislative compromise. And on the topic of health care reform, he has stressed repeatedly that his primary opponent, Sen. Hillary Clinton, lacks the ability to do as much.
"I commend Senator Clinton for her health care proposal. It's similar to the one I put forth last spring, though my universal health care plan would go further in reducing the punishing cost of health care than any other proposal that's been offered in this campaign," Obama said. "But the real key to passing any health care reform is the ability to bring people together in an open, transparent process that builds a broad consensus for change. That's how I was able to pass health care reform in Illinois that covered an additional 150,000 children and their parents, and that's how we'll prevent the drug and insurance industry from defeating our reform efforts like they did in 1994."