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TELLICIE CE Wham, Bam, Thank You, Gramm illustration by Mike Krone Gramm’s profile, announcing he would no longer conduct public appearances on McCain’s behalf. The candidate himself had to assert on the campaign trail that, urn, no, he doesn’t think Americans are a bunch of whiners. He said Gramm would have little role in his administration, telling reporters, “I think that Sen. Gramm would be in serious consideration for ambassador to Belarus, although I’m not sure the citizens of Minsk would welcome that.” Gramm tried to clarify his remarks, claiming he had described America’s leaders as “whiners,” not the public. He stood by the “mental recession” comment. The controversy lingeredprodded along gleefully by Democratsand Gramm had to step down, telling CNN he would “join the growing number of rank-and-file McCain supporters:’ Well, that and return to his work as an executive and lobbyist for UBS, the Swiss banking giant. We likely haven’t heard the last of Phil Gramm. He and McCain are good friends. Should the Arizona senator win the White House, Gramm could still be a front-runner for a key economic position, and it wouldn’t be in Minsk. Dave Mann Universal Debate n our May 30 issue, Patricia Kilday Hart reported on Phil Gramm’s influence on John McCain’s presidential candidacy. The curmudgeonly former Texas senator and devout free-market ideologue was, until recently, national co-chair of McCain’s campaign and a principal economic adviser. Given that Gramm sponsored legislation that helped create today’s mortgage crisis and other economic problems, we headlined our piece “McCain’s Gramm Gamble.” So that bet didn’t pay off. On July 18, Gramm resigned from the McCain campaign. While we would love to claim that our storywhich spearheaded a number of critical media reports on Grammstarted the controversy that led to his departure, the former senator actually stirred up the scandal all by himself. In an interview with The Washington Times, published July 10, Gramm was asked about the country’s numerous economic woes: the stock market tumbling, housing prices falling, wages stagnating, and prices rising. Gramm’s empathy was on display. “We have sort of become a nation of whiners:’ he told the Times. “You just hear this constant whining, complaining about a loss of competitiveness, America in decline. … You’ve heard of mental depression; this is a mental recession.” Those sentiments didn’t go over well with the public or with McCain’s political team. The campaign immediately reduced HEALTH CARE REFORM’S DIVIDED FRONT Democrats again are talking seriously about enacting universal health care. With majorities in Congress and perhaps soon a Democratic White House, the moment for reform seems near. But wouldn’t you know it, Democrats are bitterly divided over what kind of reform would be best and how to sell it. Those divisions were abundantly clear when liberal bloggers stampeded into Austin recently for the 2008 Netroots Nation gathered in the state with the highest percentage of uninsured residents in the country. Twenty percent of Texans lack health insurance. At a panel on health care reform, bloggers and medical professionals tussled over which plan was better: single-payer, government-run health insurance for all, or a hybrid that mixes government plans with remnants of the private system. One major flashpoint was the recently launched Health Care for America Now campaign, a $40 million effort started by prominent progressivesElizabeth Edwards is the spokespersonto advocate universal health care. Not everyone is jumping on board the group’s campaign. Some panelists said the initiative would allow insurance companies to remain an integral part of the system. “The insurance 4 THE TEXAS OBSERVER AUGUST 8, 2008