Mario Cuomo on Kennedy’s Pragmatism, Health Care

Health care advocates are trying to use the passing of Ted Kennedy to help galvanize support for the stalled health care legislation in Washington.

One conservative pundit told me today that the effort to associate the "liberal lion" with a bill that is already giving Republicans and moderate Democrats pause will further polarize the debate, and make winning support from Republicans and moderates harder.

Former New York governor (and liberal icon) Mario Cuomo disagrees.

“Tell that to John McCain. Tell that to Orrin Hatch. Tell it to Richard Lugar. Tell it to all the old Republican lions. They’ll probably be offended by that notion,” Cuomo told me in a brief telephone interview. He said Republicans that are praising Kennedy’s legacy “are not just being nice,” but rather, expressing genuine appreciation for life, work, and record of bi-partisanship.

Associating Kennedy with the bill, or even putting his name on it “is not going to have a magical effect. It’s nice,” said Cuomo, “but to say that it will make it as a bill, or kill it as a bill, is absurd.”

Cuomo said Kennedy’s progressive record, is rivaled only by his record of winning support from those who did not share his ideology.

Remember Kennedy only as a liberal lion is “a brutal simplification” of his “basic operating principals,” Cuomo said. For Kennedy, there was “a place for ideology, but it was not first place. First place was for benign pragmatism.”