The old "I said it, but what I really meant was..." game was on display again last week.
"The violent, extremist interests in this country that are trying to keep healthcare out of the reach of ordinary American working people are a disgrace to the American dream." That was President Clinton, speaking in Detroit about healthcare. But what was he talking about, exactly?
Republicans naturally thought they were the target, and they lashed back at the president. Senate Majority Leader Bob Dole (R-Kan.) said Mr. Clinton's rhetoric had reached "new and unprecedented levels in both partisanship and rancor."
His press secretary, Dee Dee Myers, had a different take on it: She said the remarks apparently were aimed at a small number of anti-abortion activists who resort to violence-like the gunman who killed an abortion doctor and his escort in Pensacola, Fla., last month. She measured her words, not wanting to upset the entire anti-abortion cause.
"What happened in Pensacola is an example of violent extremists," she said. "I don't think the president wants to paint the whole anti-abortion movement with that brush, but nonetheless there are people who are willing to use extreme means to inject certain very emotional issues into the healthcare debate to block (reform)."
Ms. Myers, who had not asked Mr. Clinton about the comment, said she did not know exactly how the "violent, extremist interests" are affecting the healthcare debate, but controversy over whether to cover abortion costs in a government healthcare plan threatens to tie up the reform bills.
Everything clear now?
Seeking donations. Like prodding smokers to kick the habit, convincing Americans to donate organs is a difficult sell. Planting the idea in people's minds takes years.
That's why the 2-year-old Coalition on Donation turned to the message-control experts.
A new campaign from the Advertising Council-the New York-based not-for-profit outfit that brought you "Friends Don't Let Friends Drive Drunk" and "Only You Can Prevent Forest Fires"-is aimed at getting people to think about becoming organ and tissue donors.
Over the next five to seven years, the Advertising Council will provide $25 million in pro bono services. Jerry & Ketchum, a New York-based advertising agency, donated $1.5 million in creative services. And the Richmond, Va.-based Coalition on Donation raised $400,000 to cover production and distribution expenses.
The theme of the multimedia campaign-"Share your life. Share your decision"-now gives organ donation organizations "a single unifying message," said Edie Servino, administrator of the Coalition on Donation. "The ultimate goal is that you won't have people dying because of the wait for organs," she said.
Ad-verse reaction.Outgoing Democratic National Committee Chairman David Wilhelm may, to some extent, be a victim of his own cleverness.
According to published reports, one of the factors that led to his demise was congressional anger over ads run by the DNC-and endorsed by the White House-that called on Americans to demand the same guaranteed healthcare coverage that Congress has. Democratic members apparently were not pleased with the ads, which they felt stirred up anti-incumbent sentiment.
"It was certainly a factor, but if the Democrats were doing well in the mid-term (1994) elections, no one would have said a word about the ads," one healthcare lobbyist said.
Mr. Wilhelm said he will step down from his post after the November elections.
Surfin' safari.OK, so some people in the healthcare community have it a little better than others. In most places, fund-raisers take place in hotel ballrooms, and guests are in black tie and formal dresses. But the University of California San Diego Cancer Center is holding a benefit surfing contest and luau in the warm waters off La Jolla.
Some of the biggest names in the surfing world are teaming up with the San Diego medical and business community on the event. The first UCSD Cancer Center Luau and Longboard Invitational will take place Aug. 21 on the beach in front of Scripps Institution of Oceanography in La Jolla.
"The event is designed to be fun for everyone, whether they love to surf, or just love great food, music and dancing on one of San Diego's most beautiful beaches," said J. Samuel Armstrong, event co-chair and immediate past-president of the cancer center foundation board. Rub it in, dude.
Participants in the surfing contest include male and female surfing champions, some Hollywood types and Nobel Laureate Kary Mullis, honorary chairman of the event. Mr. Mullis, who invented a method for extracting DNA from blood and hair samples called polymerase chain reaction, is an inveterate surfer himself.
The contest will be followed by a beach party luau featuring exotic Pacific Rim cuisine, live music and prize drawings. To ensure guests have fun in the sun safely, doctors from UCSD Medical Center will hand out free sunscreen and sun safety information, and will conduct skin-cancer screenings.
Quotables."Our partners of the past are our competitors of the future."-Richard Neeson, president and chief operating officer of QCC, the for-profit holding company for Independence Blue Cross, Philadelphia, about hospitals becoming insurers. Mr. Neeson made the comment during a panel discussion last week at the American Hospital Association's annual convention in Dallas.
"Sept. 12, Oct. 7 or 14. Heavens crumble, men turn into dogs, the sky rains blood, the dead walk among the living, both Democratic and Republican leadership meet with administration in a closed summit. Emerge with patched-up plan that passes on the last minute of the last day."-from a healthcare reform timetable published by Natwest Securities Corp., a New York-based investment banking firm.