John Williamson, a Veterans Affairs Department doctor in Utah, says that as he rode Hillary Rodham Clinton's Health Security Express buses across America, he saw symptoms of what he fears may kill health-care reform.
"At every stop, there was well-organized opposition. They all had the same signs, calling us the `Phony Express,' " he said. "But their propaganda says exactly opposite of what this bill would do."Williamson added, "That's why I had to ride the express. I know what this bill will do. I was one of the notorious 500 (advisers to Mrs. Clinton) who wrote this."
He was among only a few who rode the express buses all the way from the beginning - in Portland, Ore. - to the climax rally at the White House on Wednesday.
"It took 13 days," Williamson said.
Protesters were waiting for them at the White House, too, just as they had been along the entire trip - chanting, "My health, my choice" and waving anti-Clinton placards at the express buses as they waited to pull up to a White House gate.
"They show the intense organized opposition to this," Williamson said. "But we are here for the people, not special interests. This group (of reform riders) is truly a bipartisan effort."
Williamson said the low point of the trip for him came in North Platte, Neb.
"There were a lot of protesters who surrounded us. Some of us were in wheelchairs and had a hard time moving. The protesters said, `We shouldn't have to pay for your wheelchair.' One said that she needed help. Some protesters shouted, `You don't deserve to live.' "
Williamson said, "A couple of the people who are disabled who were attacked so viciously just broke down and cried."
He added, "We've seen their signs saying they don't want to pay for abortion, or they don't think they should pay for others' health care. That's not what this is about."
Williamson said, "What this is about is providing universal coverage. That's essential."
He said he has studied for years how to improve the health-care system - including 19 years of work at Johns Hopkins University and two at Harvard University. "It's my passion. And that's why I am here. And that's why I hope it passes."
Williamson said he plans to visit with members of Utah's congressional delegation to lobby for Clinton-style reform over the next few days.