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While it is too early to pronounce the current administration's efforts to reform the nation's health-care system as "dead on arrival," many within the president's camp are already beginning the agonizing process of introspection: What went wrong? What have we learned? Where do we go from here?

Although the reasons for this failure are varied and complex, I submit that they can all be traced to a simple root cause: The president never believed in (or called upon) the ingenuity of the American people.The debate over health care reform started amidst the very best of intentions. Medical costs were skyrocketing, causing all manner of unwanted effects, from difficulty obtaining insurance to grossly underestimated federal budget targets. From the grassroots level, calls for action began to be heard: Fix the inequities within the system, and try to make health care available to the largest possible number of people.

From this well-meaning inception, however, candidate and later President Clinton made a serious mistake. Instead of using the "bully pulpit" to call upon American society to solve the problem, he presented them with a bewildering maze of secret committees, long-winded technical explanations and harsh confrontations with the existing delivery system.

He thought that all the pieces were in place, but one was missing: the issue had no soul. In seizing a political opportunity, Clinton never really made his objective come alive in the hearts of the public . . . something every truly great leader must do.

However, it still not too late. Rather than pen-waving, rather than zealous, often unjustified attacks on the current structure, rather than dogmatic micromanagement, the president should simply ask the people to "buy into" the idea of universal coverage, however it is achieved, and then leave society alone to solve the problem. He would be amazed at the results.

Michael D. Bush