Patients’ Bill of Rights

Kevin Drum provides a timeline showing that George W. Bush was once vehemently against a so-called patients’ bill of rights, took credit for it in 2000 even though it only passed over his veto, and is now joining a lawsuit in the Supreme Court on the side of those who want to strike down the law.

While I haven’t read the administration’s position on the lawsuit, I must admit it doesn’t look good. But it’s hardly unprecedented for politicians to take credit for a popular program that they opposed but got forced into supporting. The classic case is Bill Clinton who campaigned to “end welfare as we know it” in 1992, vetoed the welfare bill passed by Gingrich and company in 1995, wound up signing an essentially identical bill, and bragged about it incessantly in the 1996 campaign–acting as if he’d forced welfare reform on the Republicans rather than vice versa.

Update: Commenter keiser has an interesting defense of Bush’s position.

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James Joyner
About James Joyner
James Joyner is Professor and Department Head of Security Studies at Marine Corps University's Command and Staff College. He's a former Army officer and Desert Storm veteran. Views expressed here are his own. Follow James on Twitter @DrJJoyner.


  1. Kevin Drum says:

    Hmmm, keiser’s defense doesn’t seem very interesting to me. After all, the part Bush specifically objected to in 1997 is also the part he specifically took credit for in 2000. The third round of flip flopping in 2004 is just icing on the cake.

  2. Kevin Drum says:

    And keep in mind that Clinton campaigned on welfare reform and then actually signed a welfare reform bill. He may have tried to get a version more to his liking, but he didn’t keep vetoing it and then pretend to take credit for it.

  3. Paul says:

    but he didn’t keep vetoing it and then pretend to take credit for it.

    Man, it must be easy when the truth is irrelevant. That is EXACTLY what Clinton did.

    Kevin will indeed lie about anything.

  4. As I recall he vetoed it twice, and only signed it the third time.

  5. McGehee says:

    Hey, wait a minute. Bush wasn’t president in 2000. He didn’t take office until 20 Jan 2001. How could he “take credit” in 2000 for something that he couldn’t have vetoed until months later?

    A quibble? Yes. But those of us who like to fit things like this into a frame of reference in our own memories, find errors like this kind of distracting. Makes it hard for us to take complaints like Kevin’s as seriously as we are expected to do.

  6. James Joyner says:


    This was the TEXAS version of PBOR. He was governor at the time.

  7. McGehee says:

    (After looking at Kevin’s post) Oh, now I see — we’re talking about something Bush did as governor of Texas, which Kevin did make plain in his post. My apologies to Mr. Drum.

  8. McGehee says:

    I’ve seen enough sloppy dating of events in blogdom that this — with all the presidential context and no mention of Texas in James’s post — just seemed like another example.