A moment of clarity from Howard Dean, courtesy of CNS News, who took this video at the town-hall forum of Rep. Jim Moran (D-VA). When an angry constituent wondered why a supposedly comprehensive “reform” of the health-care system doesn’t include tort reform to lower costs of malpractice insurance and reduce defensive medicine, Dean responds as “a doctor and a politician.” Apparently, neither has the courage to face the trial-lawyer lobby:

Former Democratic National Committee Chairman Howard Dean, a medical doctor who served as governor of Vermont, said at a town hall meeting on Tuesday night that Democrats in Congress did not include tort reform in the health care bill because they were fearful of “taking on” the trial lawyers.

“This is the answer from a doctor and a politician,” said Dean. “Here is why tort reform is not in the bill. When you go to pass a really enormous bill like that the more stuff you put in, the more enemies you make, right? And the reason why tort reform is not in the bill is because the people who wrote it did not want to take on the trial lawyers in addition to everybody else they were taking on, and that is the plain and simple truth. Now, that’s the truth.”

Yes, that is the truth. Instead of taking on trial lawyers in an honest attempt to lower actual costs, the Democrats have decided to demonize insurers — who have incentives in place to keep costs low — and doctors. I wonder how Dean feels about Barack Obama’s attempts to paint physicians as greedy Tonsil Vultures and Foot Rustlers? In those instances, I’m pretty sure Dean responds as a politician instead of a doctor.

Malpractice tort abuse doesn’t create all of the unnecessary costs in health care, but it causes a significant portion of them. Any attempt at a comprehensive reform without tackling that area makes the entire effort look like political maneuvering for other purposes than real reform and cost control. At the very least, it makes the Democrats look rather craven — as Dean himself admits.