Before Obama, the last U.S. president to propose a universal health care system was Richard Nixon. His older brother Harold had contracted tuberculosis as a teenager, and Harold's medical costs devastated the family. To help out, Richard worked as a janitor while in high school and still managed to graduate third in his class, earning a tuition scholarship to Harvard. Unfortunately, the scholarship didn't cover room and board, so Nixon attended Whittier College in his hometown in order to help his family care for his ailing brother; Harold died three years later.
Yet, for all his shortcomings as president, Nixon understood the miseries of being poor, of being unable to afford health care. He became an advocate for health care reform, and in 1971, he pushed for an insurance mandate, the same mandate over which Congressional Republicans shut down the federal government today. Think about that for a moment: Richard Milhous Nixon, a man whose name has literally become a synonym for fecal matter, was more compassionate and in tune with the needs of the American people than the modern Republican party.