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Obama at the House GOP Retreat

This was classic Obama, and it’s really amazing and fresh.

Please take the time to watch it, or read it.

I do have some favorite parts, though, but this should not discourage you from watching the whole thing:

The last thing I will say, though — let me say this about health care and the health care debate, because I think it also bears on a whole lot of other issues.  If you look at the package that we’ve presented — and there’s some stray cats and dogs that got in there that we were eliminating, we were in the process of eliminating. [...]

But at its core, if you look at the basic proposal that we’ve put forward:  it has an exchange so that businesses and the self-employed can buy into a pool and can get bargaining power the same way big companies do; the insurance reforms that I’ve already discussed, making sure that there’s choice and competition for those who don’t have health insurance.  The component parts of this thing are pretty similar to what Howard Baker, Bob Dole, and Tom Daschle proposed at the beginning of this debate last year.Now, you may not agree with Bob Dole and Howard Baker, and, certainly you don’t agree with Tom Daschle on much, but that’s not a radical bunch.  But if you were to listen to the debate and, frankly, how some of you went after this bill, you’d think that this thing was some Bolshevik plot. No, I mean, that’s how you guys — (applause) — that’s how you guys presented it.

And so I’m thinking to myself, well, how is it that a plan that is pretty centrist — no, look, I mean, I’m just saying, I know you guys disagree, but if you look at the facts of this bill, most independent observers would say this is actually what many Republicans — is similar to what many Republicans proposed to Bill Clinton when he was doing his debate on health care.

So all I’m saying is, we’ve got to close the gap a little bit between the rhetoric and the reality.  I’m not suggesting that we’re going to agree on everything, whether it’s on health care or energy or what have you, but if the way these issues are being presented by the Republicans is that this is some wild-eyed plot to impose huge government in every aspect of our lives, what happens is you guys then don’t have a lot of room to negotiate with me.

I mean, the fact of the matter is, is that many of you, if you voted with the administration on something, are politically vulnerable in your own base, in your own party.  You’ve given yourselves very little room to work in a bipartisan fashion because what you’ve been telling your constituents is, this guy is doing all kinds of crazy stuff that’s going to destroy America.

And this part about the policy actually passing the smell test:

It’s not enough if you say, for example, that we’ve offered a health care plan and I look up — this is just under the section that you’ve just provided me, or the book that you just provided me — summary of GOP health care reform bill:  The GOP plan will lower health care premiums for American families and small businesses, addressing America’s number-one priority for health reform.  I mean, that’s an idea that we all embrace.  But specifically it’s got to work.  I mean, there’s got to be a mechanism in these plans that I can go to an independent health care expert and say, is this something that will actually work, or is it boilerplate? If I’m told, for example, that the solution to dealing with health care costs is tort reform, something that I’ve said I am willing to work with you on, but the CBO or other experts say to me, at best, this could reduce health care costs relative to where they’re growing by a couple of percentage points, or save $5 billion a year, that’s what we can score it at, and it will not bend the cost curve long term or reduce premiums significantly — then you can’t make the claim that that’s the only thing that we have to do.  If we’re going to do multi-state insurance so that people can go across state lines, I’ve got to be able to go to an independent health care expert, Republican or Democrat, who can tell me that this won’t result in cherry-picking of the healthiest going to some and the least healthy being worse off.

So I am absolutely committed to working with you on these issues, but it can’t just be political assertions that aren’t substantiated when it comes to the actual details of policy. Because otherwise, we’re going to be selling the American people a bill of goods.  I mean, the easiest thing for me to do on the health care debate would have been to tell people that what you’re going to get is guaranteed health insurance, lower your costs, all the insurance reforms; we’re going to lower the costs of Medicare and Medicaid and it won’t cost anybody anything.  That’s great politics, it’s just not true.

So there’s got to be some test of realism in any of these proposals, mine included.  I’ve got to hold myself accountable, and guaranteed the American people will hold themselves — will hold me accountable if what I’m selling doesn’t actually deliver.

And then this at the end was just awesome:

THE PRESIDENT:  Jeb, I know there’s a question in there somewhere, because you’re making a whole bunch of assertions, half of which I disagree with, and I’m having to sit here listening to them.  At some point I know you’re going to let me answer.  All right.

CONGRESSMAN HENSARLING:  That’s the question.  You are soon to submit a new budget, Mr. President.  Will that new budget, like your old budget, triple the national debt and continue to take us down the path of increasing the cost of government to almost 25 percent of our economy?  That’s the question, Mr. President.

THE PRESIDENT:  Jeb, with all due respect, I’ve just got to take this last question as an example of how it’s very hard to have the kind of bipartisan work that we’re going to do, because the whole question was structured as a talking point for running a campaign. [...]

Now, I just want to point out — and this brings me to the second problem — when we made a very modest proposal as part of our package, our health care reform package, to eliminate the subsidies going to insurance companies for Medicare Advantage, we were attacked across the board, by many on your aisle, for slashing Medicare.  You remember?  We’re going to start cutting benefits for seniors.  That was the story that was perpetrated out there — scared the dickens out of a lot of seniors.No, no, but here’s my point.  If the main question is going to be what do we do about Medicare costs, any proposal that Paul makes will be painted, factually, from the perspective of those who disagree with it, as cutting benefits over the long term.  Paul, I don’t think you disagree with that, that there is a political vulnerability to doing anything that tinkers with Medicare.  And that’s probably the biggest savings that are obtained through Paul’s plan.

And I raise that not because we shouldn’t have a series discussion about it.  I raise that because we’re not going to be able to do anything about any of these entitlements if what we do is characterized, whatever proposals are put out there, as, well, you know, that’s — the other party is being irresponsible; the other party is trying to hurt our senior citizens; that the other party is doing X, Y, Z.

That’s why I say if we’re going to frame these debates in ways that allow us to solve them, then we can’t start off by figuring out, A, who’s to blame; B, how can we make the American people afraid of the other side. And unfortunately, that’s how our politics works right now.  And that’s how a lot of our discussion works.  That’s how we start off — every time somebody speaks in Congress, the first thing they do, they stand up and all the talking points — I see Frank Luntz up here sitting in the front.  He’s already polled it, and he said, you know, the way you’re really going to — I’ve done a focus group and the way we’re going to really box in Obama on this one or make Pelosi look bad on that one — I know, I like Frank, we’ve had conversations between Frank and I.  But that’s how we operate.  It’s all tactics, and it’s not solving problems.

And so the question is, at what point can we have a serious conversation about Medicare and its long-term liability, or a serious question about — a serious conversation about Social Security, or a serious conversation about budget and debt in which we’re not simply trying to position ourselves politically.  That’s what I’m committed to doing.  We won’t agree all the time in getting it done, but I’m committed to doing it.

3 comments
  1. rob says: January 30, 20103:00 pm

    I was wondering if/when you were going to post this.

    It’s probably my favorite emotion to feel while discussing political matters.

    What emotion, you may ask?

    MmmHmm.

  2. brad says: January 30, 201011:36 pm

    Yeah, I watched this today and it was really refreshing to hear Obama talking about how smear campains take power away from elected officials. I hope dialogues like this continue (and stay productive), because I think we’re going to need a few more of these before things start to sink in. It would be really awesome to have earmarks posted online. Not that I’d personally be rummaging through them, but I know that some responsible people would. Love this quote:

    “I think sunshine is the best disinfectant”

  3. eric says: January 31, 20101:03 am

    This is the Obama I fell in love with during his campaign. It’s good to have him back in the spotlight talking some sense.

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