Obama: ‘Somehow, not breaking through’

‘There was nothing that moved the needle,’ GOP chair says of today’s blitz.

Chicago Tribune – The Swamp by Mark Silva

President Barack Obama, acknowledging trouble in “breaking through” to the American public with his proposal for a health-care overhaul, made an unprecedented public push today with a series of nationally broadcast television interviews.

After months of pressing Congress for an overhaul of the nation’s health insurance, and making his case to a national audience in a televised address to a joint session of Congress, Obama today took his case to a network-sweeping round of Sunday talk show appearances.

In one interview aired this morning, ABC News’ George Stephanopoulos asked the president if he had confronted any situation yet in which he said to himself, ”Wow, I’m going to have to step up my game.”

“There have been times where I have said, ‘I’ve got to step up my game in terms of talking to the American people about issues like health care,”’ Obama said. “During this whole health care debate… there have been times where I’ve… not so much lost control, but where I’ve said to myself, ‘Somehow I’m not breaking through…’

“This has been a sufficiently tough, complicated issue with so many moving parts that, you know, no matter how much I’ve… tried to keep it digestible, you know, it’s very hard for people to get their… whole arms round it,” Obama told Stephanopoulos. “And that’s been a case where I have been humbled and I just keep on trying harder, because I — I really think it’s the right thing to do for the country.”

Obama, told that Senate Republicans believe they are “winning” the health-care debate, said with a smile during his interview on CNN’s State of the Union: “They said they were winning the election, too.”

“Right now, I’m pleased that basically we’ve got 80 percent agreement,” said Obama, suggesting that the newest, controversial Senate health-care bill “does meet some broad goals… We’ve got to work on that other 20 percent over the next few weeks.”

“The key is now just to narrow those differences,” Obama said on NBC News’ Meet the Press. “And if I don’t feel like it is a good deal for the American people, then I won’t sign a bill…. This is hard…. You know, one of the things I’ve always said is, if this had… been easy, it would have been taken care of by Teddy Roosevelt.”

“I think that the opposition has made a decision,” Obama said in an interview aired on Univision’s Al Punto Con Jorge Ramos. “They are just not going to support anything, for political reasons…. There’s some people who just cynically want to defeat me politically, but there’s nothing new about that.”

Republicans maintained today that the president should reconsider his plans and start the health-care debate anew.

“Winning is stopping, starting again and getting it right,” Senate Republican Leader Mitch McConnelll, (R-Ky.) said today on CNN.

Republican National Committee Chairman Michael Steele suggested that the president’s round of network interviews today hadn’t amounted to much.

“I thought the president said a lot without saying anything,” Steele said on CBS’ Face the Nation. “There was nothing that moved the needle on this debate… This is not very helpful to the president right now…. It may have been nice to do the interviews, but I don’t think it advanced the debate on health care that much.”

“I don’t think I’ve promised too much at all,” Obama said on Face the Nation. “Everyone recognizes this is a problem. Everyone recognizes the current path we’re on is unsustainable…. We know that standing still is not an option.”

In the process, the president has promised no tax increases for Americans earning less than $250,000 a year.

“I can still keep that promise,” he said on CBS.

Asked if he has forfeited the idea of a “public option” for people who cannot find insurance privately, Obama told NBC: “No, that’s not true. What I’ve said is the public option, I think, should be a part of this but we shouldn’t think that, somehow, that’s the silver bullet that solves health care.”

“I absolutely do not believe that it’s dead,” Obama said of the public option on Univision. “I think that it’s something that we can still include as part of a comprehensive reform effort.”

On the Spanish-language Univision, Obama was asked about his promise to address immigration reform during his first year in office. “What I said is that this is going to be a tough fight and that we’re going to have to make sure that we are working as hard as we can to do it,” Obama said. “I am not backing off one minute from getting this done, but let’s face it, I’ve had a few things to do.”

The president confronted the tenor of the public debate over health-care – the “vitriol,” as he called it in one interview – in the network talks aired today.

“Unfortunately, we’ve got… a 24-hour news cycle where what gets you on the news is controversy,” he told NBC’s David Gregory. “What gets you on the news is the extreme statement. The easiest way to get 15 minutes on the news, or your 15 minutes of fame, is to be rude.”

Asked about the economy and when job losses might be stemmed, Obama said in the CNN interview: “What we’ve done in the first eight months is to stop the bleeding…. The financial markets are working again…. All the signs are that the economy is going to start growing again.

“The jobs picture is not going to improve considerably, and it could even get a little worse, this year,” he said.

Obama maintained in a round of network interviews, a first for a sitting president, on ABC News’ This Week, CBS News’ Face the Nation, NBC News’ Meet the Press, CNN’s State of the Union, and on Spanish-language Univision — that fear of “big changes” is behind much of the criticism that he faces now – not the racial prejudice which former President Jimmy Carter has cited as a motivating factor for the most extreme criticism of the president.

“What I’m proposing is a very modest attempt to make sure that hard-working families out there are going to have the security of health insurance that they can count on,” Obama said in an interview aired on ABC’s This Week. “This isn’t a radical plan. This isn’t grafting a single payer model onto the United States. It’s simply trying to deal with what everybody acknowledges is a big problem.

“I think that there are some opponents who have used — seized on this — and tried to use this as a proxy for saying that somehow we are vastly expanding government and taking over every sector of the economy,” he said. “That’s what a lot of this debate is about.”

Obama defended the Justice Department’s investigation into excesses in the interrogations of suspected terrorists during the Bush administration, in an interview that CBS News’ Face the Nation is airing.

The president said that the seven former CIA directors who asked him in a letter on Friday to stop the inquiry, warning that it could hamper the necessary work of CIA officers fighting terrorism, are trying “to look after an institution that they helped to build.” But, he said, he does not want to interfere with the investigation authorized by Atty Gen. Eric Holder.

“Nobody is above the law,” Obama said in his CNN interview. “I don’t want to start getting into the business of squelching investigations… It’s not a criminal investigation yet, to my understanding… I have no interest in witch hunts, but ultimately the law is the law, and we don’t go around picking and choosing how we enforce it.”

The president also insisted that his decision to abandon plans to build a defense missile shield in Poland and the Czech Republic was not meant to appease Russian leaders, who opposed the plan. In its place, the Defense Department plans a network of sensors and interceptors based at sea, on land and in the air in defense of possible attacks by Iran or others in the region.

“My task here was not to negotiate with the Russians,” Obama told CBS. “The Russians don’t make determinations about what our defense posture is.”

Obama was pressed in these interviews about his campaign promise to avert new taxes on anyone making less than $250,000 a year, and he maintained that he can keep that promise with the health-care initiatives he is pressing – regardless of what critics and doubters say.

“The principles I’ve put forward very clearly, when I spoke to the joint session of Congress, is that we’re going to make sure that, No. 1, if you don’t have health insurance, you’re going to be able to get affordable health insurance,” Obama said on ABC. “No 2, if you have health insurance, we’re going to have insurance reforms that give you more security… No. 3, it’s going to be deficit neutral — it’s not going to add a dime to the deficit… No. 4, it’s going to start driving down our costs over the long-term.”

Obama called a roundly criticized bill advanced last week by Senate Finance Chairman Max Baucus (D.-Mont.) “a strong effort to move an agenda forward.” That bill lacks the so-called “public option” for a government-run plan for people who cannot find coverage privately, which the president has maintained that he wants included and which House Democratic leaders call essential to any final legislation.

Stephanapoulos asked how a proposed requirement that all individuals have insurance, with fines for those who don’t, is not a tax increase.

Obama said he “absolutely” rejects the notion that the mandate is a tax increase.

“For us to say that you’ve got to take a responsibility to get health insurance is absolutely not a tax increase,” the president said. “What it’s saying is, is that we’re not going to have other people carrying your burdens for you anymore than the fact thatright now everybody in America, just about, has to get auto insurance. Nobody considers that a tax increase.”

The ABC host said he had looked up ‘tax’ in Merriam Webster’s Dictionary – “a charge, usually of money, imposed by authority on
persons or property for public purposes.”

“George, the fact that you looked up Merriam’s Dictionary, the definition of tax increase, indicates to me that you’re stretching a little bit right now,” Obama replied. “Otherwise, you wouldn’t have gone to the dictionary to check on the definition.”

But critics call Obama’s plans a tax increase, the host said.

“My critics say everything is a tax increase,” Obama said. “My critics say that I’m taking over every sector of the economy.”

The president maintained that cuts in Medicare are possible – part of the framework for financing his plans – without cutting benefits for senior Americans who rely on the federal program for health care.

“The basic principle that is indisputable is that we are wasting hundreds of billions of dollars in Medicare that is not making people healthier,” Obama said. “What I have said is we’re not going to take a dollar out of the Medicare trust fund. We’re going to make sure that benefits are just as strong if not stronger.”

The president was asked in these interviews about Carter’s contention last week that the most extreme criticism for Obama is coming from people who cannot accept the fact that he is African American.

“Race is such a volatile issue in this society. Always has been,” Obama said on ABC. “It becomes hard for people to separate out race being… part of the backdrop of American society — versus race being a predominant factor .

“Are there some people who don’t like me because of my race? I’m sure there are,” he said. “Are there some people who vote for me only because of my race? There are probably some of those too. The overwhelming part of the American population I think is right now following the debate and trying to figure out is this (health-care plan) going to help me?”

“The one thing I hope is, is that we can have a civil argument about it and that we are able to acknowledge good motives on both sides,” Obama said on ABC. “Everybody is a patriot. Each of us are Americans that care deeply about this country.”

Obama said in the interviews airing today that some protesters are playing to the media, attempting to ride the “24-hour news cycle.”

“Sometimes I think that, frankly, the media encourages some of the outliers in behavior, because, let’s face it, the easiest way to get on television
right now is to be really rude. If you’re just being sensible and giving people the benefit of the doubt and you’re making your arguments, you don’t — you don’t get — you don’t get time on the nightly news.”

Stephanopoulos asked Obama about ACORN, the community organization that has been accused of fraud in voter registration and most recently has been targeted by undercover video reports of workers offering advice to a man and woman posing as a pimp and prostitute. The Senate has voted to cut off federal housing funding for the group, which assists the poor in finding housing. The House has voted to cut off all funding.

“Are there folks in the Democratic camp or on the left who haven’t … always operated ways that I’d appreciate? Absolutely,” Obama said. “I didn’t even know that ACORN was getting a whole lot of federal money… What I know is, is that what I saw on that video was certainly inappropriate and deserves to be investigated (but) this is not the biggest issue facing the country. It’s not something I’m paying a lot of attention to.”

On the U.S. military commitment in Afghanistan, Obama told Stephanopoulos, “When we came in, basically, there had been drift in our Afghan strategy. Everybody acknowledges that. And I ordered a top to bottom review. ”

After authorizing an initial increase in U.S. forces there, Obama now is examining the next step – but maintained he has made no decision.

“I am now going to take all this information and we’re going to test whatever resources we have against our strategy, which is if by sending young men and women into harm’s way, we are defeating al Qaeda and -that can be shown to a skeptical audience, namely me — somebody who is always asking hard questions about deploying troops, then we will do what’s required to keep the American people safe.”

“We’ve got to figure out, what kind of partner do we have in Afghanistan,” Obama said on CNN. “The only thing I’ve said to my folks is, ‘A, I want an unvarnished assessment. But B, I don’t want to put the resource question before the strategy question…’ Right now, the first question is, are we doing the right thing, are we pursuing the right strategy? Once I have that clarity… then the question is, OK, how do we resource it?

“It’s not going to be driven by the politics of the moment,” he said.

“We’re not going to put the cart before horse,” Obama said on CBS, “and just think that, by sending more troops, we’re automatically going to keep Americans safe.”


Obama’s Nontax Tax

On a Sunday show, the President offers a revealing definition.

President Obama didn’t make much news on his round of five Sunday talk shows yesterday, with one notable exception. The President revealed a great deal about his philosophy of government and how he defines a tax increase. It turns out the President thinks a health-care tax is not a tax if he thinks the tax is for your own good.

Appearing on ABC’s “This Week,” Mr. Obama was asked by host George Stephanopoulos about the “individual mandate.” Under Max Baucus’s Senate bill that Mr. Obama supports, everyone would be required to buy health insurance or else pay a penalty as high as $3,800 a year. Mr. Stephanopoulos posed the obvious question about this kind of coercion when “the government is forcing people to spend money, fining you if you don’t [buy insurance]. . . . How is that not a tax?”

“Well, hold on a second, George,” Mr. Obama replied. “Here’s what’s happening. You and I are both paying $900, on average—our families—in higher premiums because of uncompensated care. Now what I’ve said is that if you can’t afford health insurance, you certainly shouldn’t be punished for that. That’s just piling on. If, on the other hand, we’re giving tax credits, we’ve set up an exchange, you are now part of a big pool, we’ve driven down the costs, we’ve done everything we can and you actually can afford health insurance, but you’ve just decided, you know what, I want to take my chances.  And then you get hit by a bus and you and I have to pay for the emergency room care, that’s . . .”

“That may be,” Mr. Stephanopoulos responded, “but it’s still a tax increase.” (In fact, uncompensated care accounts for about only 2.2% of national health spending today, but that’s another subject.)

Mr. Obama: “No. That’s not true, George. The—for us to say that you’ve got to take a responsibility to get health insurance is absolutely not a tax increase. What it’s saying is, is that we’re not going to have other people carrying your burdens for you anymore . . .” In other words, like parents talking to their children, this levy—don’t call it a tax—is for your own good.

Mr. Stephanopoulos tried again: “But it may be fair, it may be good public policy—”

Mr. Obama: “No, but—but, George, you—you can’t just make up that language and decide that that’s called a tax increase.”

“I don’t think I’m making it up,” Mr. Stephanopoulos said. He then had the temerity to challenge the Philologist in Chief, with an assist from Merriam-Webster. He cited that dictionary’s definition of “tax”—”a charge, usually of money, imposed by authority on persons or property for public purposes.”

Mr. Obama: “George, the fact that you looked up Merriam’s Dictionary, the definition of tax increase, indicates to me that you’re stretching a little bit right now. . . .”

Mr. Stephanopoulos: “I wanted to check for myself. But your critics say it is a tax increase.”

Mr. Obama: “My critics say everything is a tax increase. My critics say that I’m taking over every sector of the economy. You know that. Look, we can have a legitimate debate about whether or not we’re going to have an individual mandate or not, but . . .”

Mr. Stephanopoulos: “But you reject that it’s a tax increase?”

Mr. Obama: “I absolutely reject that notion.”

If you can follow this reasoning, then you probably also think that a new entitlement is the best way to reduce entitlement spending. The Congressional Budget Office estimates that the Senate’s individual mandate will result in new revenues of some $20 billion over 10 years because some people will choose to opt out of ObamaCare—or because they can’t afford to buy in, given that other taxes and regulation will make health care more expensive. If that $20 billion doesn’t count as tax revenue, then what is it?

And for that matter, what doesn’t count as a nontax under Mr. Obama’s definition? All taxes can be justified in the name of providing some type of service, however wasteful. Mr. Obama complains that “My critics say everything is a tax increase,” as if that is his political problem. His real problem is that the individual mandate really is a tax, but the President doesn’t want voters to think of it that way, because taxes are unpopular.


Office of the Press Secretary
For Immediate Release                                                 September 19, 2009

WEEKLY ADDRESS: President Obama Promotes
Tougher Rules on Wall Street to Protect Consumers

WASHINGTON – In this week’s address, President Obama highlighted the need for a Consumer Financial Protection Agency to implement clearly enforced rules to help strengthen our financial markets and protect the interests of American consumers. The President also pointed to the aggressive and necessary action taken by his administration and other nations to stop our country’s economic freefall, and pledged to continue working with world leaders both at the upcoming G-20 summit and beyond to build on the progress already made.

The full audio of the address is HERE. The video can be viewed online at

Remarks of President Barack Obama
Weekly Address
The White House
September 19, 2009

Leaders of the world’s largest economies will gather next week in Pittsburgh for the second time this year. The first meeting of the G-20 nations in April came at the height of the global financial crisis – a crisis that required unprecedented international cooperation to jumpstart the world’s economies and help break the downward spiral that enveloped all our nations.

At next week’s summit, we’ll have, in effect, a five-month checkup to review the steps each nation has taken – separately and together – to break the back of this economic crisis. And the good news is that we’ve made real progress since last time we met – here at home and around the world.

In February, we enacted a Recovery Act, providing relief to Americans who need it, preventing layoffs, and putting Americans back to work. We’ve worked to unlock frozen credit markets, spurring lending to Americans looking to buy homes or cars, take out student loans, or finance small businesses. And we’ve challenged other nations to join us not only to spur global demand, but to address the underlying problems that caused such a deep global recession in the first place.

Because of the steps taken by our nation and all nations, we can now say that we have stopped our economic freefall. But we also know that stopping the bleeding isn’t nearly enough. Our work is far from over. We know we still have a lot to do here at home to build an economy that is producing good jobs for all those who are looking for work today. And we know we still have a lot to do, in conjunction with nations around the world, to strengthen the rules governing financial markets and ensure that we never again find ourselves in the precarious situation we found ourselves in just one year ago.

As I told leaders of our financial community in New York City earlier this week, a return to normalcy can’t breed complacency. To protect our economy and people from another market meltdown, our government needs to fundamentally reform the rules governing financial firms and markets to meet the challenges of the 21st century. We cannot allow the thirst for reckless schemes that produce quick profits and fat executive bonuses to override the security of our entire financial system and leave taxpayers on the hook for cleaning up the mess. And as the world’s largest economy, we must lead, not just by word, but by example, understanding that in the 21st century, financial crises know no borders. All of us need to act more responsibly on behalf of a better economic future.

That is why, at next week’s G20 summit, we’ll discuss some of the steps that are required to safeguard our global financial system and close gaps in regulation around the world – gaps that permitted the kinds of reckless risk-taking and irresponsibility that led to the crisis. And that’s why I’ve called on Congress to put in place a series of tough, common-sense rules of the road that will protect consumers from abuse, let markets function fairly and freely, and help prevent a crisis like this from ever happening again.

Central to these reforms is a new Consumer Financial Protection Agency. Part of what led to this crisis were not just decisions made on Wall Street, but also unsustainable mortgage loans made across the country. While many folks took on more than they knew they could afford, too often folks signed contracts they didn’t fully understand offered by lenders who didn’t always tell the truth. That’s why we need clear rules, clearly enforced. And that’s what this agency will do.

Consumers shouldn’t have to worry about loan contracts written to confuse, hidden fees attached to their mortgages, and financial penalties – whether through a credit card or debit card – that appear without a clear warning on their statements. And responsible lenders, including community banks, trying to do the right thing shouldn’t have to worry about ruinous competition from unregulated and unscrupulous competitors.

Not surprisingly, lobbyists for big Wall Street banks are hard at work trying to stop reforms that would hold them accountable and they want to keep things just the way they are. But we cannot let politics as usual triumph so business as usual can reign. We cannot let the narrow interests of a few come before the interests of all of us. We cannot forget how close we came to the brink, and perpetuate the broken system and breakdown of responsibility that made it possible.

In the weeks and months ahead, we have an opportunity to build on the work we’ve already done. An opportunity to rebuild our global economy stronger that before. An opportunity not only to protect the American people and America’s economy, but to promote sustained and balanced growth and prosperity for our nation and all nations. And that’s an opportunity I am determined to seize.

So, thanks for listening and thanks for watching, and to our Jewish friends, who are celebrating Rosh Hashanah, have a happy and healthy New Year. Shanah Tovah.

geithner butt

Congressman says America in political rebellion

Jim Brown – OneNewsNow – 9/20/2009

WASHINGTON, DC – House Minority Leader John Boehner (R-Ohio) says the country is in the midst of a “political rebellion” because his Democratic colleagues are “bankrupting America.”

The Ohio lawmaker told the Values Voter Summit in Washington Saturday that the Democratic agenda over the past several months has been “nothing short of breathtaking.” He noted that Democrats promised “jobs, jobs, jobs” with their 1,100-page stimulus, but instead America got “spending, spending, spending.”

Boehner said he is focused on taking the gavel away from House Speaker Nancy Pelosi — and during the debate over the” stimulus” package, some House Democrats accused him of being disrespectful for dropping the massive bill on the floor.  The minority countered, saying “What’s disrespectful is wasting $800 billion and expecting our kids and grandkids to pay the bills.”

The congressman also railed against the cap-and-trade bill that passed the House, noting it would, among other things, impose a $1,750 energy tax on Americans and require “Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac to have ‘green mortgages.'” On healthcare, he pointed out that H.R. 3200 would create 51 new agencies, boards, commissions, and mandates.

Boehner also attempted to dispel claims that there is no taxpayer funding of abortion in the legislation, stating that “If you look at the bill in the House, it allows for taxpayer-funded abortions.”

The House minority leader concluded noting that, given their stimulus and energy tax bills and their promotion of a government-run healthcare bill, Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-California) and other Democratic leaders should not be surprised that so many Americans are showing up at TEA (Taxed Enough Already) parties and town hall meetings.

In his Values Voter speech, former Education secretary and CNN commentator Bill Bennett echoed Boehner’s sentiment.  “In January we [conservatives] were surrounded, now we’ve got them [liberals] on the run,” he contends.

According to Boehner, on Labor Day Weekend 18,000 people attended a TEA party one mile from his home in Westchester, Ohio, because they “want their country back.”  He noted that grassroots activists realize liberals in Washington are “dimming the lights of opportunity for our kids and grandkids.”

Before ending his speech, Boehner called for the deployment of more American troops to Afghanistan, arguing that “if we walk away from the fight in Afghanistan, we will cede this territory to the Taliban and their cousins al-Qaeda….We cannot allow this to happen.”