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Obama Finds His Inner Partisan

“No one in America should go broke because of an illness. … .. … [...] …Because the truth is we have a system today that works well for the insurance industry, but it doesn’t always work well for you.” [applause] – Pres. Obama


After Obama’s abysmal health care press conference last week, which left his message in tatters. It seems he decided to pay attention to his leaking approval ratings and the fact that Democrats were losing ground on the health care debate and do something about it.

So, in Raleigh, North Carolina today, a hub of Glaxosmithkline, Pres. Obama came out swinging at his opponents. He was on fire, taking special delight at hitting the Republican health care reform fearmongers, while simultaneously slamming them over criticism of the Recovery Act.

When Obama got to the moment in his warm up where he stated you won’t be denied insurance because of a pre-existing illness, the room erupted into a standing ovation. But Obama’s opener was a stem winder reaching back into the Republican excess under George W. Bush and Dick Cheney. It was long overdue.

“… Although I’ve gotta say, when I hear critics talk about out of control spending I start scratchin’ my head. I can’t help but remember, those same critics contributed to a $1.3 trillion deficit that I inherited when I took office. [applause]… I mean, seriously, I’m now president, so I’m responsible for solving it, but I don’t think we should have a selective memory. You hand me a $1.3 trillion dollar bill and then you’re complaining 6 months later because we haven’t paid it all back. [applause] A debt, by the way, that was partially the result of two tax cuts that went primarily to the wealthiest few Americans, and a Medicare drug program that wasn’t paid for. These are the same folks who are now complaining about health care, we can’t afford health care. You pass a prescription drug program and didn’t pay for it! Handed the bill to me. [Obama laughs]…” … .. Nobody is talking about some government takeover of health care. [applause] I’m tired of hearing that … These folks need to stop scaring everybody. [applause and cheering]… .. …” – Obama in Raleigh, North Carolina (rough transcript)

The ending was even better than the beginning.

“I keep sayin’ to people, I’ve got health care. This is not for me. …this isn’t about politics, this is about people’s lives. This is about people’s businesses. This about the future. I want our children and grandchildren to look back and say this is when we decided to take the politics out of it and start doing something for the future of this country. I’m going to need your help, Raleigh. Let’s go do it.”

It was Barack Obama the campaigner today, taking a page from William Jefferson Clinton who always understood that pushing big legislation in Washington is always a partisan fight. That people side with winners, not losers, especially when the complexities are beyond them. So if the health care debate is being framed as “lost,” we’re screwed. Changing perceptions and the message was what today was about.

“I was getting fired up there,” Obama said with a chuckle, as he headed to take questions.

Stay fired up, Mr. President. That’s what it’s going to take to get a good bill done, especially with no votes coming until fall.

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