Obama eats Republicans’ lunch

For an hour on live television, Obama danced around the Republicans, landing blows and coming out ahead on points

When the Republicans invited President Obama to address their congressional House delegation in Baltimore today, they probably had no idea how badly it would turn out for them.

Presumably the Republicans thought they’d get a chance to grill the president on live television. But instead, Obama – following on from his state of the union address on Wednesday night – turned the tables by highlighting the Republicans who opposed his policies and refused to bend, yet were prepared to “turn up and cut ribbons” when their constituents reaped the rewards.

Obama also displayed a rare grasp of policy and legislation, wrong-footing his questioners with some stern rebuttal and in some instances quoting their own positions back to them to highlight the contradictions. He mocked the GOP for presenting healthcare reforms as a “Bolshevik plot” – and got a laugh, even from the Republican audience – and suggested that their approach was counterproductive:

Frankly, how some of you went after this bill, you would think that this thing was a Bolshevik plot. That’s how you presented it. I’m thinking to myself, how is it that a plan that is pretty centrist — no, look. 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 — it 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, 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 think we can confidently predict this is the last time the Republicans invite the president to a similar format. Indeed, because the hall the Republicans are holding their event seemed to have just a single TV camera, Obama literally took the spotlight away. Republican questioners showed up as shadowy figures, and when caucus leader Mike Pence kicked off the Republican questions at first he couldn’t be heard at all.

At the end, shaking hands with the president, Pence’s face looked as if he’d sucked a lemon for an hour – and in a way he had.

A sign of how compelling the footage was: the US cable networks, always so trigger-happy and ready to move on if an event is looking boring, stuck with the live feed, although Fox did cut away first for analysis.

The net effect is that Obama looked serious, reasonable and intelligent. The Republicans got to sound like whiners, complaining about various pet peeves and chewing over their old laundry list of tax cuts and opposition.

CNN quickly compared it to weekly question time in the House of Commons – and Twitter is seeing an avalanche of comments calling for this to be a regular event. Not if the Republicans have any say in the matter.

Richard Adams Friday 29 January 2010 18.36 GMT | guardian.co.uk


See also:

Why do people often vote against their own interests?

The Republicans’ shock victory in the election for the US Senate seat in Massachusetts meant the Democrats lost their supermajority in the Senate. This makes it even harder for the Obama administration to get healthcare reform passed in the US.

Political scientist Dr David Runciman looks at why is there often such deep opposition to reforms that appear to be of obvious benefit to voters.


The 2 articles above nicely illustrate the view from the UK, one covers an amusing episode in the confrontation and the other the frustration.  Who would want to be a politician these days?