Obama Gets Real with Republicans, Without His Teleprompter

The appearance of the president at the Republicans' retreat in Baltimore on Friday was yet another illustration of the indispensability of the Obama teleprompter. It is not often that the president appears naked without his faithful companion, but when he does, much is learned about the character of the man they call The One.

To be sure, there were many interesting and entertaining tidbits emanating from behind the presidential podium. There were claims by Obama that he is "not an ideologue" and that he is a big believer in the necessity of a loyal opposition (someone alert Fox News -- perhaps if they work on the loyalty thing a bit, there won't be a problem). There was an Obama reprimand of Congressman Jeb Hensarling -- or Jim, as the president calls him -- for bringing up that messy spending issue, with Obama claiming that the representative from Texas's budget query was "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." Hear that, Republicans? This is bipartisan work that you are "going to do."

However, it was part of the president's response (begins at 36:40) to Tennessee Representative Marcia Blackburn's question about health care that I thought was most interesting, and telling:

... 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, 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. 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. ... 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 I would just say that we have to think about tone. ... This is part of what's happened in our politics, where we demonize the other side so much that when it comes to actually getting things done, it becomes tough to do.

This particular passage really is a testament to the wonder that is Barack Obama without a teleprompter, because within simply this one section of this one response there is so much. There is the president's unique confrontational approach to "breaking bread." You know. nothing says let's meet on the left for some good, old-fashioned bipartisanship like a nice healthy dose of presidential hectoring. And the comment about tone to top it off is just another fine example of the Obama projection that we've come to know and love.

Then there is the curious appearance of the word "Bolshevik." Now that's not a word you hear a president use every day. There's the "pretty centrist" tag being applied to the Democrats' fairly socialist health care plan. There are those famous and without doubt reliable "independent observers." Of course, you get the distinct sense that these independent observers are "independent" sort of in the same way that David Brooks is "conservative."

But what stands out above all else in this passage is the president's cluelessness as to why the Democrats' health care reform plans are on the rocks. According to Obama, the whole fiasco could have been avoided and health care reform accomplished had the Republicans simply been team players and not got the unwashed masses all riled up. I mean, how else could it be that a bill that is so "centrist" could be so disliked by the American people? There can really be only one explanation: Somebody put them up to it.

Let's go through the president's fascinating logic here, shall we? The Republican nobility has completely misrepresented the king's intentions, thereby creating a most unfortunate situation where the peasants don't trust him and his Democratic court anymore. And what's more, these common folk are in such a tizzy that they have left the Republican noblemen in Congress with absolutely no wiggle room; for if these Republicans concede anything now in an effort to improve the lot for all, they will be in hot water back home.

Earth to Barack Obama: It isn't the Republicans on Capitol Hill that have blocked your attempts to put America on the path towards government-run health care. It was the American people -- the same people that punished your party in 1994 when they tried to pull this stunt the last time. And it wasn't because they were told that it was "some wild-eyed plot to impose huge government in every aspect of [their] lives," or that "this guy is doing all kinds of crazy stuff that's going to destroy America." They figured that stuff out on their own.
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