I've said this before, but I'm a big believer not just in the value of a loyal opposition, but in its necessity. Having differences of opinion, having a real debate about matters of domestic policy and national security; that's not something that's only good for our country, it's absolutely essential.Would the bad ideas have been tossed out of the health-care plan if the congressional Democrats had gone through a "process of disagreement" that included the Republicans? It's way too late to talk about some kind of "absolutely essential" process that the Democrats never even considered following back when they thought they had an invincible supermajority. Republican support is a necessity now, but not because of some dialectical ideal of policymaking proceeding by debate. You need the votes now, and you didn't then.
It's only through the process of disagreement and debate that bad ideas get tossed out and good ideas get refined and made better.
The only thing I don't want -- and here I am listening to the American people, and I think they don't want either -- is for Washington to continue being so Washington-like.The people reacted and are continuing to react to what the Democrats did with their supermajority. The objection isn't to discord and obstruction. The objection is to the rule of a single party rule that has seen fit to ram through policies people don't want.
You're telling the Republicans to be more acquiescent, right when they are well-positioned to win elections in the fall. And isn't that what the people want, a better balance of conservatives and liberals in Congress? And isn't that the way to get to real bipartisanship, with a second party that has some voting power? You're only saying what you are now because Scott Brown won in Massachusetts and took away the overweening power of the Democrats in the Senate.
... I don't believe that the American people want us to focus on our job security. They want us to focus on their job security.But you really are focusing on reelecting Democrats here. It is about their job security, as you see Republican challengers on the horizon.
Let's dig into the Q&A:
PENCE: ... Republicans offered a stimulus bill.... It cost half as much as the Democratic proposal in Congress. And using your economic analyst models, it would have created twice the jobs at half the cost. It essentially was across-the-board tax relief, Mr. President.... [W]ould you be willing to consider embracing... the kind of across-the-board tax relief that Republicans have advocated...?I cut down that question to its essence, so I've made it look easier to see than it was, but does Obama answer the question? The closest he gets is:
OBAMA: ... 95 percent of working Americans got tax cuts. Small businesses got tax cuts. Large businesses got help in terms of their depreciation schedules... [T]he notion that I would somehow resist doing something that cost half as much but would produce twice as many jobs -- why would I resist that? I wouldn't. I mean, that's my point, is that -- I am not an ideologue.... The problem is, I couldn't find credible economists who would back up the claims that you just made.... There may be other ideas that you guys have....Pence cuts through the verbiage, and restates he question clearly:
PENCE: Mr. President, would -- will you consider supporting across-the-board tax relief, as President Kennedy did?Obama's answer:
OBAMA: ... I think is important to note, you know, what you may consider across-the-board tax cuts could be, for example, greater tax cuts for people who are making a billion dollars.... [a]nd... if you're calling for just across-the-board tax cuts and then, on the other hand, saying that we're somehow going to balance our budget, I'm going to want to take a look at your math and see how that -- how that works. Because the issue of deficit and debt is another area where there has been a tendency for some inconsistent statements.AKA "no."
RYAN: ... [W]hy not start freezing spending now? And would you support a line-item veto and helping us get a vote on it in the House?Obama cuts Paul Ryan off when he starts to explain why this new version of the line-item veto is unconstitutional. (The Clinton-Era Line Item Veto Act was unconstiutional.)
OBAMA: ... [I]f you either increased taxes or significantly lowered spending when the economy remains somewhat fragile, that that would have a destimulative effect and potentially you'd see a lot of folks losing business, more folks potentially losing jobs. That would be a mistake when the economy has not fully taken off....
With respect to the line-item veto, I actually -- I think there's not a president out there that wouldn't love to have it....
CHAFFETZ: [W]hen you stood up before the American people multiple times and said you would broadcast the health care debates on C-SPAN, you didn't. I was disappointed, and I think a lot of Americans were disappointed.
You said you weren't going to allow lobbyists in the senior-most positions within your administration, and yet you did. I applauded you when you said it, and disappointed when you didn't.
You said you'd go line by line through the health care debate -- or through the health care bill. And there were six of us, including Dr. Phil Roe, who sent you a letter and said, "We would like to take you up on that offer. We'd like to come." We never heard a letter. We never got a call. We were never involved in any of those discussions.....
OBAMA: ... I think it's a legitimate criticism. So on that one, I take responsibility.All right! Guilty as charged. But are you going to do anything about it now? That's what "responsibility" really means. Not just, yep, we did that.
BLACKBURN: [T]hank you for acknowledging that we have ideas on health care. Because, indeed, we do have ideas. We have plans. We have over 50 bills. We have lots of amendments that would bring health care ideas to the forefront....Snuck in...
And if those good ideas aren't making it to you, maybe it's the House Democrat leadership that is an impediment instead of a conduit....
OBAMA: Actually, I've gotten many of your ideas. I've taken a look at them... If you can show me and if I get confirmation from health care experts, people who know the system and how it works... I'm game....
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.
For example -- for example, you know, we said from the start that -- that it was going to be important for us to be consistent in saying to people if you can have your -- if you want to keep the health insurance you've got, you can keep it; that you're not going to have anybody getting in between you and your doctor in your decisionmaking. And I think that some of the provisions that got snuck in might have violated that pledge.
[F]rankly, how some of you went after this bill, you'd think that this thing was some Bolshevik plot.That made me laugh... but he just admitted that things got snuck in, so that does sound like a plot, and "Bolshevik" is just a funny way to say: I know this looks really left-wing to you. The question remains: Is it?
[W]e've got to close the gap a little bit between the rhetoric and the reality.Now, Obama is known for his rhetoric, and any politician uses rhetoric. The Republicans have to say too much government. It's very effective, and it matches their ideology. Of course, it's annoying to the Democrats.
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.
It's not just on your side, by the way. It's -- it's on our side as well. 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.That's a fine point, but scrape away the nasty tone that's sometimes there, and politicians still need to state their ideological positions clearly. People need to know that the 2 parties are different. If Obama really believes in the ideal he stated at the outset, that there is an essential process of "real debate about matters of domestic policy and national security," then there needs to be crisp definition of conservatism and liberalism.
If you're going to say people need to be compliant and lawmaking shouldn't be tough, then you don't what happened to your ideal of the "absolutely essential... the process of disagreement"?