President Obama mounted a passionate, campaign-style defense of his health care program on Thursday, just days before its main elements take effect, mocking opponents for “crazy” arguments and accusing them of trying to “blackmail a president” to stop the law.
Addressing a friendly audience outside Washington, the president abandoned the professorial tone he sometimes takes while describing the program and departed from his text to fire up supporters. He portrayed critics as billionaires who would deny help for the sick, and politicians who have become hostage to Tea Party ideologues.
Mr. Obama, his voice laced with scorn, ridiculed Republicans for threatening to shut down the government or refusing to increase the debt ceiling to undercut the health care program, saying they had “put up every conceivable roadblock” and were “poisoning Obamacare” so they could then “claim it’s sick.” He cited some of their more flamboyant quotes in an attempt to portray them as extremists, including one racially charged quotation.
“All this would be funny if it wasn’t so crazy,” Mr. Obama told hundreds of students, professors and others at Prince George’s Community College. “A lot of it is just hot air, a lot of it is just politics, I understand that. But now the Tea Party Republicans have taken it to a whole new level because they’re threatening either to shut down the government or shut down the entire economy by refusing to let America pay its bills for the first time in history unless I agree to gut a law that will help millions of people.”
He noted that one Republican Congressional candidate recently said that the health care program was “as destructive to personal, individual liberty as the Fugitive Slave Act” of 1850. “Think about that,” Mr. Obama told the largely black crowd. “Affordable health care is worse than a law that lets slave owners get their runaway slaves back. I mean these are quotes. I’m not making this stuff up.”
At another point, referring to opponents, he asked, “What is it that they’re so scared about?”
Many in the crowd called out, “You.”
Mr. Obama also singled out sponsors of a “cynical ad campaign” discouraging Americans from signing up for the new health care program by arguing that it would effectively put the government into the room when women undergo gynecological exams and men undergo colonoscopies.
“These are billionaires several times over,” Mr. Obama said, evidently referring to the conservative political activists Charles and David Koch, without naming them. “You know they’ve got good health care.” But if people who turn down the new health care subsidy get sick, he said, the Kochs would not care. “Are they going to pay for your health care?”
“It is interesting, though, how over the last couple years the Republican Party has just spun itself up around this issue,” Mr. Obama continued. “And the fact is the Republicans’ biggest fear at this point is not that the Affordable Care Act is going to fail. What they’re worried about is it’s going to succeed.””
– The New York Times, "Obama Makes Impassioned Defense of Health Law"