In his first interview since the passage of the landmark health care reform bill, President Barack Obama oozed confidence, reiterated his desire to work with GOPers but not at the expense of enacting change, and seemed a bit chastened by what he has learned in office about the Presidency and Washington.
The interview with the Today Show’s Matt Laurer was of particular interest amid a news narrative that had Obama seemingly heading towards Jimmy Carterland, then redeemed by the passage of health care reform after just a month earlier it was proclaimed all but dead, immediately followed by 15 recess appointments that enraged GOPers (who had supported the tactic with George Bush was President and used it). Would Obama seem bloated with mojo? Would he downplay change that would require push back from Republicans?
Among other things, Obama said that the health care bill was just a “first step.” He noted that the Tea Party movement is built around a “core group” that questions his legitimacy and whether he is a socialist or even a US citizen, vowed to press ahead on big challenges, stressed the important of preempting terrorist threats, and said Afghan’s President Hamid Karzai has made progress in cleaning up corruption “but there’s a long way to go.”
Here are some video segments to reach your own conclusions:
On the Tea Party and the political divide:
On U.S. subway and rail security:
On adjustments still needed on health care reform:
On health care reform being a critical first step:
Obama on Karzai:
MSNBC’s (must-read) First Read summarizes the interview this way:
In an interview with NBC’s Lauer, Obama calls health care law “a critical first step” and “middle of the road”… Says the GOP made a calculated decision to defeat the legislation… Remarks that Afghan President Karzai is listening, but that his progress “is too slow”… Admits that he hasn’t changed the polarized political culture in DC yet… USA Today/Gallup poll finds no bounce for Obama, while a CNN poll shows a five-point bump… RNC’s problems have turned Steele and the committee into a punching bag… And introducing “Super Senate Tuesday.”
They provide several summaries. Here are three of the most interesting:
From Chuck Todd, Mark Murray, Domenico Montanaro, and Ali Weinberg
*** Obama on ‘TODAY’: In his first interview since health care’s passage, President Obama told NBC’s Matt Lauer that the law he signed into law last week — as well as the reconciliation fixes he signs into law later this morning– is “a critical first step in making a health-care system that works for all Americans.” Obama added, “It’s not gonna be the only thing. We’re still gonna have adjustments that have to be made to further reduce costs.” Asked to respond to the fact that not a single Republican voted for the legislation, he answered, “I think that the Republican Party made a calculated decision, a political decision, that they would not support whatever we did… And I think that’s unfortunate because when you actually look at the bill itself, it incorporates all sorts of Republican ideas. I mean, a lot of commentators have said, you know, this is sort of similar to the bill that Mitt Romney … passed in Massachusetts.”
*** Middle of the road: “So it’s all politics?” Lauer followed up. Obama’s reply: “I will say that any objective observer looking at this bill would say that this is a middle-of-the-road centrist approach to providing coverage to people and making sure that we are also reducing costs.” More Obama: “What I’ve tried to say throughout is I will continually reach out to Republicans. I will continue to incorporate their ideas even when they don’t vote for the ideas that I’ve presented. But what I’m not gonna be dissuaded from is us going ahead taking on these big challenges that are critical in terms of America’s long-term economic health.”
This is perhaps the most interesting one:
*** I haven’t solved the political culture in DC yet: And Lauer asked Obama this provocative question: After the divisive health-care debate, do you have a different opinion of the job George W. Bush did in office? “You know, I think that having sat in the Oval Office as president, I am much more sympathetic to all presidents generally,” he responded. “Because what is true is that there are big tough decisions that you make. And you know that unless you try to avoid those problems, whatever you decide is gonna make some people happy and some people unhappy. And I think there’s things that George Bush has done that were smart and the right thing to do, I’ve said that before.” But then Obama mentioned the polarization in DC — a topic he even brought up in his speech in Afghanistan on Sunday. “There’s something about the political culture here in Washington that is a chronic problem. I haven’t solved it yet.” It’s truly remarkable that the president felt the need to bring up, ON HIS OWN, the polarization in his speech to troops in Afghanistan. Remember, there isn’t a heated debate about the war in Afghanistan right now; the president was referring to DOMESTIC politics in his troop speech; more remarkable when framed that way.
Joe Gandelman is a former fulltime journalist who freelanced in India, Spain, Bangladesh and Cypress writing for publications such as the Christian Science Monitor and Newsweek. He also did radio reports from Madrid for NPR’s All Things Considered. He has worked on two U.S. newspapers and quit the news biz in 1990 to go into entertainment. He also has written for The Week and several online publications, did a column for Cagle Cartoons Syndicate and has appeared on CNN.