The Obama Watch

What’s Not Political About Health Care Reform?

It's not about him, the president said. But Meredith Vieira wasn't buying.

By 7.22.09

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President Obama whined on "The Today Show" yesterday that politics was getting in the way of his noble effort to reform health care on behalf of the American people. To her credit, Meredith Vieira didn't buy it. And if Meredith Vieira doesn't buy it, Obama's got big problems. 

Obama has always portrayed himself as the white knight riding to the rescue of the people. It's his heroic proposals vs. evil special interests. Period. He was at it again yesterday morning, but the veil of nobility is wearing so thin that even "Today Show" hosts can see through it. 

When Vieira quoted Sen. Jim DeMint, R-S.C., saying, ""If we are able to stop Obama on this, it will be his Waterloo. It will break him," Obama saw his opening. 

"All the previous questions you asked, that's the answer to," he said. "This is not about 'do we need a little more time to get this right, to be constructive, to talk to the policy analysts. This is all about politics. That describes exactly an attitude that we've gotta overcome. Because, what folks have in their minds is that somehow this is about me, it's about politics, and the ability to win back the House of Representatives. And people are thinking back to 1993 when President Clinton wasn't able to get health care, right after that the House Republicans won…" 

At this point Vieira interrupted. 

"But this is about politics, Mr. President. This is a key issue for you. You have a big stake in this. If this falls apart, that is not good for you." 

Obama pulled his pensive stare-at-the-floor look, shook his head, and brought up "the people." 

"Meredith, I, I, all I can say is that this is absolutely important to me. But this is not as important to me as it is to the people who don't have health care. I've got health care. This isn't as important to me as the family that's going bankrupt because they got a bunch of medical bills that they thought the insurance companies would cover. It turned out they weren't covered. So, yes, absolutely, I am deeply invested in getting this thing done. But this isn't Washington sport. This isn't about who's up and who's down. This is about solving an enormous problem for the American people." 

It's all about the people! You'd think Obama was Zorro, he talks about "the people" so much. 

Earlier in the interview, Vieira asked him why he set an August deadline for getting a health care bill passed through Congress. He actually said that it wasn't his deadline, it was the people's.

"The deadline's not being set by me. The deadline's being set by the American people."

You remember voting on that, don't you? Signing that petition to Congress to have health care reform passed by the August recess? Me neither. 

Obama can pretend all he wants that only the other side is playing politics, but someone among the White House press corps ought to ask him this: Isn't proposing a government revision of 17 percent of the entire U.S. economy inherently political? 

How is it that proposing massive government-initiated overhaul of the entire health care sector is not political, but opposing such a step is nothing but playing politics? 

The president assumes that his rhetorical sleight-of-hand will get health care reform as he envisions it passed. But his assertions are transparently false. They are, in short, purely political. If Meredith Vieira can see that, the rest of the country can, too. 

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Andrew Cline is editorial page editor of the New Hampshire Union Leader. You can follow him on Twitter at @Drewhampshire.