Obama offers new insults, then laments gridlock

Neil Munro White House Correspondent
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President Barack Obama used his Thursday press conference to diagnose Republicans as fear-mongering, spiteful, obstinate, petulant and obstructive, as he again declared mission-accomplished in his effort to put the nation’s health-care under government control.

“I recognize that their party is going through the stages of grief — anger and denial and all that stuff — and we’re not at acceptance yet,” Obama told reporters, where he announced that his Obamacare network had claimed 8 million subscribers.

Obama coupled his passive-voice diatribe with his more-in-sorrow-than-anger promise that he “would much prefer a constructive conversation with the Republicans about how do we get some stuff done.”

The conciliatory pitch was sandwiched between Obama’s diverse attacks on the GOP’s sincerity, solidarity and sanity.

The combination was likely carefully crafted to rally progressives and also to goad GOP activists and legislators to make rash responses that can later be portrayed as divisive during the 2014 campaign.

Obama declared puzzlement at the GOP’s unified small-government agenda, repeated his demands for huge increases in spending and immigration, and nudged the press to focus on the GOP’s policy debates instead of his record-breaking spending and regulating.

“I’m still puzzled why the [GOP has] made this their sole agenda item when it comes to our politics,” he said, ignoring polls that show the Obamacare issue generates a ballot-box advantage for GOP candidates.

“There’s a lot of fear-mongering and a lot of political argument and debate, and a lot of accusations are flung back and forth about socialized medicine and the end of freedom,” he claimed, even though he has unilaterally delayed the full implementation of his far-reaching plan to put one-sixth of the nation’s economy under indirect federal control. To minimize public opposition, Obama has temporarily stopped numerous unpopular and expensive sections of the law.

Republicans are obstinate, he insisted. “They still can’t bring themselves to admit that the Affordable Care Act is working,” he said, even it is only part-way implemented.

“This does frustrate me: [GOP-led] states that have chosen not to expand Medicaid for no other reason than political spite,” he said, while denying that the states would actually have to tax state residents billions of dollars to fund government-run healthcare for millions more people. “You’ve got 5 million people who could be having health insurance right now at no cost to these states — zero cost to these states — other than ideological reasons,” said Obama.

GOP leaders are petulant and prideful, he implied. “The challenge we have is, is that if you have certain members in the Republican Party whose view is making it work better is a concession to me, then it’s hard in that environment” to admit the health-sector plan is working, he said.

GOP activists are deceptive, he suggested. “We see accusations that the law is hurting millions of people being completely debunked — as some of you in the press have done,” he said.

Obama has performed this insult-and-ingratiation routine before.

During the 2013 October debate, for example, he generously said that “I don’t believe any party has a monopoly on good ideas,” while describing Republicans as akin to arsonists, kidnappers, deadbeats, butchers, lunatics, extortionists, obsessives, out-of-touch hostage-takers, nuclear-armed bombers, and unserious irresponsible extremists who are are determined to deny health-care to Americans.

There’s little risk that he’ll be tagged as divisive and insincere by the White House press corps, which sat quietly while a few selected reporters offered respectful and predictable questions during the Thursday press conference.

“Thank you, Mr. President,” said a reporter from Politico. “Given all that you were just saying about the Affordable Care Act, do you think it’s time for Democrats to start campaigning loudly and positively on the benefits of Obamacare? Will you lead that charge?”

Obama was free to combine his tirade with a sales-pitch for his top priorities. For example, he asked a reporter at a Spanish-language media outlet to ask a question, who predictably invited him to talk about his push for the Senate’s amnesty and guest-worker bill.

A “comprehensive immigration bill,” Obama said, “would strengthen our economy, it would help with our security, and it would provide relief to [foreign] families who — many of whom have lived here for years and who have children and family members who are U.S. citizens.”

He did not explain how the Senate immigration bill — which would triple the inflow of legal immigrants and guest-workers up to 40 million over the next decade — would help American families or each year’s graduation classes of 4 million Americans find good jobs.

The Congressional Budget Office reported in 2013 that the Senate bill would only slow the inflow of illegal immigrants, and would shift more of the nation’s annual income from wage-earners to investors. In 2012, the share of income earned by wages-earners fell to a 63-year low, the share earned as profits rose to an 85-year high, and the middle-class shrank further.

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Neil Munro