Obama Presser Thread
If something interesting comes along.
So far the opening remarks on Iran are pretty much the same as he said in his statement over the weekend. He's also pushing back on the Iranian government's claim that the US is meddling in their internal affairs... "no iron fist is willing to shut off the world from bearing witness." He actually referenced Neda. "Those who stand up for justice are always on the right side of history."
Now he's talking up Waxman-Markey, a little above what the bill actually does, frankly.
Health care "must and will be paid for," and "will bring down the crushing cost" of treatment. We must "preserve what is best about our health care system," but unless we fix what is broken, health care will become a burden to all of us. "Status quo is unsustainable and unacceptable"... that was a pretty generic statement on health care.
? on Iran: "We're still waiting to see how this plays out." I agree with Matt Yglesias that an Iran with this regime still in power will not be available for engagement, and Obama in his remarks seems to recognize that. The moderates who may have been able to push Supreme Leader Khamenei toward a greater engagement with the world are the ones bitterly opposing him on the streets. The hardliners have Khamenei's ear right now, and if the crackdown succeeds, they'll be the only ones left in the room. "How they handle the dissent within their own country will not only shape Iran's future but the relationship with other countries."
Obama SINGLES OUT Nico Pitney for a question, which Pitney solicited from Iranians earlier today. That's a fantastic moment for online journalism. Pitney asks under what conditions Obama will accept Ahmadinejad's victory. Obama acknowledges significant questions about the legitimacy of the election, but says that ultimately it's up to the Iranian people. "We can say unequivocally that there is a set of international norms and principles about violence and crushing dissent."
? about the systemic risk regulator in new financial regulation, and the role of the Fed. Obama says that the Fed performed better than other regulators, which I find dubious. He's on better ground talking about consumer protection and the CFPA (Consumer Financial Protection Agency), and here he admits that the Fed had responsibility over consumer protection. "We are not expanding the Fed's power but focusing on what the Fed needs to do." He wants to give the Fed resolution authority, such as what they could have had over AIG.
? by Major Garrett saying "what took you so long" to be appalled and outraged over Iranian repression. Typical neocon framing, and Obama doesn't accept it. He has to repeat this again, slowly, with smaller chunks of words... in a follow-up, he asks if Iranians are still allowed at July 4 celebrations, and he kind of dodges it.
? on the public option. Obama pivots to talk about health care reform more broadly. Cites the polls showing that 77% of Americans are satisfied with their health insurance, but that's going to end if we don't control costs. We cannot keep doing what we're doing. We have "a long-standing, critical problem with our health care system." It seems like he doesn't want to get into specifics. "Our top priority is to control costs." Talking about incentives and the delivery system, essentially the McAllen problem, which is something that the press has trouble reporting on. Obama says that he can't support a bill without significant cost control. He talks about how the bill has to be paid for, and can in part be done by shifting money already in the system. "I think it's also wise policy to start providing coverage for people who don't have health insurance or are underinsured... I get two or three letters a day" about health care horror stories.
"The public plan, I think, is an important tool to discipline insurance companies." He moves quickly into the health insurance exchange idea, which is also not discussed all that much, and which I'm planning a post about later. He's talking about a public option inside that exchange that makes sense. "Why would it drive private insurance out of business?" He really took on the faulty logic by insurance industries with that one. "Conceptually, the notion that all these insurance companies who say they're giving people the best possible deal, that they can't compete... that defies logic."
? from Chip Reid going right back to this nonsense Iran argument from the neocons. He's not saying ANYTHING DIFFERENT TODAY that he did over the weekend. Chuck Todd does the same thing. Come on, guys.
? from Jake Tapper, asking if the public plan is non-negotiable. Tapper tries to make this argument about how the public plan would just destroy insurers on cost. Obama isn't drawing lines in the sand on the public option, despite given every opportunity to do so. The current position is that the public plan makes sense. I wish Obama said that the whole POINT is to make insurers compete on cost. "I'd like insurers to take note" on reducing administrative costs, and I don't think anyone should object to that. He did a decent job with that in the final analysis, but he declined to take a stand.
Obama did something really well at the end there, saying that he took the advocates of the free market to heart. If they're so damn great at delivering services, and if the government is so bad at it, then they shouldn't have a problem.
? Wow, that was a sucky question from McClatchy there, basically pumping the President for information on his smoking habits. To his credit, Obama answered it.
? on the Chilean President coming to the White House. He's obviously been briefed on the Chilean situation, and gets a dig in about Bush wasting the surplus.
? on unemployment and the need for a second stimulus package. Obama says not yet. And says that nobody had a sense of what the recession would look like. "We missed the mark as to our estimates of where unemployment would go." He acknowledges that unemployment will go over 10%. Says that in the absence of the stimulus, the economy would have declined much more. This is true, but there's a problem with this that I'd like to get into in a later post. "I don't expect people to be satisfied" with the progress on the economy. That's an honest take, saying that it's a tough period. As an example, the mortgage program isn't working as well as it should. Wants to focus on the short-term pitfalls in the economy, and setting the foundation for long-term growth.
Two more questions...
? on African-American unemployment rate hitting 20% potentially. It's good to ask Obama about things like this, which he appears reluctant to address. He's trying to play the "rising tide lifts all boats" argument by saying that we have to recover the entire economy. In some inner-city communities, the jobless rate was sky-high even before the recession. So then he starts in about programs that can focus on the inner city and give them ladders to get into the job market. I'd love to hear Obama talk more about these kinds of programs.
? Suzanne Malveaux with the final question, asks about Neda. Obama's seen the video, calls it heartbreaking, and that it's fundamentally unjust. Malveaux asks about the quiet in the cities, and how the demonstrators may be paralyzed by fear. Obama expresses concerns about that. "We've all been struck by the courage of people.... the arc of the moral universe is long but it bends toward justice."