Panel Discusses Obama's Health Care Fight

Panel Discusses Obama's Health Care Fight

By Special Report With Bret Baier - July 20, 2009

BARACK OBAMA, (D) PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES OF AMERICA: Just the other day, one Republican senator said - and I'm quoting him now - "If we are able to stop Obama on this, it will be his Waterloo. It will break him."

Think about that. This is not about me. This is not about politics. It is a health care system that is breaking America's families.


BAIER: The senator he is talking about there, Jim DeMint from South Carolina, who released a statement and said "We can give every American access to a health plan they can own, afford, and keep without a government takeover," responding to the president's comment there about his statement.

The president making a full out push for health care reform to pass on Capitol Hill as polls are slipping. The latest poll coming out from the "Washington Post" and ABC News shows that the president's approval on how he is handling health care has slipped - 49 percent approved, 44 percent disapprove.

Let's bring in our panel, Fred Barnes, Executive Editor of The Weekly Standard, Nina Easton, Washington Bureau Chief of Fortune magazine, and the syndicated columnist Charles Krauthammer. Fred, the president goes out on Wednesday for a news conference where he will be talking all about health care. Tonight he has said that the August recess deadline will likely slip in an interview, which we knew.


BAIER: What about this health care reform legislation and where it stands?

BARNES: Well, look, he is in a lot of trouble. And they talk about at the White House, the president, it's the big new push. The president will be leading it.

It's not as if he has been hiding his light under a bushel. He has been out there talking about health care all the time as these numbers have been sinking, his personal numbers sinking, everything to do with President Obama's agenda is sinking.

And so I don't think a personal push by him, a press conference, or anything else is going to help, because it turns out that President Obama, while a great and smooth and gifted speaker, is not particularly persuasive.

He goes out and talks on an issue, and the numbers don't change. They don't go up, and I don't think they will at a press conference this time either, mainly because there is just so much wrong with this bill, and there is no huge outcry on the public demanding this. There is no groundswell around America saying we have to get President Obama's reform bill passed, not at all.

So I think it will come down to one thing if he gets this passed. He will have to do it the crude and rough and raw political way of handing out goodies to people the way they got cap and trade through the House a couple of weeks ago. You know, you promise people this appropriation in their district or you promise them this advance seat on some committee.

And there are lots of things that Congressional leaders and particularly presidents can do and offer. And I think that's the only hope for health care reform.

BAIER: Nina?

NINA EASTON, WASHINGTON BUREAU CHIEF, "FORTUNE" MAGAZINE: He's going to have to do something like that, because I think right now they are asking Democrats to take a lot of dangerous votes.

I think the idea was let's ram something through the House and ram something through the Senate. It's not perfect, but we'll iron it out in committee, rather than starting from a good starting point, which would be something that actually controlled health care costs.

They went in, let Congress design something that expands coverage, expands costs, and there's really no systemic way of controlling costs. There are just a few attempts in any of this legislation.

This is also an economic risk for him, I think, because you talk to people in - economists, people on Wall Street. They say he has got one bite at this. This is something that affects the entire economy.

And investors in America, and in American debt, are looking at this. Is he going to be able to contain these costs that are going to bring down the budget long term? Can he do this? And they have not shown any evidence yet that they can.

BAIER: And the Congressional Budget Office dealt a big blow when they came out with their assessment.

EASTON: Absolutely.

BAIER: Charles?

CHARLES KRAUTHAMMER, SYNDICATED COLUMNIST: What happened with that assessment is that we went from the level of rhetoric to reality.

As long as it was on a rhetorical level, Obama had high numbers on this because he promised the impossible - expanded coverage, less cost. And he made it sound doable and wonderful. Of course, it is if it could be done.

The minute it entered into language and legislation, it became obvious that it can't happen.

What's interesting is how the legislation itself is dying of the cuts of a thousand deaths by Democrats. All of those numbers are coming out in Democratic bills and Democratic hearings. the rebellion among the Democratic blue dogs who do not want to destroy the budget.

And because of that, I'm a little bit worried about Michael Steele who's head of the RNC, taking on the president of the rhetorical level with a speech he made in which he said "Slow down, Mr. President."

BAIER: Yes, let's take a listen to that. We have a sound bite from Michael Steele today.


STEELE: He is conducting a dangerous experiment with our health care and with the quality of our lives. He is conducting a reckless experiment with our economy. And he is conducting an unnecessary experiment with our tax dollars, experiments that will transform the very way of life of our country and its citizens.


BAIER: You don't think Republicans are playing this right?

KRAUTHAMMER: The cardinal rule in Washington is if the other guy is committing suicide, get out of the way. All of these revolts and difficulties are happening in the Democratic side of the aisle.

By entering into a one-on-one rhetorically, Steele against Obama, Obama always wins. He is the master rhetorician.

And the idea of slow down is not the best slogan, because Obama is going to be out there in Cleveland, and he's going to find Mrs. Smith in the audience who has a nine-year-old child who is not getting adequate health care, and he will say that the Republicans are saying slowdown to Mrs. Smith. This stuff writes itself.

If you want to make a slogan - "Stop Mr. President. Don't imagine that your boy geniuses in the White House, these social engineers, are going to reconstruct a sixth of the American economy and do it well."

BAIER: What about that Republican strategy here?

EASTON: And, of course, expanding coverage has always been the easy part of this. The more difficult choices are, how do you pay for it, and how do you inject some level of pro-shopper mentality into the system?

For example, reducing tax benefits on employer provided benefits. They don't want to touch that. I think the White House probably, because of union members. Others don't want to touch that, but that is a difficult - that would be a difficult decision for them to make, and it would actually be better than this millionaire surtax.

By the way, we now know that Nancy Pelosi is saying the surtax on people making $250,000, we don't want to do that. We want a millionaire surtax, because people get that.

So punishing people who make $1 million or families who make $1 million rather than trying to tie the funding to something that will actually bring down the costs in health care.

BARNES: You know we're going to hear - I think it's almost inevitable. I could be wrong, but we're going to hear a lot from President Obama attacking the critics.

His bill is hard to defend. He will attack Michael Steele, probably. He will attack the insurance companies. He'll attack Republicans. He'll attack any critics of the bill.

I mean, even Bill Kristol of the "Weekly Standard," of course, and FOX News was attacked today by Robert Gibbs at the White House for saying we ought to go ahead and kill this Obama plan.

When you get that negative, you are very desperate.

EASTON: But it is not the Obama plan. Why they let this get out of their control and didn't start from the White House, the same with the stimulus -

BARNES: It's the Obama plan.

EASTON: It's not.

BARNES: He might not have written it, but he's stuck with it.


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