Roundtable on Obama's Town Hall Meeting

Roundtable on Obama's Town Hall Meeting

By Special Report With Bret Baier - August 11, 2009


PRESIDENT BARACK OBAMA: We have a vigorous debate. That's why we have a democracy. But I do hope that we will talk with each other and not over each other.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: This is about the systematic dismantling of this country.


I am only 35 years old. I have never been interested in politics. You have awakened a sleeping giant. We are tired of this.


BRET BAIER, "SPECIAL REPORT" HOST: Two different town halls and two different, very different flavors to them.

And there you see the latest polling from Rasmussen about Obama health care reform - 53 percent oppose, 42 percent favor.

Whatever the Obama plan is, because there are a number of plans out there, let's bring in our panel and talk about this day and the town halls, Steve Hayes, senior writer for the "Weekly Standard", Mort Kondracke, Executive Editor of "Roll Call," and syndicated columnist Charles Krauthammer.

The White House says, Steve, that this town hall, the people were selected randomly, 70 percent of them were given tickets randomly, 30 percent were distributed through local officials and other organizations. But boy, the feel in New Hampshire in the town hall for the president was different than what we are seeing around the country.

STEVE HAYES, SENIOR WRITER, "THE WEEKLY STANDARD": Pretty friendly, and New Hampshire is a notoriously anti-big government state.

Look, I think the president got off to a bad start when he said "I'm here to set the record straight" and then proceeded to say four or four or five things that are factually incorrect or at least in dispute.

He said several times that health care reform would be deficit neutral. It wouldn't be. The CBO has weighed in on that. That is also on the White House fact check Web site. It's just not the case.

BAIER: At least with the bill so far that have been written?

HAYES: Right. But I want the "Weekly Standard" to double my salary, but I can't put that on my loan application, right. It is not just on the reality right now.

At the same time, his press secretary on the flight up there was talking about conservatives not having any real health care plan and opposing all health care reform.

It's nonsense. Right as he was saying that, Tom Price was on another cable network making the case that he wanted this kind of reform, different kinds, but the same substantive kind of reform.

So the White House is, I think, having real trouble with the truth right now.

BAIER: Mort, there was one question from a Republican in the audience. He asked about if there is a public option, whether private insurance companies could hold their own against a government-funded public option. Here is what the president said in response.


OBAMA: I think private insurers should be able to compete. They do it all the time. If you think about it, you know, UPS and Fedex are doing just fine. No, they are. The Post Office is always having problems.


BAIER: The Post Office is having problems. There you see the graphic, $7 billion loss in 2009, $7 billion projected loss in 2010. To cite a government agency that's losing $14 billion in two years as an example -

MORT KONDRACKE, EXECUTIVE EDITOR, "ROLL CALL": You would think that the president would take from that fact the idea that the government option is going to be a failure.

Medicare, the government-run health program for seniors, is going broke. It has not reformed anything. It has not done any of the things, even though the government has been running it since 1965, has not done health I.T., has not done, you know, disease management, any of that kind of stuff private insurance companies do.

The best kind of solution for this problem would be the Swiss system where you have individual mandate, entirely private competition among health insurance companies. It lowers costs. It gives lots of choice. People get subsidized. There is no preexisting conditions and all of that kind of stuff, but it is private competition which works. It works again and again and again, and it's working right now in Medicare Part D, which he also disparaged.

BAIER: Charles.

CHARLES KRAUTHAMMER, SYNDICATED COLUMNIST: And the Swiss are so healthy they all wear shorts, so we know that system works.

I thought the key event in this town hall was when Obama said he did not support a single-payer system, which means a government-run system. And the reason he gave is because the transition would be disruptive, not because he opposes it on principle.

In fact, we know that before he became a national candidate, he supported a Canadian-style system, which is a way of saying he still believes in it.

And we heard from high-ranking Democrats who have admitted in Congress that the public option is the royal road to a government-run system. So it leads to a lot of suspicion, and I think warranted suspicion, that the public option is the camel's nose as a way to get us started on the road inevitably to a government-run system.

BAIER: After the panel last night, we literally received hundreds and hundreds of e-mails about people upset that Mort, you compared them to Code Pink, causing a stir, Charles, you said that it's not good strategy. I mean, tons and tons of e-mails.

And then this afternoon, Rush Limbaugh responded to Mort, who said that Rush was stirring this up. Take a listen to this.


RUSH LIMBAUGH, RADIO TALK SHOW HOST: I am not encouraging all of this, and the only incivility that has happened occurred after Obama dispatched the SEIU to places like Melville outside St. Louis and other places.

So these people get it in their template that I'm causing this and that the Republicans are going to blow it. It is this ivory tower, let's be polite. Let's not make them think that we are what they lie about us being all the time. Let's be civil and let's be quiet. That's how we got the stimulus bill.


BAIER: Mort?

KONDRACKE: I call that disparagement of civility what he was just doing.

Look, I quote Rush Limbaugh on previous occasions, "Adolf Hitler like Barack Obama also ruled by dictate. He was also called "the messiah."" Quote, unquote, "If Al Qaeda wants to demolish America as we know and love it, then they better hurry, because Obama is beating them to it."

BAIER: Mort the issue was whether Rush was telling them to go in there and scream and interrupt.

KONDRACKE: He regards these people who have been disrupting meetings, and we have seen lots of video of it -

BAIER: Couldn't you just say that some of these people are just upset, they are fearful?

KONDRACKE: Yes, some of them are upset. Yes, they're fearful. Why are they fearful? They're fearful because people like Rush Limbaugh are telling them that Barack Obama will rule by dictate like Adolf Hitler.


HAYES: They fearful the government will take over health care.

KRAUTHAMMER: As the other definitive doc, let me just say that I don't mind Rush attacking me, but when he links me to Mort, that's a low blow. I may not recover.


There is a distinction. He says let's be civil. Let's be quiet. There is a distinction between civil and quiet. I think people ought to be open, vocal, demonstrate, shout and scream outside the hall. Inside the hall you are civil.

And the reason is a tactical one. You are giving the Democrats and the liberals an excuse and distraction that they are using against those who correctly, I think, oppose the plan.


Tony in Sheboygan, Wisconsin - "Mort and Charles need to remove their collective heads from their posteriors and see what's actually happening in the real world." We're going to leave it there.

KRAUTHAMMER: That is an ugly image. I don't want to contemplate that.

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