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« Obama Excerpts: What's In It For You | Blog Home Page | DCCC Slaps GOPers For Fiscal Hypocrisy »

Presidential Presser: First Take

I'm not sure that President Obama said much tonight about health care that he hasn't already said in the past week during his public events and multiple network interviews. But, as NBC's Chuck Todd pointed out, the remarks coming as they did in a prime time, widely-broadcast event reached a much wider audience.

But what was notable was how in his opening statement, and especially later during the Q&A, the president did make a more forceful case about that reforming the health care system is fiscally responsible, while defending other budgetary decisions.

"The American people are understandably queasy about the huge deficits and deficits we're facing right now," he said. "Legitimately, people are saying, 'Look. We're in a recession. I'm cutting back. I'm having to do other things. And yet all I see is government spending more and more money.'"

That argument, he conceded, "has been used effectively by people who don't want to change health care." But after reiterating past comments about the significant deficit he inherited, he said that the debt and the deficit "are deep concerns of mine."

"Everybody who's out there who has been ginned up by this idea that the Obama administration wants to spend and spend and spend, the fact of the matter is that we inherited an enormous deficit, enormous long-term debt projections," he said. "We have not reduced it as much as we need to or as I'd like to, but health care reform is not going to add to that deficit. It's designed to lower it."

Obama took just 10 questions (He would have taken one fewer if not for an awkward moment where a reporter misheard who Obama called on and stood in his place). One of his shortest answers came in response to one of the toughest questions -- whether his administration has lived up to its promise of transparency. In response to a Los Angeles Times story that his administration denied a request for logs of health care executives who have met with White House officials, Obama said that his administration was releasing a full list, and that most if not all of these meetings have included pool sprays for the press. On a campaign pledge to televise health care deliberations on C-SPAN, he noted that his opening health care session was televised, and that many committee hearings have been as well.

"I don't think a lot of secrets are going on in there," he said.

Finally, expect this to be a hot topic on cable news tomorrow. Lynn Sweet of the Chicago Sun-Times asked the president for his reaction to an African-American professor from Harvard being arrested by Cambridge police while attempting to enter his own home. Obama said that Professor Gates is a friend of his, so he's a little "biased." He joked that if he was attempting to "jigger" his way into his home, he'd "get shot." But when Gates was arrested after presenting proof that he was in his own home, the police "acted stupidly."

"There is a long history in this country of African Americans and Latinos being stopped by law enforcement disproportionately. That's a fact," he said. "That is an example of how race remains a factor in society."