If you didn’t watch the back and forth on Friday between President Obama and Republicans in the Congress, you missed some really good political TV, no matter what side you’re on right now.
The venue was a gathering in Baltimore of House Republicans, who had invited the President to speak to them. Usually, the opening remarks are open to the media, and then we are hustled out.
In this case, the White House asked that the cameras and reporters stay, and the Republicans agreed.
What we saw was basically a press conference of sorts, except the people asking the questions were GOP lawmakers, who obviously saw things differently than President Obama on a number of fronts.
It was a good event for both sides in many ways. For the White House, it allowed them to get out the story line they want to peddle right now, which is that they are offering the olive branch, and if those darn pesky Republicans don’t accept, they should be blamed for everything.
On the GOP side, it allowed them to publicly show the voters that they have their own ideas, that Democrats are lying when they say that the GOP offered nothing on health care for example, and if the White House refuses to accept some of their plans, then it proves they’re just a bunch of power hungry politicians.
“One of the keys was you rolled your sleeves up, you worked with the other party, and ultimately you were able to make the deal,” said Rep. Peter Roskam (R-IL), who reminded Obama that when they worked together in the Illinois Legislature, he was a different kind of politician.
“I can look you in the eye and tell you we have not been obstructionists,” said Rep. Jason Chaffetz (R-UT).
“And when you stood up before the American people multiple times and said you would broadcast the health care debates on C-SPAN, you didn’t,” Chaffetz added. “And I was disappointed, and I think a lot of Americans were disappointed.”
While Mr. Obama tried to parry Chaffetz on a few points, he gave him a nod on C-SPAN.
“I think it’s a legitimate criticism. So on that one, I take responsibility,” the President said.
There were eight questions in all from the GOP, some of which seemingly got on the President’s nerves, as he dinged Republicans right back for their hostility to his health plan, ripping their attacks on it as a big government mistake.
“But if you were to listen to the debate and, frankly, how some of you went after this bill, you’d think that this thing was some Bolshevik plot,” said the President, in what might have been the line of the day.
Did anyone “win” from this encounter? You’ll have to ask Independent and swing voters about that. They were – and will be – the only voters with any real opinion that matters in coming months.