July 21, 2009
Obama Press Conference Preview
Barack Obama has had success using certain rhetorical devices in the first six months of his presidency, the most prominent ones being:
Highlighting the Insignificant: Shining a spotlight on minor initiatives, such as when he overplayed his call on cabinet secretaries to find $100 million in cuts in the face of a $1.8 trillion deficit. (You’ve probably used this yourself, such as pointing out how much money you saved by re-using a paper towel the day after you bought a Jet Ski.)
Cherry Picking: An early favorite of the President’s, this technique was often used in the budget debate as when he claimed he will cut the deficit in half in his first four years neglecting to mention that he doubles it in his first eight. (This should be familiar to anyone who has ever had to explain his or her answers on an online dating questionnaire: “That’s a fungus. A fungus is NOT a disease.”)
Straw Man Arguments: A real favorite in which the President makes such claims as, “The opponents of health insurance reform would have us do nothing,” even though opponents have offered many alternatives, from Republicans in Congress, to Libertarians to Liberals. (A personal corollary would be along the lines of, “You don’t like my tuna casserole? Fine, if you don't like any of my cooking, I guess I'll just never cook for you again.”)
Moving the Goalposts: A device that has really started to become popular with the President in which he maintains his new goals are the same as his original ones, such as his most recent claims that the stimulus bill was never about stimulating, but rather stabilizing. (You know you’ve done this too: “When I said I'd 'do' the laundry, I never meant I'd actually fold the clothes. Or dry them. Or wash them, you know, this week...”)
False Urgency: An approach that proved highly successful with the Stimulus, er, we mean, Stabilizing bill, the President is using it again to try to push health care reform, arguing that overhauling one-fifth of the US economy really needs to be wrapped up in the next few weeks. (“Look, if we don’t buy this riding mower right now, I can’t be held responsible for how the lawn looks in 2027...”)
Add to this, a new feistiness, as the President goes off-teleprompter to ad lib in a clearly combative fashion, as he did this week when answering Republican calls to take personal ownership of the economy saying, “That’s fine, give it to me.”
How might all this affect his health care press conference tomorrow night? We offer a sneak preview of what to expect:
Chip Reid, CBS News: Mr. President, there is growing concern that your health care proposals simply cost too much. How do you respond?
Obama: Let me answer your question this way. Just this morning, I received a commitment from CVS, Rite Aid, and Walgreens, to offer the American people double coupons on alternate Wednesdays. That means, if you have a fifty-cents-off coupon for a 100-count bottle of Advil, you get $1.00 off. That’s double. And if you like the caplets you’re currently using, you can keep using them. No one will force you to get the liquigels if you don’t want them. Jake?
Jake Tappper, ABC News: Mr. President, critics of your approach to health care reform note that it does not make health care more affordable or improve care. How do you answer them?
Obama: Let me tell you what my health care plan does do. It provides for pathways. Miles and miles of pathways. You can bicycle, you can walk, you can rollerblade, you can run. That’s the kind of health care plan the American people want, and that’s the kind of health care plan they can expect from me as President of the United States. Chuck?
Chuck Todd, NBC News: Mr. President, your health care plan has been heavily criticized by your opponents. Do you feel you are losing the battle?
Obama: Look. We are offering the American people a plan for the future. All our opponents are offering is to take the 46 million Americans without health insurance today, put them to death, and use their lifeless corpses as landfill for a new I-95 Connector. That is unacceptable. As long as I am President, no American will be summarily executed and used for infrastructure projects.
Chuck Todd: Um… What?
Obama: Jeff? Is Jeff here?
Jeff Zeleny, New York Times: Mr. President, During these first 180 days of the health care debate, what has surprised you the most about the debate? Enchanted you the most? Humbled you the most? And troubled you the most?
Obama: I would say I’m most surprised that you asked that question again. Ed, You’re next.
Ed Henry, CNN: Mr. President, you’ve said you don’t want a health care bill that adds to the deficit, and yet the bills currently under consideration do exactly that. Your response?
Obama: I want to be very clear. I will not sign a health care bill that adds to the deficit though June 17th of 2010. It would be irresponsible and as your President, I simply won’t do it.
Ed Henry: Did you say 2010?
Obama: Major? You have a question?
Major Garrett, Fox News: Mr. President, there are those who suggest that you are rushing health care reform. How do you answer them?
Obama: Look. I did not come to Washington to carefully consider complex pieces of legislation in a measured approach to ensure that we get it right. I came to Washington to pass legislation really quickly before anyone has had a chance to read it. The Medicare trust fund goes broke by 2017. Sure, we could put off reform. We could wait until September, October, even. But then where would we be? We’d have only 95 months to pass health care reform instead of 96. That’s not what I was elected to do.
We’re going to get this done no matter what. We’re going to get this done. I’m going to go the distance. That’s all I need to do is go the distance!
Major Garrett: Okaaayy…
Obama: Cut me , Gibbs! Cut me!
Robert Gibbs, Press Secretary: I really don’t think that’s…
Obama: Cut me!
Robert Gibbs: Thank you everyone, that’s all…
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