WASHINGTON – At a news conference Tuesday at the White House President Barack Obama called for the creation of a national health care system that would cover the 47 million now without insurance, a clean energy economy, and for the Iranian government to stop its attacks on political opponents.
During the press conference the president came out swinging against right-wing critics who have kept up a continual drumbeat of attacks against administration policies on health care, the economy, the deficit and Iran. He also took issue with those who are saying his administration has bitten off more than it can chew.
“To those who, here in Washington, have grown accustomed to sky-is-falling prognoses and the certainties that we cannot get this done, I have to revive an old saying we had from the campaign. Yes we can,” the president declared.
Polls now show that over 72 percent of the American public supports an overhaul of the health care system that includes a strong public option.
Regarding this, Obama said: “Right now I will say that our position is a public plan makes sense.” He seemed to leave open the door for compromise, however, when he said, “We have not drawn lines in the sand other than that reform has to control costs and that it has to provide relief to people who don’t have health insurance or are underinsured.”
Obama said that without government intervention, the country will spend $1 out of every $5 on health care within the next 10 years.
Commenting on the recession, Obama said it was too soon to propose a second stimulus plan to jolt the economy. He acknowledged, however, that the official unemployment rate is headed over 10 percent. He said that he was not satisfied with the progress his administration has made on the economy and while he defended the recovery package, he said the aid has to be dispended faster.
On Iran, the president described the United States and the world as “appalled and outraged” by the efforts to crush dissent in that nation. Some, on the Republican right, have been trying to score political points by calling the president “soft” on the Iranian government. He scoffed at any suggestion that his strong stance on the violence in Iran had anything to do with pressure from such individuals.
Much of the media described the press conference a “time out” for the president and his administration. The purpose of a “time out” is, of course, to give the team a chance to settle down, catch its breath and get back into the fight, renewed and better able to slow down any momentum the opponent may have gained. The latest polls show Obama’s overall approval ratings as holding in the mid-60’s, better than the ratings of either George W. Bush or Bill Clinton at similar times in their presidencies. They suggest that the public may have a much better understanding of political realities than the media.
Bill McMahon, 72, a retired carpenter in Brooklyn, N.Y., told the World last Sunday that, “as far as the stimulus package is concerned – give it a chance – it hasn’t had time to get out yet. The Republicans are ready to pounce. They are counting on the people not being able to understand that it will take time to fix this mess.”
McMahon’s wife, Sara, 74, emerged from the small Windsor Terrace home the couple has occupied for the last 40 years. “We raised three kids here and thank God they’re all healthy,” she said. “But what really burns me up is these senators who are bought and paid for by the health care industry. If they don’t get with it and give us a plan with a public option they better watch out, Democrats included. We’ll get rid of them next time.”
Windsor Terrace is a predominantly white working-class neighborhood that had not voted Democratic in a national election since Lyndon Johnson was elected. Obama trounced McCain in the neigblorhood, however, with a 54-46 percent margin of victory.