Obama in the Republican lions’ den: Obama, 2; lions, 1
President Obama had a pointed and entertaining exchange with House Republicans. The event worked to his advantage, but the GOP scored important points, too. Everybody benefits from this kind of unscripted public debate.
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This was the GOP House Issues Conference in Baltimore, to which Obama had been invited as a guest speaker. And to those who watched, it was high political drama – very much like the weekly “Questions to the Prime Minister” sessions in the British House of Commons, an energetic and entertaining debate on policy matters that is unscripted, unrehearsed, and there for all the world to watch on live TV.
Questions were asked respectfully (for the most part), although some questioners took long minutes of speechifying to get there. As in the House of Commons, the questions were blunt and sometimes pointed. But Obama came right back at them, citing chapter and verse from legislation and nonpartisan government reports, appearing to be at his wonkish best.
“I’m having fun,” he said at one point.
Pitch for bipartisanship
As he has from the beginning, Obama made his pitch for working across party lines. But he chided the Republican lawmakers for making that difficult if not impossible.
“What happens is that you guys don’t have a lot of room to negotiate with me,” Obama said. “The fact of the matter is, many of you, if you voted with the administration on something, are politically vulnerable in your own base, in your own party . . . because what you’ve been telling your constituents is, ‘This guy’s doing all kinds of crazy stuff that’s going to destroy America.’ “
“The whole thing basically went like [this],” Mike Madden wrote at Salon. “Republican asks obnoxious question rooted in Glenn Beck-ian talking points; Obama swats it away, makes the questioner look silly, and then smiles at the end. It got so bad, in fact, that Fox News cut away from the event before it was over.”