Obama’s conference call with bloggers on health care reform

As we’ve noted throughout the day, the pace is really picking up around the health care reform debate. And, the President is becoming much more engaged. Around 5:30 pm, Obama had on a on-the-record conference call with progressive bloggers. He was joined at the White House by David Axelrod, Nancy Anne DeParle and the White House online guy, Jesse Lee. This was Obama’s first serious interaction with the progressive blogosphere. And, yes, AMERICAblog got invited. I joined to the call for us. Anyone who reads this blog knows that health care reform is a key issue for both John and me — and we want real reform to pass.

The President gave brief remarks about the health care reform debate, noting that the blogs can cut through the conventional wisdom and debunk the myths about this legislative battle. (Yes, we can and we do.) Obama wants to keep up the pressure on Members of Congress, because the default position in DC is “inertia.” That’s true. But, Obama and Axelrod seem keenly aware that the operating position of the GOP is to defeat health care reform. Both mentioned the comment made by Senator DeMint about health care being Obama’s “Waterloo.” I’ll link to the transcript when it becomes available.

Obama took questions from John Amato from Crooks and Liars, Jonathan Singer from MyDD, David Dayen from D-Day, Cheryl Contee from Jack and Jill Politics, Gerald Weinand, formerly of Turn Maine Blue who launches DirigoBlue.com later tonight (what a way to start), and Joan McCarter from DailyKos. The questions covered a range of topics. Cheryl asked if the public option would cover the self-employed and small businesses. Obama responded that those would be “primary beneficiaries of the public option.” McJoan noted that some on the Senate Finance Committee were still working on a “co-op” (which would substitute for a public option.) Obama didn’t seem convinced, noting co-ops are “hard to get off the ground.” He added, a “robust public option is the best way to go.”

Before he left, the President mentioned his criteria for reform: Does it cover all Americans; Will it drive down costs over the long-term; Will it improve quality; Are prevention and wellness included; Does it contain insurance reforms on issues like pre-existing conditions; does it provide relief to small business; and, is there a serious public option. He warned that the different bills coming from the House and Senate may not have all of those provisions, but the conference committee will be critical.

I didn’t get a question to Obama, but asked Axelrod, who stayed on the call along with DeParle, when they’re going to give up on bipartisanship — especially since we know the GOP’s agenda is to kill reform. I noted that both he and the President quoted DeMint. Axelrod also mentioned Bill Kristol’s column telling Republicans to “kill it” (captured along with other right wing rants on this video.) Axelrod maintained there were still a few GOPers who didn’t listen to Kristol, but added, “Ultimately, the goal is to get fundamental reform.” It is. And, the GOP’s goal is to kill reform to damage Obama and the Democratic Party — even if that means great damage to the American people.

The White House appears to be pulling out all the stops.


On October 27, 2010, Joe was one of five bloggers who interviewed President Obama. Joe is a DC-based political consultant with over twenty-five years of experience at both the state and federal level. Joe has managed political operations and legislative efforts for both candidates and issues-based organizations. For seven years, he was the Director of State Legislation at Handgun Control, Inc. He served as that organization's first Political Director during the 2000 cycle. Joe is a graduate of the University of Maine School of Law. In addition, he has a Masters in Public Administration from Lehigh University and received his B.A. from the University of New Hampshire. Joe also has a fun dog, Petey, a worthy successor to Boomer, who got Joe through eight years of Bush and Cheney. Joe likes to think he is a world class athlete having finished the 2005 Chicago Marathon in the time of 4:10. He has completed six other marathons as well -- and is still determined to break the four hour mark.

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