LARGO, Md. — President Obama mounted a passionate, campaign-style defense of his health care program on Thursday, just days before its main elements take effect, mocking opponents for “crazy” arguments and accusing them of trying to “blackmail a president” to stop the law.
Addressing a friendly audience outside Washington, the president abandoned the professorial tone he sometimes takes while describing the program and departed from his text to fire up supporters. He portrayed critics as billionaires who would deny help for the sick, and politicians who have become hostage to Tea Party ideologues.
Obama, his voice laced with scorn, ridiculed Republicans for threatening to shut down the government and refusing to increase the debt ceiling to undercut the health care program, saying they had “put up every conceivable roadblock” and were “poisoning Obamacare” so they could then “claim it’s sick.” He cited some of their more flamboyant quotes in an attempt to portray them as extremists, including one racially charged quotation.
“All this would be funny if it wasn’t so crazy,” Obama told hundreds of students, professors, and others at Prince George’s Community College.
“A lot of it is just hot air, a lot of it is just politics, I understand that. But now the Tea Party Republicans have taken it to a whole new level because they’re threatening either to shut down the government or shut down the entire economy by refusing to let America pay its bills for the first time in history unless I agree to gut a law that will help millions of people.”
He noted that one Republican congressional candidate recently said that the health care program was “as destructive to personal, individual liberty as the Fugitive Slave Act” of 1850. “Think about that,” Obama told the largely black crowd. “Affordable health care is worse than a law that lets slave owners get their runaway slaves back. I mean these are quotes. I’m not making this stuff up.”
At another point, referring to opponents, he asked, “What is it that they’re so scared about?”
Obama also singled out sponsors of a “cynical ad campaign” discouraging Americans from signing up for the new health care program by arguing that it would effectively put the government into the room when women undergo gynecological exams and men undergo colonoscopies.
“These are billionaires several times over,” Obama said, evidently referring to the conservative political activists Charles and David Koch, without naming them. “You know they’ve got good health care.” But if people who turn down the new health care subsidy get sick, he said, the Kochs would not care. “Are they going to pay for your health care?”
Senator Mitch McConnell, the Senate Republican minority leader, who has been under pressure from conservatives, said, “Americans aren’t buying the spin,” and described concerns about the law from constituents in Kentucky.
“The law is a mess,” he said. “It needs to go. It’s way past time to start over.”
McConnell appealed to Obama’s party to join him, saying, “I hope some of my Democrat friends who voted for this law will look themselves in the mirror and think — truly think — about whether protecting the president’s pride is really more important than helping the American people.”
— NEW YORK TIMES
But his social media habit raised some eyebrows this week after the website Buzzfeed disclosed that he direct messaged with a stripper from Oregon.
The 44-year-old Booker, who is single, exchanged the private messages earlier this year with Lynsie Lee. She works at Casa Diablo in Portland, Ore., which bills itself as ‘‘the world’s first vegan strip club.’’
Booker and Lee both had appeared in a documentary about using Twitter. In February, Lee wrote Booker to say the West Coast loved the Newark mayor. Booker wrote back to say the East Coast loves her, ‘‘and by the East Coast, I mean me.’’
‘‘Well now I’m blushing,’’ Lee wrote back.
‘‘It’s only fair,’’ Booker responded.
Lee provided a screenshot of the exchange to BuzzFeed, which published a story Wednesday.
— ASSOCIATED PRESS
AUSTIN, Texas — Democrat Wendy Davis, a state senator who catapulted to national prominence this summer with a filibuster over access to abortion, is running for Texas governor.
Two Democrats with knowledge of her decision said Thursday that Davis would announce her candidacy next week. They spoke on condition of anonymity because they did not want to pre-empt her official campaign launch on Oct. 3, which is expected to take place in her home district of Fort Worth.
A Davis campaign had been widely expected, but she has held off making her decision public. Davis campaign spokesman Hector Nieto would not confirm that she is running.
— ASSOCIATED PRESS