Barack Obama sure lucked out yesterday in Portsmouth, didn’t he? Instead of the potentially unruly reception the White House was allegedly bracing for – it was (surprise, surprise) a full-on, big tent revival of the Hope and Change Campaign Tour, replete with adoring chants of “Yes We Can!” and “We Love You!” — and even a band.
Now if you want to slog through the whole transcript, be my guest. But if you’re a little short on time, here is the gist of what took place during yesterday’s Q&A session:
Q. Thank you, Mr. President. My name is Peter Schmidt. I want to start just by letting you know that I “heart” Medicare. Oh my gosh, I love it.
But my question is: Why don’t Democrats in Congress just screw the “Party of No” and use their huge majorities to ram ‘ObamaCare’ down everyone’s throats?
OBAMA: Awesome question, Peter! Did I ever tell you the story about the senile, right-wing old lady I ran into one time? She actually tried to tell me not to mess with private insurance – but then wanted me to keep my hands off Medicare too! True story!
See, this is what we’re dealing with, Peter – incoherent old ladies. And I’m not about to let them stand in the way of my agenda, especially since they won’t be around much longer to vote for me anyway.
The point is, the government has demonstrated it is perfectly capable of bankrupting Medicare, so of course we can do the same for the entire health care system. I mean, it’s the same deal – only much, much bigger! It really wouldn’t even be all that difficult to achieve.
But remember, I’m going to insist that any ‘public option’ not be subsidized by taxpayers. This will all be self-sustaining! Forget the CBO, just trust me on this one…
So to answer your question, Peter – yes, we’ll resort to reconciliation in the Senate if we have to.
Q. (13-year old Julia Hall from Malden, Massachusetts): Mr. President, why do people say mean things about your health care proposals, and how could anyone ever oppose something that helps people?
OBAMA: That was a phenomenal question, Julia! The answer is, I don’t know. They’re probably just un-American. Now go tell your mom I said hi!
Q. Good afternoon, Mr. President. Bill Anderson from New Hampshire. I need Lipitor.
OBAMA: Generics work as well or better than brand drugs in 9 out of 10 cases. Brand-name drug-needers like you would just have to put up with the hassle and inefficiency of a government-run program, but it sounds like you’re already in that boat with your health insurance company, so you’re used to the rigormarole. In any case, the chances are pretty decent you’ll get what you need, eventually. Probably. So what’s your beef again?
Q. Good afternoon, Mr. President. I’m Jackie Millet (phonetic) and I’m from Wells, Maine, and my question is, what will happen when my husband dies? Who will take care of me then?
OBAMA: No worries, Jackie – Big Government will take care of you! You see, doctors are like auto mechanics – an honest one is very hard to find. So many of them will just amputate your feet, just to make a quick buck from the evil insurance companies. And your body is like an engine. Now, you may prefer to think of it as a donut hole, but you get the drift. We’ll just cut you in half, that’s all. Wait a minute, the donut hole is…prescription drugs…no wait, it’s the gap between…hold on now…sometimes we cannot see the forest for the trees…
Ah, forget it. The point is, everything’s gonna be all right.
Q. Good afternoon, Mr. President. My name is Ben Hershinson. I’m from Ogunquit, Maine, and also Florida. And I’m a Republican. Why am I here? No wait, that’s not my question! Are you really against private insurance?
OBAMA: Sit down, Ben! Your party is what got us into this mess, and I’m not about to sit here and let YOU do the talking! Now, the answer is – of course I’m open to private industry! Don’t believe everything you hear from me.
Q. Hello, Mr. President. My name is Linda Becher. I’m from Portsmouth and I have proudly taught at this high school for 37 years. How wonderful do you think the world will be when universal health care is a reality in America, especially if it includes mental health coverage?
OBAMA: You have no idea, Linda. Because after we pass ‘ObamaCare’, the need for quality mental health care will necessarily skyrocket in this country. Mark my words. Gird your loins.
Q. Hello, Mr. President. I’m Justin Higgins from Stratham, New Hampshire. There’s a lot of misinformation about how we’re going to pay for this health care plan. And I’m wondering how we’re going to do this without raising the taxes on the middle class, because I don’t want the burden to fall on my parents…and I don’t want inflation to skyrocket by just adding this to the national debt. So I’m wondering how we can avoid both of those scenarios.
OBAMA: First of all, I said I won’t sign a bill that adds to the deficit or the national debt. Okay? (Polite applause from the town hall audience; riotous laughter from the television audience). No, seriously! And remember how George W. Bush passed that Medicare prescription drug bill without any way of paying for it? Well, if he can do it – why can’t I do it ten times worse? Oh, except remember what I said – this bill will pay for itself, so it WON’T be ten times worse. (Whew!) See – there’s the difference! We’ll cut hundreds of billions of dollars of pure fat from Medicare and tax the rich to pay for most of this. The middle class won’t pay a dime (except of course when we allow the Bush tax cuts to expire). But hey, speaking of W’s tax cuts, I inherited that mess – and did I mention George W. Bush?
Q. Thank you, Mr. President. I’ve worked in the medical field for about 18 years and seen a lot of changes over those 18 years. I currently work here at the high school as a paraprofessional. I have a little, you know, couple questions about the universal insurance program, which, if I understand you correctly, President Obama, you seek to cover 50 million new people over and above the amount of people that are currently getting health care at this moment.
OBAMA: 46 million. It’s very important that we get on the same page there. My staff has spent a lot of time coming up with that particular number.
Q Right. 46 million. Anyway, I’m very concerned about the elderly. Are you really going to be able to handle all those additional patients without adding doctors and nurses, and will you really be able to cut $500 billion from Medicare without reducing benefits?
OBAMA: Don’t listen to Sarah Palin. I dare you to find the phrase “death panel” in any of the bills being floated on Capital Hill. Go ahead, you can look it up. So clearly, Palin is deranged. And who ever said anything about cutting Medicare benefits? Not this guy! I’m talking about cutting Medicare waste! Like, if we can just get everything on computers and start buying office supplies in bulk, that’s gotta be tens of billions in administrative savings right there! Am I the only one who thinks of these things? I mean, this is just common business sense!
Q First, I want to let you know that I am a genuine, honest-to-God skeptic. I even turned myself in to Linda Douglass. Do you want me to show you my GOP membership card? ‘Cause I’ll do it. Don’t make me do it!
So my question is why have you not used the bully pulpit to chastise Congress for having two systems of health care — one for all of us, and one for them? (Applause.)
OBAMA: When I was in Congress, we had a menu of options, and…zzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzz.
(5 minutes later) Thank you all for coming!!