Today’s Qs for O’s WH – 8/31/2009

By Natalie Gewargis

Aug 31, 2009 4:11pm

TAPPER: A couple of questions, Robert.  One, just teeing off of Ed's* question about health care, have you guys seen this fundraising letter from Senator Chuck Grassley in which he goes after — "The simple truth is that I am and always have been opposed to the Obama administration's plans to nationalize health care … I'm deeply concerned about rising health care costs … but the reality is…" — it just goes after President Obama and Democrats' effort on health care reform.

GIBBS:  I have not seen it.

TAPPER: It would seem to belie any indication that Senator Grassley is actually a partner with the administration or with Senator Baucus in creating the plan that you guys would support. Are you still firmly committed to working with the three Republicans who are still in the negotiating phase?

GIBBS:  I'll say this, Jake.  The President is firmly committed to working with Democrats, Republicans, independents, anybody that wants to see progress on health care reform.  I will say this.  I haven't seen the contents of that letter.  Certainly, I think the radio address over the weekend by Senator Enzi repeating many of the generic Republican talking points that Republicans are using that have bragged about being opposed to health care are tremendously unfortunate but in some ways illuminating.  It appears that at least in Senator Enzi's case, he doesn't believe there's a pathway to get bipartisan support, and the President thinks that's wrong.  I think that Senator Enzi has clearly turned over his cards on bipartisanship, and decided that it's time to walk away from the table.  I think what somebody has to ask Senator Enzi and ask others, every member of Congress, is, are you satisfied with the way the system is working right now?  Are you satisfied that premiums are doubling every nine years?  Are you satisfied that out-of-pocket expenses are skyrocketing?  Are you satisfied that small businesses are dropping their coverage?  Are you satisfied that every day 14,000 Americans wake up and find themselves without health insurance coverage?  I think many may believe that we can't afford to do anything.  I think this President believes we can't afford not to.

TAPPER: Well, let me ask you, are you satisfied with the ability that the White House has shown in getting that message out, as opposed to what the opponents of health care reform are saying?  Have you guys been doing –

GIBBS:  Notwithstanding Ed's question about what the President is doing right now.

TAPPER: Do you think — I mean, we've all now — the congressional recess has been going on and some of us have left Washington, D.C.  Do you think you're doing a good job in getting the message out as to what health care reform should be?

GIBBS:  I think we looked at and we discussed when we last met in here — I think the President has made progress on turning around some of the very specific yet untrue allegations about this bill.  It doesn’t help — I'll give you, Jake, it doesn’t help to have Republicans who say they're for bipartisanship and say they're at the table to try to find a solution repeating Republican Party talking points about what they know is not true in the bill.  I don't think that's helpful and I think that it's unfortunate — again, it's tremendously unfortunate that it looks like Republicans are stepping away from seeking a bipartisan solution.  I think that's — it's bad for this town, but it's much worse for this country.

TAPPER: And last, I just wanted to know if you have any comment on remarks that former Vice President Cheney made yesterday.  I just think it's — about the preliminary review of whether CIA officers broke any laws:  "I think it's an outrageous precedent to set to have this kind of intensely partisan, politicized look-back at the prior administration."  He said it would create a chilling effect at the CIA and that the actions are not making the country safer.

GIBBS:  Yes, this is the same song and dance we've heard since literally the first day of our administration.  So I don't have a lot to say.  I think the Vice President — if you watch some of his interview — was clearly — clearly had his facts on a number of things wrong.

TAPPER:  Such as?

GIBBS:  The notion that somehow this White House is going to be making interrogation decisions, not the High-value detainee Interrogation Group that's stationed at the FBI and will be — have participants from all different intelligence and law enforcement agencies within our government — which has allowed people like Fran Townsend to compliment the creation of this group, somebody who, as you know, is tasked with homeland security in the previous administration.  I think what was also illuminating, Jake, were Senator McCain's comments yesterday about whether — the impact that these enhanced interrogation techniques that the President looked at and has now outlawed, the effect that they’ve had on our standing in the world in our foreign policy.

I think — he certainly doesn't agree with us on every issue as it relates to this; I understand that.  But I thought, given his experience, I think they are tremendously illuminating.  I will add this.  I'm not entirely sure that Dick Cheney's predictions on foreign policy have borne a whole lot of fruit over the last eight years in a way that have been either positive or, to the best of my recollection, very correct.

*Ed Henry of CNN


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