CONCORD, N.H. -- New York Mayor Bill de Blasio on Sunday criticized former President Barack Obama during a small gathering as he mulls a run for president, saying that Obama's early days in office were "a lost window."
Minutes later, in front of a larger audience, de Blasio praised the Affordable Care Act, Obama's signature legislative achievement, calling it "progress." Obama pursued the health care legislation during his first two years in office and has been criticized at times for focusing more on health care than the struggling economy.
A handful of people were present in a second-floor private room of a Concord restaurant when de Blasio compared Obama to President Franklin D. Roosevelt, who took office in 1933 amid the Depression and immediately began a series of actions that came to define the modern presidency's focus on a 100-day agenda. The mayor said Roosevelt was the only person who "had a greater head of steam and political momentum and capital coming into office."
"He, to his great credit, did the 100 days and the reckless abandon and understood that you had to achieve for people to build the next stage of capital to use for the next thing," de Blasio said. "Obama, I think, nobly went at health care, but it played out over such a long time and it got treated politically as such a narrow instead of universal item, tragically, that it was a lost window. And I'm not saying anything I don't think a lot of people feel."
By contrast, de Blasio promoted 2009's Employee Free Choice Act as the kind of legislation worth pursuing by a new president, which raised another matter critical of Obama. The proposed law would have made it easier for workers to join unions, but it became one of labor's grievances against Obama when he didn't press for its passage as Democrats controlled Congress — the same period in which he pushed for the health care law.
"I would argue, we won't be fooled again," he said. "Employee Free Choice Act, or something like it, should be one of the very first things, because, grab that opportunity for structural change. Put that as a foothold, and a whole bunch of other things start to open up based on that."
De Blasio then spoke to about 40 people in a private room on the restaurant's first floor. He didn't mention Obama by name to the larger group but was more complimentary to the Affordable Care Act, commonly called "Obamacare."
Asked what he would do about the cost of prescription drugs, de Blasio said people's health should be put "first and in a collective way."
"Right now we have health care is a commodity and ... God bless the Affordable Care Act. The Affordable Care Act was progress, but it's still tethered to a health insurance company-based system," he said.