The White House has gone on the offensive this week and it’s about time they did. The President has taken on the Republicans on health care. He was conciliatory in his East Room speech this week but it was clear that the time has come to pass health care. History is on his side. Had the Carter plan or Clinton plan been passed health care would not be taking a huge percentage of the GDP right now.
This new get tough tactic is showcasing President Obama at his best. And the tactic is beginning to show up in the polls, too. Although, in truth, the president has just a 46-50 percent approval rating. On Friday, his Real Clear Politics average was 48.7 percent.
In late February the president had an unscheuled press conference in the Press room. He did not use the TelePrompter when he answered questions and he appeared resonable but tough. He said, "Bipartisanship can't be that I agree to all things that they believe in or want, and they agree to none of the things I believe in and want." Quoting the late Senator Pat Moynihan he said of the Republicans, "You're entitled to your own opinion, but not entitled to your own facts." When he touched on the Republicans holding up nominations, including one that was delayed for nine months although the nominee was eventually confirmed 96-0, he said "That's not advise and consent, that's delay and obstruct."
At the Republican House Issues conference in Baltimore, President Obama showed that he sympathizes with GOP concerns. Not only that he was able to explain to them that polls show that the public sides with him on important issues like tax cuts and unemployment assistance.
Mr. Obama was able to answer Republican questions without getting defensive, and in doing so, displayed a depth of knowledge previously doubted by the the GOP, whose members often characterize him as a good speech-giver but not much else. He did the same when he spoke to Democratic Senators, taking questions from Senators feeling the 2010 election heat.
Refusing to be painted as being soft on terrorism, Attorney General Eric Holder Jr. sent a letter to Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell last week refuting McConnell’s accusations that Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab should be held as an enemy combatant, and therefore should not have been read his Miranda rights. Holder’s letter said that he had stuck with the Bush administration’s policy -- which used the criminal justice system to try over 300 individuals on terrorism-related charges.
Holder also pointed out the fact that only two people apprehended in this country have been held under the law of war: Jose Padilla and Ali Saleh Kahlah al-Mari. Holder said that in both cases, transfer to the law of war raised serious statutory and constitutional questions in the courts, and spawned lengthy litigation.
The GOP sent out talking points to radio shows and reporters questioning the reading of Mr. Abdulmutallab’s Miranda rights. But again, Holder came out swinging, pointing out that many terror suspects held by the Bush administration had been read their Miranda rights -- in one case 20 minutes after apprehension and several times within a 48-hour period afterwards. The Bush administration found that they got cooperation from apprehended terror suspects, even after the Miranda readings.
On the same topic, Senator Kit Bond said the White House released classified information during a background briefing. White House Press Secretary Robert Gibbs went straight after Bond, calling on the Republican Senator to apologize to the men and women in our intelligence agency, as they would never give out classified information to the press.
At the annual Prayer Breakfast in Washington D.C., President Obama talked about the tone in Washington, saying “in this Tower of Babel, we lose the sound of God’s voice.” It’s one thing to talk about changing the tone, as President Bush did. It’s quite another to characterize it as the Tower of Babel.
Obama and his administration are fighting back, putting on notice GOP members, who want to paint him into a corner believing that he won’t be able to fight his way out. He was a young presidential candidate who managed to overcome two well-seasoned and experienced politicians, then-Senator Hillary Clinton and Senator John McCain. President Obama is not to be underestimated.
He is going to find a way to get health care done and in the end I predict he is going to be the one who looks like a winner. The Democrats may lose seats in the mid-term elections but in the end getting access to health care and eliminating the games played by the health insurance industry will make many reticent Americans come over to the Obama side.
Ellen Ratner is Washington bureau chief for Talk Radio News Service and a Fox News contributor.
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Ellen Ratner joined FOX News Channel as a contributor in October 1997.