Health Care Pitch: Did Obama's Words Work?

Thursday , September 10, 2009



This is a rush transcript from "Hannity," September 9, 2009. This copy may not be in its final form and may be updated.

SEAN HANNITY, HOST: Earlier this evening, the president made what may be his final attempt to sell his health care bill to the American people. So how did it go over? We now check in with our own Griff Jenkins. He's been watching the speech with town hall participants in Johnstown, Pennsylvania, tonight -- Griff.

GRIFF JENKINS, FOX NEWS: That's right, Sean. The Tea Party Express stopped here today, and many of those folks have come to Taloon's (ph) South Side Saloon!


JENKINS: They were watching! They were watching the speech, Sean! Army strong, thank you for your service.

Sean, this is Dr. Gregory. Dr. Gregory, you served in Operation Iraqi Freedom. Tell us quickly about that and what you thought of the president's speech tonight.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Operation Iraqi Freedom, I volunteered. I was proud to serve. I think we've done a great job over there. We can debate the issues about why we were there, but I was proud to serve and I know the people were very glad we were there.

JENKINS: And you were in a medical capacity. You're a surgeon here in Johnstown, Pennsylvania. What did you think of what the president had to say?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I thought he was very long on rhetoric and nice speeches. I agree that we need to reform health care, but I do think that he needs to put a lot more substance in it and we need to really understand that, you know, there's no federal program that we've ever developed that hasn't been politicized. And to think that health care's going to be any different is simply wrong. We need to reform the system. We need to put everything on the plate -- tort reform, everything needs to be on the plate.

JENKINS: Thanks, Dr. Gregory, for your service.

I have another doctor. You're my other doctor. Hold on one second. Dr. Rocco (ph), real quickly, what did you think of the president's speech? You sat here at Taloon's and watched it.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I did watch it intently, and it's interesting. I want to say the correct things. I want to say the responsible thing. Patients do need health care. There does need to be reform, but I don't trust the execution of the government.

JENKINS: All right, Dr. Rocco. Thank you very much. I got to wrap it up. He's a doctor here. Thanks so much. And Todd here is the owner. Back to you Sean, from Taloon's South Side Saloon!


HANNITY: He's got the greatest job at FOX. And thanks, Griff.

Now for a closer analysis of the president's speech and how his words are likely to go over with you, the American public, we turn now to the author of the forthcoming book "What America Really Wants... Really. The Truth About Our Hopes, Our Dreams and Fears," Frank Luntz, joins us. Frank, good to see you.

Watch Sean's interview

All right, here's...

FRANK LUNTZ, POLLSTER: It's a pleasure.

HANNITY: We have talked about the focus groups and the polling and how they've changed their rhetoric. Let's see. I wrote, "choice, competition, security, stability, public option, not the government option." Everything that we've discussed they're now trying to reinforce tonight. Did you pick that up?

LUNTZ: I got one more for you, Sean. There are now more than 30 million Americans citizens who cannot get coverage. Up until tonight, it was always 47 million.

HANNITY: Good point.

LUNTZ: But what they realized was that they were defending health care coverage, government money, your taxpayer dollars, going to illegal immigrants, that they realized that they had to take them out of the pool. And so tonight, the number's no longer 47, it's now 30.

HANNITY: One of the things, Frank, you have been very, very clear about -- and I think our audience has learned a lot from you as we've done our dial groups and our -- and our focus groups, et cetera, is -- is this tendency to go negative. And he had a very different tone on Monday, but when he said tonight that insurance executives are bad people, it took me back because it was so harsh and I think unfair, but it's part of their polling.

Let's roll this tape and I want to get your reaction to it.


PRESIDENT BARACK OBAMA: Without competition, the price of insurance goes up and quality goes down. And it makes it easier for insurance companies to treat their customers badly by cherry picking the healthiest individuals and trying to drop the sickest by overcharging small businesses who have no leverage, and by jacking up rates. Insurance executives don't do this because they're bad people, they do it because it's profitable.


HANNITY: What did you think?

LUNTZ: I think that he's trying to demonize a segment of American society. And through the work that I've done, he may be successful, Sean, because the American people don't think too highly of insurance companies or the people who run it. But I will tell you this. When they listen to the president say things like it's going to cost $900 billion, and I quote, "The plan will not add to our deficit" -- how do you spend $900 billion and not add to the deficit? The numbers don't add up.

HANNITY: It's funny you say that, Frank. I wrote down those very words. Honestly. I will show it to you. This in no way, shape, or form adds up to the American people.

But here is the other thing. If he is going to go after the insurance companies, and this is part of a political strategy, my question is this. Are we allowed to analyze the ineffectiveness of government, the bankruptcy of Social Security and Medicare and the Post Office and the FDIC and Fannie and Freddie? Is that part of the debate too?

Why would we put their faith in them when their track record is far worse?

LUNTZ: I think that we need to go back to when Social Security was created and talk about how much money was going to be spent on the program, the same thing with Medicare, the same thing with food stamps, the same thing with everything from low interest loans to money for the U.N., that this government has misread virtually every spending proposal.

And now, after bailing out everybody, it wants to put $900 billion more. Of all the different arguments that I heard tonight, I think that one's the weakest, and I think the president is going to regret putting a specific price tag on it and making a promise that that is all it is going to cost.

HANNITY: I think this regulation is going to make the private insurance company subservient to the state. And now here is the track record we have. They have taken of the auto companies, they are regulating the financial institutions, they have taken over banks, they're dictating CEO pay.

And now with this government option, I don't think private companies can compete. So are we nationalizing all of these companies, and isn't the national nationalization of companies by definition socialism?

LUNTZ: I keep thinking about it -- here is the government that gave us the compassion of the IRS, the efficiency of the Post Office, and the effectiveness of Katrina, and now they want to take over our health care? Sean, use those three together and you have got a powerful message that the president does not want to hear tonight.

HANNITY: Let me ask one question. I started my opening remarks tonight by saying that this speech was a glorified partisan speech that I think could be written by James Carville.

Did you think that he was too harsh at a lot of moments in this speech in his rhetoric, too much in almost political attack mode?

LUNTZ: There are elements of this speech that are quintessential Barack Obama, where he appeals to a greater nature in all of us. And he does call to that in partisanship, the cooperation, the greater civility.

The problem is that you can't offer with one hand and then slap with the other, that he would have had to have been consistent in his conciliatory approach. And I did not hear that tonight.

I do believe he is going to turn a number of people in his favor over the coming days. But two weeks from now, I think we are going to be back to where we are before tonight.

HANNITY: You see, I think that's a great prediction. I think the initial bounce, there usually is, but I agree with that. I think two weeks from tonight, we are going to be saying you are right.

Frank Luntz, always good to see you. Thanks for being with us.

LUNTZ: Thank you, Sean.

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