Mon, Aug 17, 2009 - Page 7 News List

Obama defends his health care crusade

FIGHTING BACK: The White House says the town hall meetings in Colorado and Montana were aimed at countering the waves of ‘misinformation’ about his plans

AFP , GRAND JUNCTION, COLORADO

US President Barack Obama addresses a town hall meeting on health care issues in Grand Junction, Colorado, on Saturday.

PHOTO: EPA

US President Barack Obama invoked his personal agony over his late grandmother’s death, in his most emotional defense yet of his difficult health care reform drive.

On a western tour mixing high-stakes politics with stops in majestic national parks, Obama said on Saturday he was fighting a battle of hope over fear against critics who want to thwart his reform drive and stall his presidency.

Obama debated several skeptical members of a Colorado crowd, and fired off high-octane rhetoric reminiscent of his 2008 campaign.

“Because we are getting close, the fight is getting fierce,” Obama told a town hall meeting of around 1,600 people packed into a high-school gym here, accusing critics of trying to scare the US people.

“These struggles have always boiled down to a contest between hope and fear,” he said, referring to previous presidents’ crusades for pension and health care reform.

Obama also took another swipe at Republicans who have claimed his plans would include a “death panel” to make fateful decisions to deprive terminally ill elderly patients of expensive treatments.

“What you can’t do, or you can, but shouldn’t do is say things like we want to set up death panels to pull the plug on Grandma,” Obama said.

“I just lost my grandmother last year. I know what it’s like to watch somebody you love, who’s aging, deteriorate, and have to struggle with that,” he said.

Former Republican vice presidential candidate Sarah Palin and other Republicans claimed death panels were included in draft Democratic legislation, but the bill would simply allow federal funding for counseling about end-of-life care.

Obama’s grandmother, Madelyn Dunham, died last year after he paid her an emotional farewell visit in his native Hawaii, just days before he was elected president.

The town hall meetings in Colorado and in Montana on Friday were designed to counter what the White House says are waves of “misinformation” about his plans drowning out lawmakers as they hold town hall events in the August recess.

Obama continued his campaign for reform yesterday as he warned, in an op-ed piece in the New York Times, that “cynics and the naysayers” would continue to try to undermine his proposals.

“But for all the scare tactics out there, what’s truly scary — truly risky — is the prospect of doing nothing,” he wrote. “If we maintain the status quo, we will continue to see 14,000 Americans lose their health insurance every day.”

“Premiums will continue to skyrocket. Our deficit will continue to grow. And insurance companies will continue to profit by discriminating against sick people,” he wrote.

In Colorado, one young man bluntly challenged Obama, saying his plan for a government entity to compete with insurance firms to offer healthcare was not fair and would not work.

“I’d love to have a debate, all-out Oxford-style,” Colorado University student Zack Lane told Obama.

Obama rejected Lane’s arguments, but praised his boldness and respectful tone, implicitly comparing it to raging tirades replayed over and over again from congressional town hall events.

Obama denies claims he is trying to introduce a “socialized” system like the national health services in Canada and the UK.

Republicans say “Obamacare” would be too expensive, worsen the quality of care now offered by the private system and strangle the industry with bureaucracy.

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