. . . Well not entirely new. But it was notable, in light of the apparent collapse of his major legislative initiative this week. From the top of his Town Hall today, at the Lorain County Community College in Elyria, Ohio. (In his opening statement, he used a variation of the word “fight” 20 times.)
Now, since this has been in the news a little bit this week — (laughter) — let me say a little something about health care. I had no illusions when I took this on that this was going to be hard. Seven Presidents had tried it, seven Congresses had tried it — and all of them had failed.
And I had a whole bunch of political advisors telling me this may not be the smartest thing to do. “You’ve got a lot on your plate: the biggest economic crisis since the Great Depression; two wars. You may not get a lot of cooperation. you’re going to have a lot of pushback from the insurance companies and the drug companies. It’s complicated. Don’t do it.”
Now, let me tell you why I did it. I knew that insurance premiums had more than doubled in the past decade. I knew that out-of-pocket expenses had skyrocketed. I knew that millions more people had lost their insurance, and I knew that because of that economic crisis that was only going to get worse. When you lose 7 million jobs, like we lost over the last two years, what do you think happens to those folks’ health insurance? What happens when their COBRA runs out?
I took this up because I wanted to ease the burdens on all the families and small businesses that can’t afford to pay outrageous rates. And I wanted to protect mothers and fathers and children by being targeted by some of the worst practices of the insurance industry that I had heard time and time again as I traveled through this country. (Applause.)
Now, let me dispel this notion that somehow we were focused on that, and so, as a consequence, not focused on the economy. First of all, all I think about is how we’re going to create jobs in this area. All I think about is how do we get banks lending again. I’ve been doing that the entire year. So have folks like Sherrod and Marcy and Betty. But what I also know is, is that health care is part of the drag on our economy. It’s part of the eroding security that middle-class families feel.
So here’s the good news: We’ve gotten pretty far down the road. But I’ve got to admit, we had a little bit of a buzz saw this week. (Laughter.)
Now, I also know that part of the reason is, is that this process was so long and so drawn out — this is just what happens in Congress. I mean, it’s just an ugly process. You’re running headlong into special interests, and armies of lobbyists, and partisan politics that’s aimed at exploiting fears instead of getting things done. And then you’ve got ads that are scaring the bejesus out of everybody. (Laughter.) And the longer it take, the uglier it looks.
So I understand why people would say, boy, this is — I’m not so sure about this — even though they know that what they got isn’t working. And I understand why, after the Massachusetts election, people in Washington were all in a tizzy, trying to figure out what this means for health reform, Republicans and Democrats; what does it mean for Obama? Is he weakened? Is he — oh, how’s he going to survive this? (Laughter.) That’s what they do. (Laughter.)
But I want you — I want you to understand, this is not about me. (Applause.) This is not about me. This is about you. This is not about me; this is about you. I didn’t take this up to boost my poll numbers. You know the way to boost your poll numbers is not do anything. (Laughter.) That’s how you do it. You don’t offend anybody. I’d have real high poll numbers. All of Washington would be saying, “What a genius!” (Laughter.)
I didn’t take this on to score political points. I know there are some folks who think if Obama loses, we win. But you know what? I think that I win when you win. (Applause.) That’s how I think about it.
So if I was trying to take the path of least resistance, I would have done something a lot easier. But I’m trying to solve the problems that folks here in Ohio and across this country face every day. And I’m not going to walk away just because it’s hard. We are going to keep on working to get this done — with Democrats, I hope with Republicans — anybody who’s willing to step up. Because I’m not going to watch more people get crushed by costs or denied care they need by insurance company bureaucrats. I’m not going to have insurance companies click their heels and watch their stocks skyrocket because once again there’s no control on what they do.
So long as I have some breath in me, so long as I have the privilege of serving as your President, I will not stop fighting for you.