Baier came well-equipped with facts and figures concerning the transformative healthcare bill currently limping its way through Congress. Obama arrived with considerably less.
Baier wasted no time, asking Obama if he was comfortable with the heretofore unheard of parliamentary manuever called "The Slaughter Rule". Obama waved off the question as essentially irrelevant, saying
"I don't spend a lot of time worrying about what the procedural rules are in the House or the Senate."Well, Mr. President, neither do we. We trust the people we send to Washington to stick to the rules. However, not many of us have heard of this one, so pardon us if we have a question or two. Perhaps you could, oh, I don't know, maybe educate the public about it, seeing as how you used to be a Constitutional professor and all. I'm sure we'd all like to know a bit of the history and use of this rule.
Bret next asked a question posed by the general public. Citing two names, the question was "If this bill is so good, why all the deals and arm twisting?"
Obama shot back that he could produce 40,000 letters asking why he hasn't done enough, displaying more dismissiveness of the American public.
Baier's next question quoted Nancy Pelosi's approval for the Slaughter Rule after the President had said that America deserved an up or down vote on the measure.
Obama replied by noting the controversial "Cornhusker Kickback", a provision in the bill exempting Kansas from the financial costs of the bill, a perk not offered to any other state. This was followed by an explanation that was random and bordering on incoherent.
Now, a lot of the members of the House legitimately say, we want to vote on a package, as the president has proposed, that has those fixes embedded in it. Now that may mean they have to sequence the votes. But the ultimate vote they're taking is on whether or not they believe in the proposal that I put forward, to make sure that insurance reform is fixed, to make sure the deficits are reduced, and premiums go down, and small businesses are helped. That's what they're concerned about.Thank you for that insight, Sir.
Continuing on the subject of which special deals were contained in the bill, Baier asked if certain provisions were in or out of the bill.
Hilarity ensued in the form of this, uh, um, whatever this is:
I am certain that we've made sure, for example, that any burdens on states are alleviated, when it comes to what they're going to have to chip in to make sure that we're giving subsidies to small businesses, and subsidies to individuals, for example.
Baier then asked if the Conneticut deal was in the bill. Obama replied with his approval of the "Lousiana Purchase" citing a provision that evaded the issue of the 100 million dollar gift to the state and instead focused on the bill's other goal of providing federal aid to states hit by natural disasters. Remind me again, Mr. President, which state hasn't recieved federal help after a natural disaster?
When pressed as to the presence of other payoffs and special deals in the healthcare bill (which he could not answer), a visibly upset President said something that should be of great concern to everyone.
Bret, the core of this bill is going to be affecting every American family.Two points: You can't answer simple questions about the content of this bill after having spent the past 14 months working on it? Believe me, Sir, if you came into my office as my employee and could not tell me what you've been working on for the past year, I would fire you.
The second point is that the bill is so sweeping in its scope, the size alone is scary and I'm not sure I want you to have that much power.
Bret was able to corner the president with this:
You said a few times as Senator Obama that if a president has to eke out a victory of 50 plus one, that on something as important as health care, "you can't govern." But now you're embracing a 50 plus one reconciliation process in the Senate, so do you feel like you can govern after this?
Ouch, that's gonna leave a mark.
Obama answered incoherently:
Well, Bret, the — I think what we've seen during the course of this year is that we have come up with a bill that basically tracks the recommendations of Tom Daschle, former Democratic senator and leader, but also Bob Dole, former Republican leader, Howard Baker, former Republican leader. The ideas embodied in this legislation are not left, they're not right, they are — they are —
That's OK, Sir. You can stop right there. No, really Sir, it's not necessary to keep going. Honestly...
It's at this point that the interview degrades into a display by the President of dismissiveness, evasion, irritation, obfuscation and outright confusion. More questions about specific provisions in the bill were met with non-answers. At the end, Obama played the only card he had left to play: blaming his predecessor.
My general impression of the interview was that President Obama was outmatched. Bret Baier was much better prepared to ask substantive questions about the healthcare bill, questions that Obama clearly could not answer. There weren't many "gotcha" questions, at least no more than Sarah Palin got in her interviews on the campaign trail. On the few that were asked, Baier coached him, giving him short details, not wanting to be seen as ambushing him.
We saw nothing inspiring. We saw a man clearly not up to the rigors of the task of being President. We saw a man seemingly unable to think on his feet, wholly dependent on handlers and teleprompters and prepared speeches. We saw a man who holds no foundation of belief in any institution save himself. We saw a self-obsessed, vain and shallow man, far different from the one that was presented during the campaign.
We did not see a genuine President.
We saw a crude charicature instead.