September 8, 2009

September 07, 2009 News Corp

COLBY: Health care reform quickly becoming the make-or-break issue for this presidency, and sources are saying the White House is planning to draft its own bill to make sure that reform happens. And just when you thought the debate could not get any more heated -- you've seen those town halls -- enter Reverend Jeremiah Wright!


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: So what do you think about the health care bill?

REV. JEREMIAH WRIGHT, PRES. OBAMA'S FORMER PASTOR: I think the racists in the right wing are upset because poor people are about to be helped.


COLBY: So shocking it is, I'm going to play it for you again.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: So what do you think about the health care bill?

WRIGHT: I think the racists in the right wing are upset because poor people are about to be helped.


COLBY: I'm joined again by Marc Lamont Hill and Amanda Carpenter. Marc, let me start with you. The Reverend Wright -- we haven't heard much about him. Now he's speaking out, to all places, TMZ, on health care reform. What's going on?

HILL: Well, I mean, I love Jeremiah Wright sincerely, but he is the gift that keeps on giving for Republicans. Obama's against the ropes right now. He's had perhaps the worst month of his presidency in August. There's this grand narrative getting stronger and stronger about him being an outsider and a socialist and all these other things. And then Jeremiah Wright comes back into the picture. It's not a good thing for the Obama administration.

I think, though, that Jeremiah Wright is absolutely correct, you know, that issues of poverty, issues of race have to be injected into a conversation about health care reform.

COLBY: That's not what he's saying. He's saying that the wealthy people are upset that the poor people are finally going to get coverage. How can you make a statement like that?

HILL: Well, I don't think it's that simple. I think when you get caught in sound bites, particularly in the TMZ world, it gets reduced to that. But I think there's deeper issue here, which is what does it mean for all Americans to have access to health care? There's something at stake, and the people who will be sacrificed here, to some extent, financially, are the wealthy. I don't know if they're racist. I'm not willing to call them racist...

COLBY: But he did!

HILL: Well, Jeremiah Wright and I don't necessarily disagree -- don't necessarily agree on this point, but fundamentally, there's an issue about race and class that we have to talk about, and he's right.

COLBY: Amanda, is it about race, or is it about working versus not working or unable to find work when it comes to health care coverage??

CARPENTER: Well, there's always people like Reverend Jeremiah Wright, if you want to politicize this and make it about race And I think the timing of Reverend Wright popping up isn't bad in terms of the health care debate, but there's also some similarities of Van Jones, who also had controversial thoughts about 9/11 and plenty of disparaging things to say about Republicans. So this once again highlights the ties that Obama has had to people that he would like to distance himself from and has said that are no longer fit to keep his company when those comments go public.

COLBY: He has definitely, it would seem, Marc, though we don't know, distanced himself from Reverend Wright, but there he is. And let me ask you, there are calls for the president to get tougher. No more Mr. Nice guy, right?

HILL: Oh, absolutely. I mean...

COLBY: On health care.

HILL: Absolutely. Bill Moyers is probably one of the most, you know, loud voices right now saying health care's a pressing issue for Obama's administration but also for the American people. And if he doesn't get tough and stand up and stop smiling and apologizing all the time to the right, they're going to keep beating up on him.

And Bill Moyers is absolutely right, and I think that's for a few reasons. One, I think Obama is reading his own press clippings too much. I think he's drinking his own Kool-Aid too much. He came in riding a wave of his own awesomeness so much that he thought he could convince the left and the right to just do what's right, and politics doesn't work that way. It's a much more dirty game. He has to get tough. He has to stand up for this -- for this -- his ideology and his belief system. If he does not, health care's going to die on the vine, and so is Obama's political future.

COLBY: On Wednesday, Amanda, specific does the president need to get on the health care plan that now the White House is saying he may draw up on his own??

CARPENTER: Well, he has to be very specific. If this is just another speech where he comes up and says, These are kind of my principles, and gives some vague guidelines for Congress to go work itself out again, it will be a failure. There's any number of things that he could go up and specifically ask for. He could say, I need the public option. It may be co-ops. It may be public option with a trigger. Nobody knows yet. But he has to come out with a specific plan because calling a joint session of Congress is a very big deal, and it's not something that's taken lightly.

COLBY: The lines in the sand line that came up on the Sunday shows, as the president dispatched his top advisers to talk about it -- what are the other options that he could lay out as he draws these lines in the sand? Is it a "take it or leave it" to Congress when they come back?

HILL: At some point, it has to be. I mean, Amanda and I actually agree on this. We may not agree on our ideologies, but we certainly agree that he has to be specific and he has to draw a line in the sand. Obama has done an amazing job if going around the country, talking to hundreds of people and not really saying anything in terms of specifics.

I think the line in the sand that most American people care about right now actually is this public option. I'm OK with the public option with a trigger. Many of us on the left are OK with the public option with a trigger. But what we will not allow is a public option to completely fall off the table. He will compromise his entire left-wing base, myself included. And so I think that's an issue that he has to address right now, as well as issues around Medicare and portability and co-ops and all these other issues. But the public option is so much at the front of the public conversation that he has to address it.

COLBY: Amanda, I want to thank you, and Dr. Hill from Columbia. Thank you so much for being with us. Thanks to both of you.

HILL: A pleasure.

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