With President Barack Obama calling for Congress to move toward a reconciliation bill on health care (which would require only a simple majority of 51 votes in the Senate rather than the customary supermajority of 60), many conservative opponents have posted pre-presidential Obama quotes that they say expose his hypocrisy on the issue.
The quote that seems to be making the widest rounds is one Obama made during the presidential campaign in an interview with the Concord Monitor on Oct. 9, 2007. It has been featured in segments by pundits Rush Limbaugh, Sean Hannity and Glenn Beck.
Here’s how Beck presented it on his show March 3, 2010:
Beck: “In fact, you know, one of the big people that was really outspoken on reconciliation, said it was a really big mistake, especially using it for health care, you can’t use the 50-plus-one option and still govern. That person was Barack Obama.”
Beck then played a clip in which Obama said the following: “You’ve got to break out of what I call the sort of fifty-plus-one pattern of presidential politics. Maybe you eke out a victory of fifty plus one. Then you can’t govern. You know, you get Air Force One, there are a lot of nice perks, but you can’t deliver on health care. We are not going to pass universal health care with a fifty-plus-one strategy.”
This turns out to be a splice of Obama’s comments. Obama actually said a good bit between the first sentence and the rest of the quote. That added context doesn’t make this one as cut-and-dried as it may appear.
Obama was talking about the differences between himself and his then-opponent in the Democratic primary, Hillary Clinton.
“I think it is legitimate at this point for me to explain very clearly to the American people why I think I will be a better president than Hillary Clinton, and to draw contrasts,” Obama said.
“But that’s very different from this sort of slash-and-burn politics that I think we’ve become accustomed to. Look, part of the reason I’m running is not just to be president, it’s to get things done. And what I believe that means is we’ve got to break out of what I call, sort of, the 50-plus-one pattern of presidential politics. Which is, you have nasty primaries where everybody’s disheartened. Then you divide the country 45 percent on one side, 45 percent on the other, 10 percent in the middle — all of them apparently live in Florida and Ohio — and battle it out. And maybe you eke out a victory of 50-plus-one, but you can’t govern. I mean, you get Air Force One, there are a lot of nice perks to being president, but you can’t deliver on health care. We’re not going to pass universal health care with a 50-plus-one strategy. We’re not going to have a serious bold energy policy of the sort I proposed yesterday unless you build a working majority. And part of the task of building that working majority is to get people to believe in our government, that it can work, that it’s based on common sense, that it’s not just sort of scoring political points.
The interviewer then asked, “So is your answer to ‘Why I will be a better president than Hillary Clinton,’ is your answer that she’ll be a 50-plus-one president and you won’t?”
“Yes,” Obama said.
Read the rest at PolitiFact