Lauer to DeMint: Are You Rallying Conservatives to Break a President?

NBC's Matt Lauer, on Wednesday's "Today" show hit Senator Jim DeMint over his statement that health care reform could be Barack Obama's Waterloo as the "Today" co-host accused, "People are saying that you are playing pure politics with this issue," and, as seen in the following exchange, pressed "Are you rallying conservatives to the cause of health care reform? Or are you rallying conservatives to the cause of breaking a President?"

LAUER: Let's start with the obvious. There are real differences of opinion in terms of how to achieve health care reform in this country and how to get insurance to the some 50 million people who don't have it. But over the past couple of days, I don't have to tell you, you've ignited a firestorm, and people are saying that you are playing pure politics with this issue. How do you respond? 

DEMINT: Well, it has nothing to do with politics or it's certainly not personal. But, but the President's policies have not matched up to his promises so far. We saw that in this giant stimulus, his trillion dollar stimulus that has stimulated the government, but really cost American jobs and, and, and loaded lots of debt on top of future generations. [audio available here]

LAUER: But, but sticking to health care reform, let, let me, you know, give you your own words here. You, you were addressing the group Conservatives for Patients Rights about the health care debate and you said quote, "If we're able to stop Obama on this, it will be his Waterloo. It will break him." Now are you rallying conservatives to the cause of health care reform? Or are you rallying conservatives to the cause of breaking a president?

It should be noted "Today" is the only network morning show to have DeMint on since his Waterloo comment.

The following is the complete interview as it was aired on the July 22, "Today" show:

MATT LAUER: Senator Jim DeMint of South Carolina has been an outspoken critic of President Obama's health care reform plans. He's also the author of Saving Freedom: We Can Stop America's Slide Into Socialism." Senator DeMint it's good to have you with us.

[On screen headline: "Health Care Battle, Could Political Fight 'Break' Obama?"]

SEN. JIM DEMINT: Matt, it's good to be with you this morning.

LAUER: Let's start with the obvious. There are real differences of opinion in terms of how to achieve health care reform in this country and how to get insurance to the some 50 million people who don't have it. But over the past couple of days, I don't have to tell you, you've ignited a firestorm, and people are saying that you are playing pure politics with this issue. How do you respond?

DEMINT: Well, it has nothing to do with politics or it's certainly not personal. But, but the President's policies have not matched up to his promises so far. We saw that in this giant stimulus, his trillion dollar stimulus that has stimulated the government, but really cost American jobs and, and, and loaded lots of debt on top of future generations.

LAUER: But, but sticking to health care reform, let, let me, you know, give you your own words here. You, you were addressing the group Conservatives for Patients Rights about the health care debate and you said quote, "If we're able to stop Obama on this, it will be his Waterloo. It will break him." Now are you rallying conservatives to the cause of health care reform? Or are you rallying conservatives to the cause of breaking a president?

DEMINT: Oh, we need to put the brakes on this President. He's been on a spending spree since he took office. And we need health care reform. Unfortunately, when the President was in the Senate, I've probably offered more health care reform proposals than anyone in the Senate. And the President voted against every proposal that would have made health insurance more available and more affordable to people. His goal seems to be a government takeover, not making insurance more available. So I do think we need to stop the President on this. We need to stop his policy, because if we allow him to continue to ram things through Congress before we even get a chance to read them.

LAUER: But-

DEMINT: Matt, I just brought one of the bills this morning. I mean, if you look at this bill, it's one of the three bills that we're gonna have to look at.

LAUER: It's a complicated issue. There are a lot of details in that bill.

DEMINT: Well why do we need to pass it in two weeks before we go home in August?

LAUER: Well that's, that's a good question. And I'm gonna get to that in a second. But, but the words you chose were very specific. "It could be his Waterloo, it could break this President." I, I guess the obvious question is, it wouldn't break your heart if you break this President, would it?

DEMINT: Well, again, it's not personal, but we've got to stop his policies, Matt. The policies are not matching up to the promises. They're loading trillions of dollars of debt onto the American people. And the thing is we need real health care reform. I've introduced proposals that would help individuals own their own health insurance policies if they don't get it at work.

LAUER: Right.

DEMINT: There are a lot of ways to do this without a government takeover and a government plan.

LAUER: And I read, I read some of your plan. You wrote it in an op-ed, and I, and I did read that, and would encourage people to go see that. Is the deadline dead, Senator?

DEMINT: It appears to be, and I hope it is. And that's what I mean, the Senate is supposed to be the body that deliberates and debates and actually reads bill, bills. You know, I hear that more than anything else, as I go around the country. Why don't you guys read the bills before you pass them? There are a lot of things in these bills that are gonna alarm the American people. I'm afraid the President knows that. He wants to push it through before we're able to take a look at what's really in it. And that shouldn't happen in Congress. This doesn't take effect for four years, Matt. We don't need to pass it in two weeks. It's 20 percent of the American economy.

LAUER: Right.

DEMINT: It's one of the most personal issues that we deal with as Americans. The government shouldn't take it over and we shouldn't pass a bill in two weeks.

LAUER: Senator Jim DeMint. Senator thanks for joining us this morning. We appreciate your time.

DEMINT: Thank you Matt.

Geoffrey Dickens
Geoffrey Dickens
Geoffrey Dickens is the Deputy Research Director at the Media Research Center.