Over the weekend, The New York Times promoted its July 24 interview with President Obama – after being shut out for almost three years – but reporters Jackie Calmes and Michael “Macaca” Shear couldn’t find time for a single question about the IRS scandal, Benghazi, or other Obama scandals. They found time to ask a softball about whether Obama would help observe the 50th anniversary of Martin Luther King's "I Have a Dream" speech. This could explain Obama’s last words: “Thanks, guys. Appreciate you.”
But Calmes and Shear did throw a series of hardballs about how Obama’s not getting around Republican obstructionism on the economy. In a question pushing to end the sequester, Calmes spurred Obama to talk about his passion for deficit reduction (despite the need for a laugh track, he’s not kidding):
NYT: Well, in contrast with the jobs plan that’s now what you’re reflecting today, it’s almost two years old now, and which would measurably add to employment, the studies show.
NYT: But in contrast with that, the policies that have been in place since the start of your second term, fiscal policies --
OBAMA: Right, because of the sequester.
NYT: -- that you and Congress agreed to -- right -- and some of the laws -- the payroll tax cut, and the increase in upper-end taxes to some extent -- but all of those things are by any economist’s measure a drag on the economy. There’s not a day goes by I don’t get some analyst saying that -- and that the Fed is pursuing expansionary policies to offset that. How can you -- how are you going to -- what exactly can you do between now and the end of the year to overcome the Republicans’ opposition and change that, to end [the] sequester?
OBAMA: Well, let me back up, Jackie. First of all, as the economy got stronger during the course of my presidency, I had always committed to a responsible reduction in the deficit. I think that was the smart thing to do, the right thing to do, and good for our growth. And if we’re growing faster, if businesses and the markets have more confidence, then ultimately that benefits middle-class families as well. So I make no apologies for putting forward budgets consistently that, as I had promised, would gradually reduce the deficit.
Then came the section that prompted the Times to write a story headlined "Obama Intends to Let Health Care Law Prove Critics Wrong by Succeeding." Calmes and Shear suggested Obamacare is losing support at the polls, and Obama blamed lying conservative ads.
NYT: Polls this week have shown your health care law has lost support. What are you going to be doing to build support?
OBAMA: We’re going to implement it.
NYT: Are you going to be getting out on the road?
OBAMA: Here is what will build support, given that we’ve been outspent four to one from the other side with all kinds of distortions about health care. Here is what we’re going to do to beat back that misinformation. On October 1st, people are going to be able to start signing up. And if right now they’re buying insurance on the individual market, they’re going to get on those computers or they’re going to make a phone call to one of these call centers and they’re going to find out that they can save 20 percent, 30 percent, or 50 percent on their premiums. And people who have not been able to get insurance before are going to be able to finally get insurance. And people who lose their jobs in the interim and find out that they’ve got a preexisting condition, it’s hard for them to get insurance or they can’t afford COBRA, they’re going to have a place to go.
And over the course of six months to a year, as people sign up, and it works, and lo and behold, the people who already have health insurance are not being impacted at all other than the fact that their insurance is more secure and they are getting free preventive care, and all the nightmare scenarios and the train wrecks and the “sky is falling” predictions that come from the other side do not happen, then health care will become more popular.
But until then, when we’re getting outspent four to one and people are just uncertain about what all this means for them, we’re going to continue to have some polls like that. And me just making more speeches explaining it in and of itself won’t do it. The test of this is going to be is it working. And if it works, it will be pretty darn popular.
And the part that will annoy Mark Levin and other conservative constitutional experts the most is here, when the Times surprisingly asked about Republican criticism that Obama is exceeding his executive authority:
NYT: People questioned your legal and constitutional authority to do that unilaterally -- to delay the employer mandate. Did you consult with your lawyer?
MR. OBAMA: Jackie, if you heard me on stage today, what I said was that I will seize any opportunity I can find to work with Congress to strengthen the middle class, improve their prospects, improve their security --
NYT: No, but specifically –
MR. OBAMA: -- but where Congress is unwilling to act, I will take whatever administrative steps that I can in order to do right by the American people.
And if Congress thinks that what I’ve done is inappropriate or wrong in some fashion, they’re free to make that case. But there’s not an action that I take that you don't have some folks in Congress who say that I'm usurping my authority. Some of those folks think I usurp my authority by having the gall to win the presidency. And I don't think that's a secret. But ultimately, I’m not concerned about their opinions -- very few of them, by the way, are lawyers, much less constitutional lawyers.