House Republicans were fired up and ready to go for their conversation with President Obama at their annual retreat today. According to the New York Times, members of the conservative Republican House Conference said they were “itching to quiz the president and present their policy ideas rather than listen to another lofty presidential address.” Although such sessions generally occur behind closed doors, Republicans agreed to open it up after the White House said it was willing to do so. However, after Obama’s strong performance, some Republicans are now regretting that decision. As Luke Russert reported on MSNBC:
RUSSERT: Tom Cole — former head of the NRCC, congressman from Oklahoma — said, “He scored many points. He did really well.” Barack Obama, for an hour and a half, was able to refute every single Republican talking point used against him on the major issues of the day. In essence, it was almost like a debate where he was front and center for the majority of it. … One Republican said to me, off the record, behind closed doors: “It was a mistake that we allowed the cameras to roll like that. We should not have done that.”
“Accepting the invitation to speak at the House GOP retreat may turn out to be the smartest decision the White House has made in months,” writes the Atlantic’s Marc Ambinder. “Debating a law professor is kind of foolish — the Republican House Caucus has managed to turn Obama’s weakness — his penchant for nuance — into a strength. Plenty of Republicans asked good and probing questions, but Mike Pence, among others, found their arguments simply demolished by the president.”
Finally, the President is getting tough with the Republicans.
The bad news for the GOP is that President Obama not only took their tough questions, but he answered them -- and he was tough, forcing the GOP to confront the facts instead of their make-believe Fox News reality. In fact, to get a sense of just how effective President Obama was, Fox "News" cut off the Q&A session before it ended (CNN and MSNBC both carried the full event live).
You can view the full video here, but if you just want a taste of what it was like, check out this portion of President Obama's response to a question from Mike Pence, in which President Obama calls out Republicans who on the one hand condemn the stimulus but on the other "appear at ribbon cuttings for the same projects that you voted against." Watch:
President Obama's tone was calm, reasoned, and respectful -- but he did not give an inch, and did not let Republican lies go without challenging them. It was really quite extraordinary.
It's about time...