Never Having to Say You’re Sorry: The Outburst Heard ‘Round the CSPAN Dials got a little more attention today at the WH briefing, where Press Secretary Robert Gibbs channeled No Drama Obama and accepted, again, Congressman Joe Wilson’s apology for yelling “You Lie!” as his chamber hosted POTUS last night. (Creative editing of the classic reaction freeze-frame here: http://twitpic.com/h6x9r) “If you talk to the press secretary of that congressman today, I would not think he’s gone unpunished,” RG said.
But Really, About Those Illegal Immigrants…: Reporters pressed on the crux of Wilson’s grievances — how illegal immigrants will or won’t receive health care — and Gibbs maintained that last night was not the first occasion for POTUS to declare his plan does not include coverage for that crowd. He pledged more than once to check with the WH health care team on whether the proposed legislation would affect the 1986 immigration law that prevented emergency rooms from turning away patients — despite citizenship or inability to pay. NYT’s Sheryl Stolberg pointed out that POTUS used “more than 30 million American citizens” as a figure in his speech, which seemed to be a deliberate distinction to calm the Wilsonian crowd. (Funny how that worked.)
To the Calculators!: Since it’s Back-to-School week, and in honor of a First Day of School POTUS admission that math was not his high school strong suit…. Acknowledging he’s no mathematician, RG estimated that 10-11 million or so illegal immigrants, subtracted from the 46.3 million uninsured Americans, would leave about 35 million or so to be covered under the new legislation, creating what RG figured would be a “2/3 to 3/4” improvement. The WH might be happy to learn that American citizens make up about 78 percent of the total uninsured. So under the rough figures discussed today, new legislation would actually take care of a larger segment of the current uninsured than our dear press secretary originally assumed.
Sweet 2016: A scheduling clarification by WaPo’s Scott Wilson triggered a number of follow-ups from the “Gentlelady from Chicago,” Lynn Sweet of the Chicago Sun-Times. Wilson (not of the “You Lie” family) asked whether POTUS would attend an IOC meeting Oct. 2 in Copenhagen, joining the leaders of the other three finalists for the 2016 Olympic Games. “Thank you for bringing it up,” Sweet applauded Wilson, who replied, “No — please.” Sweet took over the questioning but with little response, as RG pledged to verify the potential trip and all but dodged judging prospects for the Chi-town bid. “You don’t just hop over to Copenhagen,” a skeptical Chuck Todd added. When Congress Daily’s George Condon later asked about a POTUS remark about “going to the moon” for health care, RG promised to check on that trip’s scheduling, too.
CBO — As Frustrating as BO?: Gibbs had an interesting response to Jon Decker of Reuters, who asked what organization — CBO, OMB, or other — would be the final arbiter of “deficit-neutral” health care legislation, since Obama has veto-threatened that he won’t add to the country’s tab. “That would certainly be a large part of this,” RG said of CBO, which has ruffled feathers at the WH for less cheery estimates of OMB deficit projections. Following on whether the CBO’s analysis would be “binding,” RG replied: “I didn’t say binding… but it goes a big, big way.”