Right now we are in the calm before the storm. President Obama, in a town hall meeting in St. Louis, just gave it to the conservative movement, as exemplified by the Tea Bag Party protests a couple of weeks ago. Politico is reporting that he "targeted" them directly for the first time ever. I haven't seen the video, but the remarks below the fold.
Asked about fiscal discipline and entitlements reform, Obama seemed to be repressing a smile as he jabbed critics of his spending plans.
"Those of you who are watching certain news channels on which I'm not very popular, and you see folks waving tea bags around, Obama said, "let me just remind them that I am happy to have a serious conversation about how we are going to cut our health care costs down over the long term, how we are going to stabilize Social Security."
"But," Obama continued, "let's not play games and pretend that the reason [for the deficit] is because of the Recovery Act."
Boom! That was pretty direct, and to the point!
Does anyone think this has anything to do with the fact that we bagged Arlen Specter yesterday? Or simply put, that the crazier the GOP gets, the better it is for the President? And that what better way to get more Crazy Talk on TV than giving them an honorable mention? Because I think this is just what President Obama is inviting.
I'm just sitting here waiting for the storm which I suppose will emanate from a "certain news channels on which (Obama is) not very popular".
TV Newser has his entire remarks about it:
When you see, you know, those of you who are watching certain news channels on which I'm not very popular, and you see folks waving tea bags around, let me just remind them that I am happy to have a serious conversation about how we are going to cut our health care costs down over the long term, how we're going to stabilize social security. Claire [McCaskill] and I are working diligently to do basically a thorough audit of federal spending. But let's not play games and pretend that the reason is because of the Recovery Act, because that's just a fraction of the overall problem that we've got.
Apparently, he was holding up his hand like he was holding a tea bag. I really would love to see video of this. CNN is the only one that showed it live.
Update: And the game is on.
Update 2: Thank you Queenie68 and Think Progress for the video!
Update 3: Jed is on the case:
When you’ve had a successful first 100 days, you’re entitled to take a shot or two at the fools at Fox ‘News’ — and President Obama took full advantage.
Update 4: I think that David Weigel has a point that the attack was squarely on Fox News and Republicans who went on the bandwagon:
This struck me not as an attack on protesters (which would be a strange thing for a community organizer to do) but an attack on Fox News, its pundits, and its Republican guests. When I think of "folks waving tea bags" I think of Rep. Phil Gingrey (R-Ga.) literally waving tea bags and saying "I’ve got my tea bags here! Pick your brand!"
(Video of Mr. Gingrey at link)
As a fellow Georgian, I can vouch that the real believers in cutting spending were cast aside by Fox News and Establishment Republicans. Some Georgian Libertarians refused to play along:
Jason Pye of Covington, the legislative director for the Georgia Libertarian Party, had mixed emotions about the rally. He and his fellow Libertarians have long supported the ideals exhorted Wednesday: less government, free markets and a Darwinian-approach to private business.
Many of those speaking, he said, haven’t always protected those ideals.
"I’m happy people are getting together," he said. "But the movement has been co-opted by Republicans who are trying to regain their identity and want to forget George W. Bush existed. Libertarians aren’t forgetting."
The more I think about it, the more well played I think President Obama's remarks were.
Update 5: Kossak Jenesq attended the town hall meeting today, and gave a recap in the comments. Checking the Memeorandum link (my first update), there is some hyping from the Right of teabaggers protesting this event. Jenesq offers a dose of reality on that score:
Rumors had been flying that teabaggers were trying to organize something for the town hall--either taking up tickets and then not showing up to leave empty seats (ROFL, like that ever would have happened--it was overflow seating!), or throwing teabags around (didn't happen), or staging a protest outside the doors (a motley handful of protesters of some kind--anti-abortion and neo-nazi types, from what I could see, were relegated to the corner across the street by the school district...I doubt there were a dozen of them total.) That was a "fail."
Definitely a fail.
She summarizes the event as follows:
President Obama spent a great deal of time and detail on each answer and did an excellent job of explaining things in a plain, understandable way (I can definitely see why he was a good teacher).
Overall, great event, well-organized, on time and on schedule, happy crowd, respectful dialogue, no complaints. A perfect metaphor for his presidency so far.
Update 6: CNN now has more extended remarks here:
"I know you've been hearing all these arguments about, oh, 'Obama is just spending crazy,'" the president said at a town hall event in Arnold, Missouri Wednesday. "Well, let me make a point. Number one, we inherited a $1.3 trillion deficit — that wasn't from my — that wasn't me."
"Number two, there is almost uniform consensus among economists that in the middle of the biggest crisis — financial crisis since the Great Depression, we had to take extraordinary steps. So you've got a lot of Republican economists who agree that we had to do a stimulus package and we had to do something about the banks."
The president told the audience that the federal government's biggest long term fiscal challenges are its commitments for Medicare and Medicaid.
"That's why I've said we've got to have health reform this year — to drive down costs and make health care affordable for American families, businesses and for our government," said Obama.
On his 100th day in office, Obama said he would like to have a "serious" discussion" about how the federal government can rein in spending and meet its long term obligations.
I am having no luck embedding their video which clocks in at a little over 3 1/2 minutes. Watch it here.