President Barack Obama has been accused throughout his presidency, by his own supporters, of trying too hard to accommodate the demands of Republicans in Congress. While speaking at a fundraising event on Thursday, Obama delivered what may be his most blunt and direct attack not only on Republican congressional intransigence, but also on the media which reports on what Obama called the “false equivalence” that says “Congress is just broken.”
In the stunningly blunt statements, Obama slammed what he called “a group of folks in the Republican party” who are so “ideologically rigid” that they “refuse to budge” when it comes to compromising on what the president described as mostly middle-of-the-road proposals set forth by Democrats over the past five years.
“You’ll hear if you watch the nightly news or you read the newspapers that, well, there’s gridlock, Congress is broken, approval ratings for Congress are terrible. And there’s a tendency to say, a plague on both your houses,” Obama said, according to a White House transcript of the Thursday address.
“The truth of the matter is that the problem in Congress is very specific. We have a group of folks in the Republican Party who have taken over who are so ideologically rigid, who are so committed to an economic theory that says if folks at the top do very well then everybody else is somehow going to do well; who deny the science of climate change; who don’t think making investments in early childhood education makes sense; who have repeatedly blocked raising a minimum wage so if you work full-time in this country you’re not living in poverty; who scoff at the notion that we might have a problem with women not getting paid for doing the same work that men are doing.”
Obama went on to say that “the truth” is that Democrats by contrast have not been “overly ideological.” In fact, Democratic ideas, he said, have not been “radical proposals coming out from the left,” but mainstream policy proposals.
Citing examples, Obama said that Democratic tax proposals have not called for “rates in the 70 percent or 90 percent when it comes to income like existed here 50, 60 years ago,” but simply asked “those of us who have been incredibly blessed by this country” to give back.
Obama also pointed to health care, noting that the so-called “Obamacare” law is “not some wild, crazy system,” but instead was designed simply to “make sure everybody has insurance,” while maintaining the private insurance structure that currently exists.
“This made the other side go nuts,” Obama said. “The simple idea that in the wealthiest nation on Earth, nobody should go bankrupt because somebody in their family gets sick, working within a private system.”
But the Obama remarks were not reserved solely for Republicans. He also slammed media coverage of the problems in Congress, deriding the “false equivalence” in the media that portrays both Democrats and Republicans as equally at fault for “gridlock.”
“It’s not true,” Obama concluded. “What’s broken right now is a Republican Party that repeatedly says no to proven, time-tested strategies to grow the economy, create more jobs, ensure fairness, open up opportunity to all people.”
While Obama made his remarks on Thursday, they did not circulate widely until the weekend, meaning that Republicans have yet to weigh in with their rebuttal.