President Obama assured well-heeled Democratic Party donors in Texas on Wednesday night that he wants to get the GOP “back in a functioning state.”
Obama’s fundraising swing through the Lone Star State was as much about hammering his Obamacare message as raising cash, trying to capitalize on the post-shutdown environment to try to paint himself as a unity leader.
After placing a congratulatory call to New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie — “Obviously he and the governor have spent a lot of time together,” White House press secretary Jay Carney told reporters — Obama headed first to a healthcare event at Temple Emanu-El in Dallas, where he quipped, “I’m the first to say that the first month I’ve not been happy with.”
“To finish the job, now what we’ve got to do is sign up those folks who don’t have health insurance and improve insurance for those who are under-insured, who don’t have very good insurance, and have been subject to the whims of the insurance company,” he said. “…And that’s the challenge that we’ve got over the next month, three months, six months, next year. And if we get that done — when we get that done — then we will have created a stable system in which there’s no reason why people shouldn’t be getting health care in this country.”
Obama compared the website woes to “having a really good product in a store, and the cash registers don’t work and there aren’t enough parking spots and nobody can get through the door.”
“And the website is already better than it was at the beginning of October, and by the end of this month, we anticipate that it is going to be working the way it is supposed to, all right?”
His audience at the temple’s social hall consisted of about 150 people the White House called “local volunteers who are helping consumers learn about and enroll in quality, affordable health insurance plans through the Marketplaces.”
His welcome wagon across the street, as witnessed by the White House pool reporter, included protesters wielding signs such as “Obama… Oy Vey” and “Honk if you want Obama impeached.”
The promotional stop for the healthcare website came as the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee released new testing documents stating that the day before Healthcare.gov launched it was only able to handle 1,100 users “before response time gets too high.”
Obama then headed to the home of Dallas lawyer Peter Kraus for a $15,000 per head event to raise money for the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee.
“The way the political system works right now, it is biased and skewed away from common sense. The electorate has gotten more polarized, the media has gotten more polarized. Being extreme, being controversial tends to get you on TV and get your name out there. If you’re just being sensible and saying, well, let’s try to work together across the aisle, then you know you’re going to live in obscurity,” he said.
Of the shutdown, he said, “we’ve got to liberate those reality-based Republicans from some of the extreme impulses in that party.”
“But if they don’t see a cost for those kinds of strategies, then they’ll keep doing it. And the only way to extract a cost when it comes to politicians is during election time.”
Obama then went to the home of trial lawyer Russell Budd for an intimate reception with 25 guests, where he gave brief remarks before the media was ushered out of the gathering of the bigwig donors.
Here he said that the lesson of the year — the first of his second term — showed “that although the American people are full of common sense, and in their workplaces and in their families and their congregations, on the soccer fields and all the various parts of their life, they’re looking out for one another and they’re making good decisions and are resilient in the face of challenges, that’s not very often reflected in Washington.”
“The only way that we can realign our politics so that it matches up with the decency and goodness of the American people is if elections matter, and we’re able to both deliver a message and organize ourselves so that folks who aren’t acting responsibly pay a consequence, and that we’re lifting up and rewarding candidates who are serious about the challenges this country faces and are willing to work together in a spirit that is constructive in order to deliver for the American people.”
That, Obama continued, is “what 2012 was about, and that’s what 2014 was about, and I suspect that’s what 2016 is going to be about.”
“And I have to say that I’m a proud Democrat and am committed to the values that the Democratic Party represents, but I’m also interested in getting the Republican Party back in a functioning state. Because this country has two parties, and we need both of them operating in a way that allows us to move forward,” he said. “And I think that will eventually happen. Voters have an ability I think to help parties self-correct, although sometimes it takes more than one cycle to do it. But in the meantime, we can’t just be standing still.”
Obama never mentioned Sen. Ted Cruz (R-Texas) by name — the closest he came was a reference to “one senator from Texas” — but Cruz was ready with a rebuke of the Dallas trip.
“President Obama should take his broken promises tour elsewhere so Texans can continue focusing on the solutions that have allowed our state to become and remain the nation’s economic and job creation powerhouse,” Cruz said.
Carney said Obama picked Dallas for his trip “because Dallas is one of the 10 cities with the highest number of uninsured residents in the country.”
He said Obama wanted to press for Medicaid expansion here because “while it’s perhaps the case that Texas Republicans may not be responsive to the views of a Democratic president or a Democratic administration, they may at least take into account to some degree the views of their constituents.”
Asked whether the Virginia governor’s race gave a renewed mandate to Obamacare, Carney said “if anything, healthcare worked in Gov.-elect McAuliffe’s favor and to the disadvantage as an issue of his opponent.”
“In a race where history was tilted against the Democrat, 40 years of history tilted against the Democrat, one candidate ran as a fierce opponent of the Affordable Care Act, made it the central issue of his platform; another candidate ran embracing the Affordable Care Act,” he added. “One of them won, and one of them lost.”