Has President Obama finally found his voice to defend his signature domestic initiative? On Monday night, he appeared as the sole guest on the Colbert Report, Comedy Central's mock news program. (To see the program, click here.)
Seeming confident and at ease, Obama joked with host Stephen Colbert, who played his usual role parodying a conservative pundit. But Obama's appearance forged new ground for a guest on the show. He switched roles and played the part of Colbert in one of the program's segments.
For this episode, Colbert's "the Word" was replaced by Obama's "the Decree," and the President presented the kind of topical monologue that this segment regularly features. He titled it "To Health in a Handbasket" and parodied Colbert for several minutes on the subject of the Affordable Care Act. It turned into one of Obama's most vehement defenses of the law.
Obama reminded viewers that the law contains elements that everyone, including most Republicans, says they like, such as letting children stay on their parents' coverage until age 26. He boasted that almost 7 million people signed up for coverage last year (although he neglected to mention some recent backtracking on the exact number) and almost one million in the last few weeks.
And he presented Republicans with a challenge. Playing Colbert's character, he wondered whether Obama would use his veto power should they pass a bill repealing the law. "If I know that guy," he declared, "he is willing to use it."
He further cautioned Republicans that if they repeal Obamacare, they would have to replace it with a plan of their own. "Once they touch it, they own it," his Colbert character declared. And then they would have to defend "MitchMcConnellCare."
The mostly student audience of 1,400 at George Washington University was quite friendly. Perhaps that helped to bolster Obama's confidence. He may also feel that after the midterms, his last election challenge is behind him and he has little to lose in speaking more freely.
Nevertheless, his eagerness to confront the law's critics was something he has seldom shown in the past. His supporters have been urging him for some time to explain and defend Obamacare more forcefully. He may finally be taking their advice.
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