January 22nd, 2010
01:36 PM ET
8 years ago

Obama: Taking 'lumps' but will keep fighting

Elyria, Ohio (CNN) - Offering his most extensive public comments about the election debacle in Massachusetts, President Obama is acknowledging he's taking some "lumps" but is also trying to cast himself as a populist who will "never stop fighting" to bring health care reform and jobs to communities like this hard-hit manufacturing area outside Cleveland.

"Let me tell you - so long as I have the privilege of serving as your president, I'll never stop fighting for you," Obama said in prepared remarks at the beginning of a town hall meeting with voters. "I'll take my lumps, too. I'll never stop fighting to bring jobs back to Elyria. I'll never stop fighting for an economy where hard work is rewarded, where responsibility is honored, where accountability is upheld, where we're creating the jobs of tomorrow."

Obama said "folks in Washington are in a little bit of a frenzy" over Republican Scott Brown's election to the seat formerly held by the late Sen. Edward Kennedy (D-Mass.), which has ended the President's 60-seat supermajority in the chamber. But the President vowed to keep battling for health reform, even as he bluntly conceded that he's facing major roadblocks.

"Now, we've gotten pretty far down the road, but I have to admit, we've run into a bit of a buzz saw along the way," Obama said. "The long process of getting things done runs headlong into the special interests, their armies of lobbyists, and partisan politics aimed at exploiting fears instead of getting things done."

Obama added, "I am not going to walk away just because it's hard. We're going to keep on working to get this done with Democrats, Republicans – anyone who is willing to step up. Because I am not going to watch more people get crushed by costs, or denied the care they need by insurance company bureaucrats, or partisan politics, or special interest power in Washington."

But Obama was not specific about what kind of health legislation he will now be backing. "I'm going to keep up the fight for real, meaningful health insurance reforms," he said. "That's why we expanded the children's health insurance program to include four million more kids. And that's why I'll continue fighting for reform that will hold the insurance industry accountable and bring more stability and security to folks in our health care system."

The president is facing competing pressures from liberal Democrats who are demanding that he not abandon the push for a major overhaul of health care in favor of a scaled-back bill, and conservative Democrats who have said the special election was a wake-up call that should force Obama to put a much heavier focus on job creation.

The economic problems are especially acute here in Ohio, where Obama was greeted Friday with new statistic showing unemployment in the state has gotten worse, rising from 10.6 percent to 10.9 percent - higher than the national average. That led the House Republican Leader John Boehner, who hails from the Buckeye State, to release a statement declaring the President's $787 billion stimulus has not worked.

"Ohio's unemployment report released this morning marks nine straight months of double-digit unemployment in our state," said Boehner. "Tens-of-thousands have lost their jobs since the 'stimulus' was enacted. Ohioans fed up with Washington Democrats' job-killing agenda are asking, 'Where are the jobs?'"

Obama fired back in his remarks that he entered office a year ago "in the middle of a raging economic storm," and that his actions have staved off a much worse cataclysm. "If the financial system had gone down, it would have taken the entire economy and millions more families and businesses with it," he said. "We would have been looking at a Second Great Depression."

Nevertheless, Obama acknowledged that communities like Elyria are still not feeling a recovery, and renewed his call for a second economic recoverage package to be passed by Congress - which aides say he will push hard for in State of the Union Address next Wednesday. The proposal includes more infrastructure spending, the so-called "cash-for-caulkers" program to make homes more energy efficient, and small business tax breaks. But advisers to the president have privately acknowledged that package will likely need to be sweetened with more tax cuts to win over Republican votes, given the new reality in the Senate.

Obama also mentioned in Ohio what will be another key part of his State of the Union Address, pushing for major reform of the financial regulatory system, repeating some of the same populist rhetoric he used Thursday in Washington to unveil plans to crack down on the risk that banks take on. Last week he proposed a tax on banks to recoup taxpayer bailout funds.

"These are some of the fights we've had," Obama said. "And I can promise you, there will be more fights in the days ahead. We're having one of them right now - because I want to charge Wall Street a modest fee to repay taxpayers in full for saving their skin in a time of need. You can rest assured, we're going to get that money – your money – back, each and every dime."

Obama concluded, "I didn't run for President to turn away from these challenges. I didn't run for President to kick them down the road. I ran for President to confront them – once and for all."

Filed under: President Obama
soundoff (60 Responses)
  1. Jon

    Obama promised to change the tone and govern at the center in Washington, but he has become the Partisan Politics-in-Chief. His partisan politics has poisoned the country's mood and further divide the country within a short year.

    January 22, 2010 02:11 pm at 2:11 pm |
  2. Kevin in Ohio

    I'm listening to this speech right now. More platitudes, more campaigning, same ol' same ol' rhetoric. He is painting honest Americans as bad guys instead of finding a way to improve the ability of employers to offer meaningful employment. Not one mention of working across party lines to find meaningful and practical solutions to Health Care.

    Now he is taking questions...we'll see how stacked the audience is.

    January 22, 2010 02:12 pm at 2:12 pm |
  3. Jimmy James

    More speeches, more blame, no results. Enough talking. You had a super majority and got nothing done. Keep ignoring Tuesdays election results and blaming it on Bush. You are smarter than that Mr President, at least I hope you are. Stop blaming evryone else and fix it.

    January 22, 2010 02:14 pm at 2:14 pm |
  4. Michael in Houston

    You keep right on fighting Mr. President. Most of us did not for a moment think it was going to be anything less then a dog fight from the moment you were sworn in to the moment you leave you office and everyday in between.
    You will likely lose more of these battles then you will win now but in the end, you will have done your best.
    As a supporter of your Presidency, I would suggest you focus on healthcare reforms now and leave it at that. I would also ask that you focus on real job creation. Dont let them catch you playing with numbers. Make it a real measurement, otherwise they will eat your lunch.
    And fire Tim Geitner. He does not belong here

    January 22, 2010 02:16 pm at 2:16 pm |
  5. Tracy

    The buck stops with you, Mr. President. You wanted the job, you get the lumps that go with it.

    January 22, 2010 02:17 pm at 2:17 pm |
  6. Observant

    We heard you...Now quit talking and get to work. The recent 190 M green jobs grants to states that applys to learning landscaping and lawn mowing is not helping or replacing the jobs that Americans have lost. That money could have been used to help bring back manufacturing jobs.

    Forget healthcare and let's get manufacturing going.

    Flapping lips..useless Doing Hands..priceless

    January 22, 2010 02:18 pm at 2:18 pm |
  7. Sorensen

    5-4 in the Supreme court. The floodgates are now open for total
    dominans from lobbyists, corporations, crazy people, etc. etc.
    Healthcare is gone.
    Bank regs will never work now.
    Climate is a joke by now.
    The GOP has won, in spite of having done nothing but saying no.
    In short – everything including credibility is gone.
    I sincerely wish I had voted for Hillary!!

    January 22, 2010 02:19 pm at 2:19 pm |
  8. Henry Miller, Libertarian

    Is Obama trying to alienate what few supporters he has left? Seventy percent of the population want him to drop the health care idiocy, but he keeps on yammering about trying to cram it down our throats.

    Obama is a long way from dumb–I just don't get why he doesn't seem to understand that nationalised health care just isn't going to fly in the US.

    January 22, 2010 02:19 pm at 2:19 pm |
  9. JB

    "Ohio's unemployment report released this morning marks nine straight months of double-digit unemployment in our state," said Boehner. "Tens-of-thousands have lost their jobs since the 'stimulus' was enacted. Ohioans fed up with Washington Democrats' job-killing agenda are asking, 'Where are the jobs?'"

    I understand Mr. Obama is President and he has a national responsibility to create jobs and stability here in Ohio but so does Boehner. He just useless. All fluff and rhetoric but no action or substance. I ask u, our Ohio rep, "where are the jobs" and also what is he doing to create those jobs we need here in the Buckeye state, Mr. Boehner.

    January 22, 2010 02:19 pm at 2:19 pm |
  10. Steph

    Keep Fighting Mr. President. We are behind you!

    January 22, 2010 02:19 pm at 2:19 pm |
  11. 8 years under the reign of King George II and Rome has collapsed, it cannot be rebuilt in just 1!

    Excellent speech.

    Obviously, the American public has the memory span of a gnat, so keep reminding us exactly how we got where we are today.

    January 22, 2010 02:20 pm at 2:20 pm |
  12. Independent in OH

    I am sure of one thing – the people in the Cleveland area at ths time of year appreciate all the hot air they can get.

    January 22, 2010 02:23 pm at 2:23 pm |
  13. Nick , California

    I love this Pres.!!! Anybody who says the he's the reason you don't have a job is high!! Get off your ass and make it happen!! That's what this country is all about.. not giving up.. and coming up with solutions!! Pointing the finger is the easy way out! I have friends that moved out of state to make their lives better and they are doing great! You have to do what you have to do.. If capitalism is regulated by itself then we shouldn't require any assistance (aka government) to get back on our feet.. become a plumber.. electrician.. handy man.. learn something new! Screaming at our tv's and politicians isn't going to get us employed!!

    January 22, 2010 02:25 pm at 2:25 pm |
  14. Ken in NC

    I am a supporter of this president but what he inherited was a year ago and he has done much to prevent this driverless economy from going off a financial cliff. Now being the new driver of this stagecoach he has not taken control of the reigns of this run away stage coach. He has to stop trying to tell the leader of this run away team of horses called Democrats and Republicans what direction he want s to go in and instead guide them himself. The time for delegating duties and responsibilities has passed. It's time now for him to get down and dirty and make things happen. Talking is not working when not one of the team of run away horses is listening or they are all trying to go in their own different direction. If he does not take control very soon he will have to opportunity to feel what others discribe as being "Thrown Under The Bus" is like. Simply because I am a supporter now does not mean I will be a follower forever.

    January 22, 2010 02:27 pm at 2:27 pm |
  15. sensible Cape Coral Fl

    Whether you like or dislike President Obama, even the stupidist among have to admit that he is trying to do things FOR PEOPLE. Please name one piece of legislation that the Republicans ever passed that directly benefited the people of this country.

    January 22, 2010 02:27 pm at 2:27 pm |
  16. floridian

    "The long process of getting things done runs headlong into the special interests, their armies of lobbyists, and partisan politics..."

    Like paying off Sen. Nelson of Nebraska, the Louisianna re-purchase, deCadillacing the unions' health plans, and the like? When is he going to demand that the Congressmen/women in his party, of which he is theoretically the head, listen to the American people? When is he going to stop blaming everyone else and look in a mirror and find the person who has failed miserably at what he ran on and was elected to accomplish? Probably not until January 21, 2012 when he takes that long ride back to crooked Chicago as a one-term loser.

    January 22, 2010 02:29 pm at 2:29 pm |
  17. Ferret out the BS

    I bet the insurance companies are happy, and along with them the Republicans that try to stop anything progressive that might just benefit some of the less fortunate in this country. Oh I forgot, there might just be a wallet impact!

    January 22, 2010 02:29 pm at 2:29 pm |
  18. Connie Brighten

    "...partisan politics aimed at exploiting fears instead of getting things done." What's the opposite of 'exploiting fears'? Could it be your "hope" and "change"? Where has that gotten the US? Maybe much deeper in debt, a dollar that is collapsing in value, splintered racial relations, divided nation? Could that possibly be what the fear-exploiting could have meant?

    January 22, 2010 02:30 pm at 2:30 pm |

    He won't walk away "just because it's hard"? How about walking away from it because the PEOPLE DON'T WANT THIS REFORM!?! Start from scratch... bipartisan legislation that TRULY reduces costs, helps people get coverage, and stimulates competition. NO MANDATES, NO GOVERNMENT RUN OPTION, NO TAKE-OVER of our healthcare, freedoms, and economy!!! You just DON'T get it Obama... the vast majority of us are in the political center, and we want sensible, reasonable, responsible reform. NOT your far-left liberal socialist agenda... get it right or you're one-and-done.

    January 22, 2010 02:31 pm at 2:31 pm |
  20. WoW

    Stop preaching and get things done.

    January 22, 2010 02:32 pm at 2:32 pm |
  21. Ancient Texan

    Still blaming everybody else. Why won't Obama, Pelosi and Reid even consider bipartisan participation and start a new program from scratch? Tort Reform, allowing competition by insurance companies across state lines would be a good starting point. Then add elimination of policy refusal for existing condition and work from there. They just might be surprised; cost might get lower and coverage more complete.

    January 22, 2010 02:32 pm at 2:32 pm |
  22. donttreadonme

    Why does it seem that Pres Obama thinks that all of the "bad guys" reside on Wall street, Insurance companies, any non-union companies or folks with great insurance plans or those who make too much money. The dems have proven that they will continue to try to take over Healthcare even if they have to bribe some Congress folks to get the votes. What happened to all of the Government reforms??? Oh right that was McCain. Obama defended his right to spend some pork to get his agenda passed.

    January 22, 2010 02:33 pm at 2:33 pm |
  23. Bob in Pa

    Every thing the "progressives" do or dream of doing stands for job loss.

    January 22, 2010 02:35 pm at 2:35 pm |
  24. PL

    Recurrent theme: blame it on someone.
    Yes there are lobbyists, special interests, greedy politicians who will always be there no matter who is the president, nothing new.
    One of his problems was totally shutting out the republicans in this process contrary to his campaign promise:reaching across the aisle. Other outrageous manueverings were that he the insurance companies, union powerheads and democrat senators- holdouts get their takes which is unfair to all. That brought to the MA voters' revolt.
    He gave the impression that he wants the bill passed, regardless of how, and Reid and Pelosi delivered, unsucessfully maybe.

    January 22, 2010 02:37 pm at 2:37 pm |
  25. Right Leaning Independent

    Yawn.... Another blow hard speech to rally the troops! Keep fighting wall street and business and see how many new jobs are created. Is it your intention to make everyone unemployed and dependent on the government? If so you are doing great!!

    January 22, 2010 02:38 pm at 2:38 pm |
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