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Obama presses health care plan

It’s focus of rally, radio talk, interview

President Barack Obama gestures while addressing a health insurance reform rally Saturday in Minneapolis.  (Associated Press / The Spokesman-Review)
President Barack Obama gestures while addressing a health insurance reform rally Saturday in Minneapolis. (Associated Press / The Spokesman-Review)
Peter Nicholas Los Angeles Times

MINNEAPOLIS – After several days spent exhorting lawmakers in Washington to back his health care overhaul, President Barack Obama took to the road Saturday for a campaign-style rally in which he said he will not cooperate with Republicans determined to kill his plan for political purposes.

Obama spoke to about 15,000 people at the Target Center here, invoking the phrases and insurgent spirit of his 2008 campaign. A raucous crowd cheered him and launched into chants of “Yes we can,” the anthem of Obama’s presidential bid.

The president made a wry mention of his speech before a joint session of Congress on Wednesday, during which Rep. Joe Wilson, R-S.C., shouted, “You lie!”

“I can already see that this crowd is a lot more fun,” the president said Saturday.

With the health care debate in Congress reaching the endgame, Obama is pressing his argument on multiple fronts. He devoted his weekend radio address to the topic, and will appear on the CBS show “60 Minutes” today.

In excerpts of his interview released by CBS, Obama said he understands the political pitfalls that health care poses for his presidency.

“I have no interest in having a bill get passed that fails,” Obama said. “I intend to be president for a while and, once this bill passes, I own it. And if people look and say, ‘You know what? This hasn’t reduced my costs. My premiums are still going up 25 percent, insurance companies are still jerking me around,’ I’m the one who’s going to be held responsible.”

In Minneapolis, Obama struck a combative tone and sought to link his health care overhaul to the momentous domestic initiatives overseen by other presidents. President Franklin D. Roosevelt, he pointed out, confronted charges that Social Security amounted to “socialism” – the same label critics have attached to his health care plan.

Although Obama said he favors a bipartisan plan, he cautioned that he will not negotiate with Republicans who display bad faith.

That may have been a reference to Republican negotiators in the Senate. The White House has made plain its annoyance with Sen. Charles E. Grassley, R-Iowa, who was part of a bipartisan group of six senators negotiating a health care compromise. While engaged in that effort, Grassley put out a fundraising letter pledging to defeat “Obama-care.”

“I will not waste time,” the president said, “with those who think it’s just good politics to kill health care.”

He also sought to imbue the debate with a sense of urgency.

“I don’t know if you agree with me, but I think the time for bickering is over,” he said. “The time for games has passed. Now is the time for action. Now is the time to deliver on health care for every American.”

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