Obama Tells Dems They Can Be ‘Own Worst Enemies’ And Asks For Health Care Unity

October 20, 2009 6:36 p.m.

President Obama tonight pleaded with Democrats to remain unified in the final health care stretch, detailing for his loyal supporters in New York the good things in “the bill you least like.”

“There are going to be some disagreements and details to work out … but I want to say to you Democrats, let’s make sure that we keep our eye on the prize,” Obama said during a Webcast for the thousands of Organizing for America volunteers who were gathered for call parties across the country.

“Sometimes Democrats can be their own worst enemies, Democrats are an opinionated bunch … y’all are thinking for yourselves,” he said. “I like that in you, but it’s time for us to make sure that we finish the job here. We are this close and we’ve got to be unified.”

Obama said “the bill you least like in Congress right now, of the five that are out there,” would give 29 million uninsured Americans health care, would ban preexisting conditions and would create an exchange that would encourage competition among ensurers.

His comments were live in front of an audience in a New York ballroom, and streamed out to the parties (where volunteers were proud they made more than 234,000 calls to Congress today). The refrain about “the bill you least like” sounded a bit like presidential foreshadowing since senators are meeting privately to merge the more conservative Senate Finance Committee bill with the more liberal Health, Education, Labor and Pensions version.

(Meanwhile, Speaker Nancy Pelosi is standing firm.)It was a fascinating speech – Obama is often at his best when in campaign mode, and tonight was no exception. Obama was determined, clear and funny, reprising the “get a mop” line that Democrats have been using to tweak Republicans lately.

Obama also used some of the same lines he employed often on the campaign trail last year, including one he used against Hillary Clinton, now his secretary of state.

“A lot of people said having hope was naive, that our faith in this country was misplaced,” he said.

But the “millions of voices calling for change … proved there isn’t anything false about hope,” he said. Sound familiar? It’s from the Yes We Can speech in New Hampshire on Jan. 8, 2008.

Obama ran down a checklist of all he’s accomplished and reminded supporters it’s been just nine months since he took over. He said he won’t stop fighting, thanks in part to being encouraged by their activism.

“I didn’t run for president to accept mediocrity,” Obama said.

Obama said he believes in “a strong and loyal opposition” but blasted those who “decide to wait on the sidelines and root for failure.”

He blasted the GOP for rooting for him to fizzle out on Olympic push: “I mean who’s against the Olympics? What’s up with that? That’s a sad thing, isn’t it? I don’t care if you’re Democrat or Republican – it’s the Olympics! Come on.”

He riffed on the “mop” line and then said Republicans should “feel a little shame, help out a little bit. We all have a responsibility to rise to this occasion.”

Be patient, Obama asked his supporters, because “I’m just getting started.”

“I don’t know about you, but I’m not tired,” Obama said. “I feel refreshed, I feel energized, and it’s because of you. … ‘Yes we can’ wasn’t just a motto, that’s what we’re about.”

If you missed it, TPM clipped the video from last night’s talk. The choice bits about Democrats and the “bill you least like” are at about 26 minutes in.

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