Why wasn't President Obama's town hall on healthcare in New Hampshire Tuesday as much of a shouting match as some held by members of Congress?
At one point, Obama, himself, sought out a question from someone skeptical or suspicious of his plans, with limited success. Critics have suggested that the audience was, if not hand-picked, heavily stacked in the president's favor, even though anyone could sign up for the free tickets through the White House website and it says the winners were picked randomly by computer.
White House spokesman Robert Gibbs gave his own explanation today -- a combination of a skewed picture of how raucous the congressional town halls have actually been, plus respect for the presidency.
"I doubt we're seeing a representative sample of any series of town hall meetings despite the food fight on cable every day," Gibbs said at his daily briefing .
"People want to take the opportunity to find out from the president -- to have him answer their questions about why he's doing what he's doing and the concerns they may have on the legislation," he added. "I think most people took that opportunity as something that was positive.
"I think some of you were disappointed yesterday that the president didn't get yelled at," Gibbs told reporters, chiding them for paying too much attention to the back-and-forth between protestors outside.
"The president wanted to have -- what I think what happened -- which was a rational discussion about health care reform legislation. I think that's what ensued. Did everybody agree? I think the answer to that is obviously no."
UPDATE: Meanwhile, conservative activists are questioning how an 11-year-old girl from Malden was called on by Obama to ask a question -- and noting the political activities of the girl's mother. Read about it on our sister blog.
Asked what the biggest obstacle was to passing a healthcare overhaul bill, Gibbs replied, "The people that want to keep the status quo. The people that believe that somehow what we have is working for the millions of Americans who are watching their healthcare premiums skyrocket every day, who are watching small businesses drop their coverage, who are part of the 12.5 million people over the past three years that have been told by an insurance company in seeking to buy insurance on a private market that they're not eligible because of what somebody has decided there's a pre-existing condition.
"I think that would be what the president would believe is the greatest obstacle and has been for 40 years, are people that -- that have a vested, in some senses monetary interest, in keeping things as they are."
Speaking of which, a new TV ad funded by the US Chamber of Commerce launched today. The business lobby opposes a proposal favored by some congressional Democrats to generate money to cover the uninsured by taxing the most generous employer-provided health benefits.
The spot shows an expanding red balloon as the announcer says, "Inflated taxes, swelling deficits, and expanded government control over your health."
The balloon bursts. "Tell Congress: 'Letís slow down and reform healthcare the right way,' " the announcer says.
About Political Intelligence
Glen Johnson is Politics Editor at boston.com and lead blogger for "Political Intelligence." He moved to Massachusetts in the fourth grade, and has covered local, state, and national politics for over 25 years. E-mail him at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him on Twitter @globeglen.