Even as some Democrats on Capitol Hill call for a rebuke of Rep. Joe Wilson (R-S.C.). for his outburst last week at the president’s address, Barack Obama downplayed the need for a further censure of the South Carolina Republican, saying the whole thing is becoming a “big circus.”
“See, this is part of what happens,” Obama said, when asked about Wilson by interviewer Steve Kroft on Sunday’s “60 Minutes.” “I mean, it just becomes a big circus instead of us focusing on health care.”
Some Democrats, led by House Majority Whip Jim Clyburn (D-S.C.), are pushing for an official rebuke of Wilson, with a floor vote on the resolution coming as early as Tuesday.
But even as Obama seemed prepared to let the Wilson matter pass, he placed the blame squarely on Republicans for his inability to turn down the partisan vitriol around his health care plan in Washington, as he had promised to do repeatedly during his presidential campaign.
“Well, I think right now— you've got just a political environment where, there are those in the Republican party who think the best thing to do is just to kill reform. That that will be good politics,” Obama said.
Obama conceded his attempts to restore civility in Washington remain a “work in progress.”
In an interview taped Friday that makes for his third appearance on the CBS news show since taking office, the president acknowledged the political mood in the country is tense.
“I think you've got a convergence of things. Look, worst recession since the Great Depression. People feeling anxious,” he said. “I think we're debating something that has always been a source of controversy, and that's not just health care, but also the structure, and the size, and the role of government. That's something that basically defines the left and the right in this country. And so, extremes on both sides get very agitated— about that issue.”
At the same time, he conceded that American are facing “sticker shock” at the high cost even as he defended his decision to push ahead with an ambitious agenda of bailouts, stimulus spending, overseeing automakers, regulating Wall Street and advocating for health care reform. That’s because, the president said, his health care effort is designed to cut costs. “The biggest problem we have in our budget, as much as we've spent this year on crisis response,” Obama said, “and everybody agrees with this— is the rising cost of Medicare and Medicaid.”