President Obama sparred with his 2008 presidential campaign adversary Sen. John McCain (R-AZ) at Thursday’s bipartisan health care summit, reminding him that the election is behind them.
McCain, taking his turn to speak, zeroed his criticism on the “process we’ve gone through to reach” the bill that emerged from the Senate.
“Both of us during the campaign promised change in Washington,” McCain said. “In fact, eight times you said that negotiations on health care reform would be conducted with C-SPAN cameras. I’m glad, more than a year later, that they are here.”
McCain lamented that the bill was crafted “behind closed doors” with “unsavory deal-making,” referencing the special exemptions the Democratic leadership gave to Sens. Ben Nelson (D-NB) and Mary Landrieu (D-LA) for their states in order to win their votes.
Obama tried to interrupt him, saying, “John, can I–” before McCain interrupted back and said, “Can I finish?”
McCain called the alleged deal between the White House and Pharma “egregious” and said that “people are angry” as a result of such actions. “They want us to go back to the beginning,” he said.
Obama then lashed back at his former rival, accusing him of trying to score political points at the wrong time, and reminding him that he lost their election battle.
“We’re not campaigning anymore,” the president said. “The election’s over. So, we can spend the remainder of the time with our respective talking points, going back and forth. We were supposed to be talking about insurance.”
“The way you characterized it obviously would get some strong objections from the other side. We can have a debate about process or we can have a debate about how we’re actually going to help the American people at this point.”
Later in the summit, the two had a less confrontational exchange on the issue of reining in Medicare costs.
“Mr. President,” said McCain, “why should we carve out 800,000 people because they live in Florida to keep their Medicare advantage program, and they want to do away with it?”
“I think you make a legitimate point,” responded Obama.
“Well,” said McCain, appearing shocked at Obama’s reply. “Thank you very much.”
Laughter ensued across the room as Obama flashed a wide grin and moved on to the next speaker.
McCain is defending his Senate seat in a tough reelection campaign this year.
This video is from Fox News, broadcast Feb. 25, 2010.