Ehrlich Knocks Obama, Gets Few Questions
Former Maryland governor Robert L. Ehrlich Jr. (R) took a few swipes at President Obama before the latter's Thursday morning appearance in College Park, dismissing the event as "simply another day in the health-care road show."
But Ehrlich's conference call, organized by the Republican National Committee and billed as a "pre-buttal" to Obama, was a bit of a dud. It drew only two questions from reporters -- both about Ehrlich's political future in Maryland.
Ehrlich focused his opening remarks on what he said has been confusion between "partisanship" and "ideology" in coverage of the health-care debate.
Ehrlich, a former congressman, said the public understandably does not like the partisan divide in Washington. But on health care, "the problem seems to be ideological differences within the Democratic Party," he said. "Sometimes that gets lost in the reporting on a daily basis."
With that, the call was opened to questions. The first questioner sought an update on Ehrlich's thinking regarding a rematch next year with Gov. Martin O'Malley (D), who defeated Ehrlich in 2006.
"It is something we're looking at," Ehrlich said, but he made clear there was nothing new here. "There is no timeline, so there are no artificial deadlines."
Ehrlich added that he felt no "undue pressure" from anyone to make up his mind, saying: "I feel I've earned that right, by the way."
The second questioner said the first questioner had taken his question. There were no more questions, so Ehrlich was given an opportunity to make a closing statement.
The former governor said that health care was an important topic, and in fact one that he and wife have discussed often on their weekly radio show. Obama's problem, Ehrlich said, was that he was having trouble turning campaign "platitudes" into policy.
"The president seems to want to bring big government into our lives ... and the people have recoiled," Ehrlich said. "The president has a major political problem."
He said the Republicans remain willing to help craft a better plan.
"We are where we are," Ehrlich concluded. "I'm very happy to answer any additional questions."
There were none, and the call ended, clocking in at less than 15 minutes.
Before the Ehrlich conference call, House Speaker Michael E. Busch (D-Anne Arundel) offered a sort of pre-pre-buttal, saying in an interview that "Ehrlich did not work to expand health care whatsoever" during his tenure as governor.
"I can't remember where Gov. Ehrlich accomplished anything (on health care)," Busch said.
Busch pointed to a 2004 special legislative session on medical malpractice, which Ehrlich called, only to veto the bill that emerged from the Democratic-controlled legislature. Part of the bill included a tax on HMO premiums that was used to improve reimbursements for Medicaid services.
"He vetoed a bill that put more money into Medicaid," Busch said.
2 p.m. UPDATE: Henry Fawell, a former aide to Ehrlich who now works in his law firm, has provided a rebuttal to Busch's pre-pre-buttal.
Fawell forwarded a seven-point list of "Ehrlich health-care accomplishments" that he said were intended to "help jog the Speaker's memory."
Among them: adding 100,000 people to the Medicaid rolls; creation of a Cabinet-level Department of Disabilities; creation of Maryland's stem cell research fund; and tougher penalties and stronger incentives for landlords to comply with lead-paint standards.
September 17, 2009; 11:00 AM ET
Categories: Health Care , John Wagner
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