POLITICS
09/21/2009 05:12 am ET | Updated May 25, 2011

Joe The Nerd: The Man Who Challenged Obama On Health Care

Joe Ferraro was a little anxious when it came his turn to question President Obama about health care reform during Michael Smerconish's call-in interview on Thursday. Obama asked him how he was doing.

"Oh, I'm scared out of my mind talking to you here," said Ferraro. But he quickly got his act together.

"I'm getting a little ticked off that it feels like the knees are buckling a little bit," Ferraro said. "We have overwhelming majorities in both the House and the Senate. And we own the whole shooting match. And I'm just getting...It's very frustrating to watch you try and compromise with these people who aren't willing to compromise with you."

It was the question of the week. It resonated far and wide through the Washington political establishment, the Internet, and the traditional media.

The "knees buckling" line appeared in pretty much every story about the Smerconish interview.

He became something of a hero in the progressive community, where there is a growing disappointment over Obama's buckling.

Obama's wordy response to Ferrarro's question was among the most newsworthy of the day, although he didn't actually address the issue of whether he was actually buckling or not. "I guarantee you, Joe, we are going to get health care reform done," Obama said. "And I know that there are a lot of people out there who have been hand-wringing, and folks in the press are following every little twist and turn of the legislative process. You know, passing a big bill like this is always messy. FDR was called a socialist when he passed Social Security. JFK and Lyndon Johnson, they were both accused of a government takeover of health care when they passed Medicare. This is the process that we go through."

Ferraro is a 48-year-old father of three who lives with his wife and kids in Audubon, Pa., where he goes by "Joe the Nerd." He's in business for himself, fixing computers (hence the "Nerd" title).

In an interview with the Huffington Post, Ferraro said he supported Obama over Hillary Clinton in the primaries particularly because he had more faith in Obama to do something about health care. He said his wife went back to work full-time a year and a half ago so they could have health insurance for their two boys and girl. He's frustrated that the president is being so solicitous of Republicans and conservative Democrats who have no interest in the "public option," a government-run insurance company to compete with private insurers.

"I have nothing but bad things to say right now about any Democrat who goes up against the president," he said. "If you're a liberal pulling this crap, if you're a Blue Dog pulling this crap, get the hell out of the way."

Ferraro wrote a blog post about his experience. He explained why it was hard to hear his voice: "The phone call was a garbled from my own fault. I was soooo incredibly nervous about saying what I felt I needed to say to the President, that I forgot to switch from speaker phone back to the regular handset. That is why my voice was bouncing all over the place."

"This is the biggest chance I've had to scream and bitch and moan ever," Ferraro said. "I'm glad I didn't insult the president."

As for Obama's answer to his question, Ferraro was satisfied.

"I believed the guy," he said.

Here's video of the president taking Ferraro's question:

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