Mark Kirk's dissing of President Obama and health care reform became quite public Wednesday when audio from a Republican dinner in suburban Winnetka was leaked to the press. Kirk's comments prompted a rather angry response from White House Senior advisor David Axelrod, who called Kirk's words "disappointing" and accused the congressman of presenting himself as an "independent" when the cameras were rolling but singing a different tune behind closed doors.
During the dinner, Kirk blasted health care reform--and referred to President Obama as "this guy" and a "one termer." Lynn Sweet of the Chicago Sun-Times, who also got her hands on audio from the event, shared more of Kirk's Winnetka talk:
"I will just say, if it goes through, there is one thing about the bill not commonly known, all of the pain of the bill is upfront, and all of the gain is later. The bill includes ten new federal taxes, and dramatic cuts for senior healthcare under Medicare between 2010 and 2014. The actual benefit of the bill doesn't start until 2014," Kirk said.
"In between this time and then, is a presidential election. If we can win in the White House, and we're on the way to making this guy a one term-er."
"If we move to repeal this bill in 2013, all your doing is removing the pain and not a single American would have benefited from it yet. As your senator I would lead the effort to repeal this bill. "
Axelrod told Sweet that Kirk's comments were proof that he presents himself as an independent when the cameras are rolling, but "parrots the party line" behind closed doors--which the event was meant to be.
"As an Illinoisan, I have to say, I find his remarks disappointing," Axelrod told the Sun-Times. "Given the great challenges America, and families across Illinois face today, the last thing we need is another Republican Senator in Washington who is more focused on tearing down the President than he is on solving problems."
Politico pointed out Wednesday that tearing down the President in Illinois may not be wise:
Aside from calling the president "this guy," Kirk's prediction of an Obama re-election defeat in 2012 puts him out of step with how most residents of the state feel about their own president.
According to a Research 2000 poll late last month, 60 percent of Illinois voters view Obama favorably while just 36 percent view him unfavorably.
Kirk spokesman Eric Elk stood by the congressman's statements, saying that his remarks "reflect the concerns of many Americans," but his opponent Alexi Giannoulias thought Kirk owed Obama an apology:
"He should apologize and get to work immediately with our President to tackle the enormous challenges we face," Giannoulias said in a statement. "Illinois voters have a clear choice in this campaign: while President Obama and I will fight hard to move this country forward, Mark Kirk is just another typical Washington insider who would clearly rather stand with the corporate special interests and obstruct progress than get things done."
(LISTEN to a portion of Kirk's remarks here.)
Read the full statement Axelrod gave to Lynn Sweet here:
"As an Illinoisan, I have to say, I find his remarks disappointing," Axelrod told the Chicago Sun-Times.
"Given the great challenges America, and families across Illinois face today, the last thing we need is another Republican Senator in Washington who is more focused on tearing down the President than he is on solving problems.
"And what's worse is that Congressman Kirk presents an independent in front of the cameras, but when he gets behind closed doors, at a Republican meeting, he thoroughly parrots the party line.
"Saying one thing to one audience and something different to another may be standard operating procedure in Washington, but it rightly frustrates people in Illinois and across the country. It's not the kind of politics we need.
"As for health insurance reform, people across Illinois and the country will have greater security this year, once the President signs this law.
"Small businesses will receive tax credits to help them afford health coverage for their workers.
"People with pre-existing conditions will finally have access to coverage they can afford.
"The lifetime caps on coverage that insurance companies impose today will be banned, and they will no longer be allowed to throw people off their coverage, just because they become seriously ill.
"The gaps in Medicare prescription coverage will be filled in, saving seniors across our state hundreds of dollars our of pocket.
"So if Congressman Kirk wants to travel our state and explain why he wants to take all that away and put insurance company bureaucrats back in the driver's seat, he should.
"It may titilate a roomful of partisans, but I don't think it's going to impress the people of Illinois," Axelrod said.