Political Notebook

Obama calls on critics to abandon ‘phony claims’ about health care

August 23, 2009

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WASHINGTON - President Obama is challenging critics of his push to overhaul the health care system to stop making what he calls “phony claims’’ about proposals now the subject of intense coast-to-coast debate.

“This is an issue of vital concern to every American, and I’m glad that so many are engaged,’’ Obama said in his weekly radio and Internet address yesterday. “But it also should be an honest debate, not one dominated by willful misrepresentations and outright distortions, spread by the very folks who would benefit the most by keeping things exactly as they are.’’

“So today, I want to spend a few minutes debunking some of the more outrageous myths circulating on the Internet, on cable TV, and repeated at some town halls across this country,’’ the president said.

Obama said the overhaul would not cover illegal immigrants nor use taxpayer dollars to pay for abortions, and he does not intend a government takeover of health care - as critics have contended at contentious town hall-style meetings.

He also took a swipe at “death panels,’’ an idea Sarah Palin, former governor of Alaska, introduced on her Facebook page.

“As every credible person who has looked into it has said, there are no so-called death panels - an offensive notion to me and to the American people,’’ Obama said. “These are phony claims meant to divide us.’’


Energy, security on agenda for president’s China trip
BEIJING - President Obama will make his first official visit to China in November, seeking to foster collaboration on the environment, renewable energy, and regional security, the new US ambassador to China said.

“If we can tackle all of these, we will be able to take US-China relations to new heights,’’ Jon Huntsman said yesterday in Beijing at his first press meeting since arriving in the Chinese capital Friday.

Obama accepted an invitation from President Hu Jintao of China in April when the two met in London at a Group of 20 summit called to deal with the global financial crisis.

The appointment of Huntsman, 49, a fluent Mandarin speaker, as Obama’s envoy underscores the importance of relations between the world’s biggest market and the largest global manufacturer. The United States and China have a twice-yearly strategic and economic dialogue for resolving problems and also conduct a dialogue on human rights.

“The human-rights dialogue has to be regularized so that it’s not just a regular meeting, but a meaningful meeting that reflects ourselves as a country,’’ Huntsman said yesterday.