U.S. President Barack Obama has shown a rare display of emotion, in defending his health care reform plans against some Republican critics. The president invoked the memory of his grandmother as he spoke Saturday at a public meeting in the Western city of Grand Junction, Colorado.
As he discussed misinformation being spread about his proposal to overhaul the U.S. health care system, President Obama described the sadness of watching his grandmother die last year.
"I just lost my grandmother last year," Mr. Obama said. "I know what it is like to watch somebody you love, who is aging, deteriorate, and have to struggle with that. So, the notion that somehow I ran for public office, or members of Congress are in this so that they can go around 'pulling the plug on Grandma'?"
The president bristled at the rumor that his plan would set up so-called death panels to decide whether seriously ill senior citizens would receive life-sustaining care. His initiative contains no such provision, but would authorize the government to pay doctors to counsel a patient about end-of-life issues, if the patient wants it.
Mr. Obama said Republicans who make such claims are not telling the truth.
"When you start making arguments like that, that is simply dishonest, especially when I hear the arguments coming from members of Congress in the other party, who, it turns out, sponsored similar provisions," Mr. Obama said.
Saturday's public meeting, attended by an estimated 1,600 people in a high school, took place in a civil atmosphere. Some other recent so-called town hall meetings with members of Congress have faced hostile, even violent crowds.
In Grand Junction, the worst Mr. Obama faced was a college student named Zack Lane, who challenged him to a debate about his proposals.
"I would love to have a debate, any time, Oxford-style if you would like. I am willing to do that," Lane said.
The president answered the young man's question, and said he admired his courage.
"It is good to see a young person who is very engaged, and confident, challenging the president to an Oxford-style debate," Mr. Obama said. "I think this is good. I like that. You have got to have a little chutzpah."
Mr. Obama admitted that there are no perfect solutions to the problems of the U.S. health care system. But he said fixing health care is essential to reviving the U.S. economy.
"If you are a deficit hawk, and you are tired of this crazy spending in Washington, and you want to finally make sure that we are looking out for the next generation, then you, more than anybody, should want to reform the health care system," Mr. Obama said.
In the weekly Republican Party message, Senator Orrin Hatch, from the Western state of Utah, said Mr. Obama's proposal will cost too much and amount to a government takeover of health care.
"Our nation expects us to solve this challenge in an open, honest and responsible manner. More spending, more taxes and more government is not the answer," Hatch said.
As public support for the president's health reform plan has slipped, Mr. Obama has made numerous speeches defending and promoting it.
The president and his family are in Arizona Sunday, to visit Grand Canyon National Park.