U.S. President Barack Obama took his campaign for health care reform to the nation's airwaves Sunday. In a series of interviews with five television networks he made the case for reform and tried to ease the angry tone of the debate. He touched on foreign policy matters as well.
It was a media blitz for the president - the latest step in his effort to sell his health care reform plan to a skeptical public. On all five programs, his message was the same.
He told the CBS news program Face the Nation, "What I am trying to do is explain the facts, which are if we do not do anything, a lot of Americans are going to be much worse off and over time the federal budget just cannot sustain it."
On ABC's This Week, he described his plan as moderate, and hardly radical. The nation's first African-American president downplayed the notion that the angry outbursts against reform may somehow be racially motivated.
"Any time there is a president who is proposing big changes that seem to implicate the size of government - that gets everybody's juices flowing," added Mr. Obama.
He said the news media may bear some of the blame for the tone of the debate.
"Sometimes I think, frankly, the media encourages some of the outliers in behavior because, let us face it, the easiest way to get on television right now is to be really rude," said Mr. Obama.
Speaking on NBC's Meet the Press, the top Republican in the House of Representatives, John Boehner of Ohio, said the anger may be a manifestation of a genuine fear of a complete government take-over of the health care system.
"I do not know that the tone of the debate has gotten out of control," said Boehner. "It has been spirited because we are talking about an issue that affects every single American."
The health care debate clearly was the dominant topic on the Sunday news programs. But the president also used the opportunity to urge patience on Afghanistan, and to comment on his decision to scrap Bush administration plans for a missile-defense system with components in Poland and the Czech Republic.
Mr. Obama told CBS he wants a system that is more flexible and better able to deal with the threat posed by short- and medium-range Iranian missiles. He strongly denied his decision was an effort to appease Russia, which strongly opposed the Bush proposal.
"The Russians do not make determinations about what our defense posture is," said Mr. Obama. "We have made a decision about what will be best to protect the American people as well as our troops in Europe and our allies."
On Meet the Press, Republican Senator Lindsey Graham of South Carolina offered a different view.
"This is going to be seen as a capitulation to the Russians, who had no real basis to object to what we were doing," said Graham.
President Obama will discuss the matter further this week with Russian President Dmitri Medvedev when they meet on the sidelines of the U.N. General Assembly in New York.