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Obama Looks to Regain Momentum Over Recess

President Barack Obama will use the August recess to aggressively challenge critics of his health care plans, hoping to use his bully pulpit to shift momentum on the issue his way.

White House officials are concerned that their critics have gotten some traction with a campaign to cast his health overhaul plans as having frightening consequences and will have Obama address some of the charges head on. White House officials have promised Democrats in Congress that Obama will take no prisoners.

“It’s been confusing for people and there’s a lot of misinformation, so the president is going to use August to set the record straight,” a senior White House official said. “He’ll be very direct.”

An example of that directness was on display in Obama’s weekly address.

“In recent days and weeks, some have been using misleading information to defeat what they know is the best chance of reform we have ever had,” Obama said. “Let me start by dispelling the outlandish claims that reform will promote euthanasia, cut Medicaid, or bring about a government takeover of health care. That’s simply not true.”

To be sure, not all Republicans have embraced arguments that Obama’s plans will lead to a “rationing” of treatment or “government encouraged euthanasia.” But many in the GOP argue that it is not a scare tactic to assert that the type of public insurance option Obama backs will squeeze out private insurers and lead to a government-run health care system.

Obama’s directness will apply as well to his physical proximity to the people he is addressing. The White House views town-hall events held in Raleigh, N.C., and Bristol, Va., on July 29 as the beginning of a more direct dialogue with the American public. The president will hold a town hall devoted to health care in Portsmouth, N.H., on Tuesday. More town halls are also on tap.

With polls showing most people satisfied with their health care, Obama will emphasize that his proposals will make those who already have insurance more secure by forcing insurers to cover pre-existing conditions, to not drop coverage when care gets expensive, and to allow those who lose or change jobs to keep their insurance.

Obama will also continue his recent assault on the insurance industry, which he has portrayed as resisting change as they feast on profits while placing limits on care.

“He’ll make the case for reform and make the case that the people trying to stop reform are the ones happy with the status quo,” the senior White House official said.

Obama also will continue to tout the $787 billion stimulus bill and try to rebut GOP attacks that it has been a failure. The White House strategy is to have Obama counter Republican charges that the measure was a boondoggle while portraying it as part of a broader Obama economic strategy — including steps to address the housing and financial crises — that has helped mitigate the recession and put the economy on a path toward recovery.

“We’re not going to let the Republicans define the Recovery Act,” the senior White House official said.

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