February 05, 2010
It might help President Barack Obama achieve health care reform, if Republicans make significant gains in the U.S. House of Representatives, according to Representative Peter Roskam (R, IL), in comments to political science students at Knox College.
Roskam spoke to two classes February 5 on the Knox campus. Photo above, Congressman Roskam encourages Knox students to apply for internships in the nation's capital.
President Obama, Roskam said, "has a political base around him that has very high expectations... And I don't think there was a recognition of his own limitations on being able to [push through the Democratic-backed proposal]."
In spite of Democratic majorities in the House and Senate, there is public opposition to Obama's proposal, Roskam said.
"There's near-national consensus on the problem," Roskam said. "People get it. Health care needs fixing. But the people have looked at this bill, and they've said 'Not this bill.' It's 70-30" against the current Democratic-backed proposal.
Roskam then predicted: "When the November elections change the dynamics in the House, then [President Obama] will have the flexibility to go back to his base and say, 'Look, it's a new environment.'
"The irony is that a Republican majority could be the best thing that ever happened to Barack Obama. He would then have the perfect foil, to explain why he can't move the agenda that he wants... It would force both parties to come and negotiate... and put a more centrist proposal on his desk."
Roskam told the students that he and Obama had served together in the Illinois State Senate. "He's the ultimate pragmatist... a skilled negotiator."
Roskam spoke to students in two courses, American National Government, team-taught by Andrew Civettini, Lane Sunderland and Duane Oldfield; and Religion and Politics, taught by Sue Hulett.
Roskam told the students that growth of government, and growth of the national debt, threatened their future. "Be very careful, because the temptation is when some folks say, 'We know that unemployment is 10% and rising, and there's a lot of uncertainty in the world. We will take the uncertainty away, and we will give you stability, and all we want is you to give up your freedom. ' That is the national conversation that you find yourself in, in 2010. I hope that you will pick a side and that you'll pick the right side, and that ultimately you'll come in with a responsibility and an understanding of the impact that you have."
Roskam also held a media availability in the Alumni Room of Old Main. The new media environment -- Internet, social media and 24-hour news channels -- is having positive and negative effects, Roskam told reporters. "The good news is that international events become localized... The Haiti earthquake almost became a local event, because media on the ground communicated back quickly, and people were able to click on their cell phones and contribute $10, which raised millions of dollars in the twinkling of an eye. The insidious side is the demand [created by continuous news coverage]. What if there's no news? What if you have to think something through? That sort of drive doesn't lend itself to contemplation."