ABC News' Jake Tapper reports:
TAPPER: Thank you, Mr. President. A couple of questions. First, were you concerned at all when you -- when the administration had Secretary of Defense Gates call this pastor in Florida that you were elevating somebody who is clearly from the fringe?
And then, more substantively, on health care reform, this is six months since health care passed. You pledged, A, that you would bend the cost curve, and, B, that Democrats would be able to campaign on this. And CMS reported yesterday that the cost curve is actually bending up: from 6.1 percent to 6.3 percent post-health care legislation. And the only Democrats I've seen talking about health care legislation are running TV ads saying that they voted against it. Thank you.
OBAMA: With respect to the individual down in Florida, let me just say -- well, let me repeat what I said a couple of days ago: The idea that we would burn the sacred texts of someone else's religion is contrary to what this country stands for. It's contrary to what this country -- this nation was founded on.
And, you know, my hope is that this individual prays on it and refrains from doing it. But I'm also commander in chief. And we are seeing today riots in Kabul, riots in Afghanistan, that threaten our young men and women in uniform. And so we've got an obligation to send a very clear message that this kind of behavior or threats of action put our young men and women in harm's way. And it's also the best imaginable recruiting tool for Al Qaida.
And although this may be one individual in Florida, part of my concern is to make sure that we don't start having a whole bunch of folks all across the country think this is the way to get attention. This is a way of endangering our troops, our sons and daughters, fathers and mothers, husbands and wives, who are sacrificing for us to keep us safe. And you don't play games with that. So, you know, I hardly think we're the ones who elevated this story, but it is, in the age of the Internet, something that can cause us profound damage around the world, and so we've got to take it seriously.
With respect to health care, what I said during the debate is the same thing I'm saying now, and it's the same thing I will say three or four years from now. Bending the cost curve on health care is hard to do. We've got hundreds of thousands of providers and doctors and systems and insurers, and what we did was we took every idea out there about how to reduce or at least slow the costs of health care over time. But I said at the time it wasn't going to happen tomorrow, it wasn't going to happen next year. It took us decades to get into a position where our health care costs were going up 6, 7, 10 percent a year. And so our goal is to slowly bring down those costs.
Now, we've done so also by making sure that 31 million people who aren't getting health insurance are going to start getting it. And we have now implemented the first phase of health care in a way that, by the way, has been complimented even by the opponents of health care reform. It has been smooth. And right now middle-class families all across America are going to be able to say to themselves, starting this month, you know, "If I've got a kid who is under 26 and doesn't have health insurance, that kid can stay on my health insurance. If I've got a child with a pre- existing condition, an insurer can't deny me coverage. If I get sick and I've got health insurance, that insurance company can't arbitrarily drop my coverage." There are 4 million small businesses around the country who are already eligible, and in some cases will be receiving, a 35 percent tax break on health care for their employees. And I've already met small businesses around the country who say, "You know, because of that I'm going to be able to provide health care for my employees. I thought it was the right thing to do." So... (CROSSTALK)
TAPPER: ... CMS study from February predicted a 6.1 percent increase, and now post-health care 6.3 percent. So it seems to have bent it up.
OBAMA: No -- as I said, I haven't read the entire study. Maybe you have. But -- you know, if -- if you -- if what the reports are true, what they're saying is, is that as a consequence of us getting 30 million additional people health care, at the margins that's going to increase our costs, we knew that. We didn't think that we were going to cover 30 million people for free. But that the long-term trend in terms of how much the average family is going to be paying for health insurance is going to be improved as a consequence of health care. And -- and so our goal on health care is if we can get instead of health care costs going up 6 percent a year, it's going up at the level of inflation, maybe just slightly above inflation, we've made huge progress. And by the way, that is the single most important thing we could do in terms of reducing our deficit. That's why we did it. That's why it's important. And that's why we're going to implement it effectively.
TAPPER: Sorry, and then the House Democrats running against health care, if you could comment on that.
OBAMA: Well, you know, there are -- we're in a political season where every candidate out there has their own district, their own make-up, their own plan, their own message. And, you know, in an environment where we've still got 9.5 percent unemployment, you know, people are going to make the best argument they can right now. And they're going to be taking polls of what their particular constituents are saying and trying to align with that oftentimes. You know, that's -- that's how political races work.
- Jake Tapper