A New Hampshire state legislator who kicked off a controversy last month when he compared Obamacare to the Fugitive Slave Act fired back at President Barack Obama on Thursday, just hours after the commander in chief mocked his remarks during a fiery, raucous speech in Maryland.
“You had a state representative, somewhere, say that it’s as destructive to personal and individual liberty as the Fugitive Slave Act,” Obama said during the speech. “Think about that: Affordable health care is worse than a law that let slaveowners get their runaway slaves back.”
William O’Brien, a Republican member of the Granite State’s House of Representatives and former congressional candidate, spoke to International Business Times via phone on Thursday about his response to being called out by Obama, saying the president "is becoming increasingly diminished" and should adopt a more conciliatory tone if he hopes to lead effectively.
“My reaction to it was that the president has remained such a rabble-rouser and community organizer that he doesn’t want to take the time to slow up and understand why people -- a majority of people -- are so concerned about the effects of Obamacare,” he said, adding later, “This specific episode -- his mocking tone and charged-up rhetoric -- demonstrates that he’s not going to be a unifier.”
O’Brien’s comparison of Obamacare and the Fugitive Slave Act of 1850 -- which decreed that governments in non-slave states return any runaway slaves who were apprehended to the states they had escaped from -- came during a speech he delivered at an Aug. 1 event in Concord, N.H., hosted by Americans for Prosperity.
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“What is Obamacare? It is a law as destructive to personal and individual liberty as the Fugitive Slave Act of 1850 that allowed slaveowners to come to New Hampshire and seize African-Americans and use the federal courts to take them back to federal -- to slave states,” he said.
Despite the uproar his comments caused at the time, O’Brien said Thursday afternoon that he stands behind what he said.
“Just as the Fugitive Slave Act limited liberty by a substantial degree by having the federal government go into states and order individuals and state governments to enforce federal laws in the states, so too does Obamacare seek to limit the liberty of individuals,” he said.
“The analogy is a very apt one; it’s an accurate one. One would hope that going into the sixth year of his presidency, the president would want to slow up and understand that great presidents are unifiers. Great presidents understand that they have to reach out to people and understand their concerns.”
Rhetoric on both sides of the aisle regarding Obamacare has ramped up in recent weeks as Oct. 1 -- the first day Americans can apply to participate in the health insurance exchanges set up under the Affordable Care Act -- nears.
The White House did not immediately respond to a request for comment on O’Brien’s response to Obama’s Thursday speech.