Matt Lewis tells the story of Ingrid Martin, an unemployed Ohioan who, despite being seated in the front row of the president’s Monday rally, did not applaud or cheer.
Singling her out after the speech, President Obama asked her what was wrong. The subsequent exchange provides anecdotal evidence, at least, that citizens opposed to Obamacare are not misinformed victims of the Republican propaganda machine:
“I didn’t clap and I didn’t smile, and I just sort of held firm to my beliefs and held my tongue so I didn’t get into any trouble,” she recalled. “And I think that, being in the front row, he noticed that because when he came down off the stairs and started shaking hands, when he got to me, he said, ‘Thanks for coming,’ and he looked at me and said, ‘Are you okay?’ And I said, ‘Yes sir, I just don’t support your bill’.”
Ingrid Martin said she then entered into about a 2-minute-long debate reminiscent of Obama’s meeting with another Ohioan, Joe Wurzelbacher (a.k.a. “Joe the Plumber”), telling him she worries about the long-term implications of his sweeping legislation. She told the president he was focused on insurance reform, as opposed to the rising cost of health care, which she believes to be the fundamental problem. Martin stressed her view of the need for tort reform. She also noted: “He said things like, ‘Medicare is not going to be affected by this bill,’ which is not right.”
When Obama said that his bill addressed her concerns, “I just kind of shook my head and said, ‘I don’t believe it does’ — oh my gosh, I’m calling the president a liar,” she added with a nervous laugh. Obama then took Martin’s business card and promised to send her information on the bill. While she was not persuaded to change her mind and support Obama’s policy, she was impressed with him for engaging her. “He took the time to stop and listen, which I appreciated,” she said.
White House officials had no comment on the exchange between the president and Ingrid Martin, but did confirm for Politics Daily that it took place. Besides its similarity to Obama’s exchange with Joe the Plumber two years ago when Obama was a candidate, the situation reminded some longtime White House observers of two previous presidents, including Bill Clinton, who would often spend the most time working the “rope line,” speaking to dissenters, almost as though he believed he could change America’s mind, one voter at a time.