September 26. 2013 2:19PM

John DiStaso's Granite Status: O'Brien dismisses 'rabble-rouser' Obama's attack on his criticism of health care law

By John DiStaso, Senior Political Reporter

THURSDAY, SEPT. 26: OBAMA TAKES ON O'BRIEN. O'BRIEN RETURNS FIRE. Former New Hampshire House Speaker Bill O'Brien says President Obama, by chiding comments O'Brien made critical of the Obama health care law, showed he is a "rabble-rouser" and "still engaged in harsh ridiculing rhetoric," rather than trying to unite the country.

Obama, during a Maryland speech defending the Affordable Care Act on Thursday, cited O'Brien's comparison of "Obamacare" to the Fugitive Slave Act of 1850 during an anti-Obamacare rally sponsored by the conservative Americans for Prosperity-New Hampshire issues advocacy group.

O'Brien, a Mont Vernon Republican who is still a state legislator, certainly did not back away from the comparison on Thursday after hearing of Obama's comments.

In fact, he invoked the comparison again.

O'Brien said in his August speech, "And what is Obamacare? It is a law as destructive to personal and individual liberty as the Fugitive Slave Act of 1850 that allowed slave owners to come to New Hampshire and seize African Americans and use the federal courts to take them back to slave states."

Obama, in his Thursday speech defending his program, said at one point, "You had a state representative somewhere say that it's as destructive to personal and individual liberty as the Fugitive Slave Act."

He did not mention O'Brien by name.

"Think about that," the President continued. "Affordable health care is worse than a law that lets slave owners get their runaway slaves back.

"I mean, these are quotes," added Obama. "I'm not making this stuff up."

O'Brien, who had considered running for the U.S. House but announced in late August he would not, told us, "It's unfortunate that a President in his second term has not been able to depart from his history of being a rabble-rouser and community organizer enough to slow up and understand why people are concerned with the assault on liberty that is the result of Obamacare."

O'Brien continued, "Many of us understand that just as the Fugitive Slave Act was an overreach by the federal government when it came to the rights of states and the rights of individuals in states to determine their policies as to slavery, so too we understand that Obamacare is an assault on the rights of individuals to choose what services they buy or don't buy.

"It's a qualitatively different type of law than our founding fathers ever anticipated that the federal government would ever enter into," O'Brien said.

"So," O'Brien said, "President Obama, who is at a point in his presidential career where he ought to be trying to unify the country, after dividing us enough to get himself reelection, is still engaged in harsh ridiculing rhetoric rather than trying to understand the majority of the people agree this is an assault on liberty.

"We've got to address the real problems in providing medical care to people in ways that don't involve overreach by the federal government," O'Brien said.

Shortly after Obama's comments, the state Democratic Party sent a fund-raising email to supporters.

"For two long years, Bill O'Brien and his Tea Party colleagues embarrassed New Hampshire time and again with their extreme ideology. Today, it reached the breaking point," wrote party chairman Raymond Buckley.

"This morning, the President of the United States personally called him out on national television. The President has had it with out of touch Republicans and their shockingly inappropriate rhetoric and so have I," Buckley wrote.

"For too long," he wrote, "New Hampshire Republicans have been making national news for their embarrassing and extreme positions and it's time for us to once and for all to put a stop to it."

(See earlier Granite Status reports elsewhere on this page or by clicking on "Granite Status" above.)