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Capital Beat

Obama mocks O’Brien’s Fugitive Slave Act comparison in healthcare speech

President Obama took a potshot today at New Hampshire state Rep. Bill O’Brien over his comparison of Obamacare to the 19th century Fugitive Slave Act.

At an Aug. 1 rally in Concord, O’Brien, a Mont Vernon Republican and former House speaker who at the time was considering a run for Congress, criticized Obama’s 2010 healthcare reform law.

“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 ... slave states,” O’Brien said.

Obama referenced O’Brien, though not by name, in a speech today at Prince George’s Community College in Maryland, while speaking about Republican opposition to implementation of the healthcare law.

“The closer we get, the more desperate they get. I mean, over the last few weeks, the rhetoric has just been cranked up to a place I’ve never seen before,” Obama said.

He added, “You had a state representative somewhere say that it’s ‘as destructive to personal and individual liberty as the Fugitive Slave Act.’ Think about that: Affordable healthcare is worse than a law that lets slaveowners get their runaway slaves back. I mean, these are quotes. I’m not making this stuff up.”

O’Brien told The Wall Street Journal he had made a “fair comparison.”

(Ben Leubsdorf can be reached at 369-3307 or bleubsdorf@cmonitor.com or on Twitter @BenLeubsdorf.)

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