BALTIMORE - In a remarkably frank encounter, President Barack Obama chastised Republican lawmakers on Friday for opposing him on taxes, health care and economic stimulus, while they accused him of ignoring their ideas and driving up the national debt.
The president and GOP House members took turns questioning and sometimes lecturing each other face to face for more than hour at the Republican gathering.
Obama warned that their sharp criticisms of him over the past year make it almost politically impossible for them to agree with him even if an accord would help the American people. They said he was misleading the American people in saying they had offered no serious alternatives to his proposals.
While both parties were conciliatory at times, the televised exchange featured pointed complaints and accusations that went well beyond the terse sound bites that dominate much of the nation's political debate.
Obama said Republican lawmakers have attacked his health care overhaul so fiercely, "you'd think that this thing was some Bolshevik plot." The plan's components are mainstream, common-sense items, he said, and deserving of some bipartisan support.
"I am not an ideologue," the president said.
The Republicans sat attentively throughout Obama's speech and the discussion. There was some grumbling when he remarked — after being pressed about closed-door health care negotiations — that most of the legislation was developed in congressional committees in front of television cameras.
"That was a messy process," he acknowledged.
Several Republicans challenged Obama with lengthy complaints and sharp questions.
"What should we tell our constituents who know that Republicans have offered positive solutions" for health care, "and yet continue to hear out of the administration that we've offered nothing?" asked Rep. Tom Price, R-Ga.
Obama showed little sympathy, disputing Price's claim that a Republican plan would cover nearly all Americans without raising taxes.