President Barack Obama touched a chord during the health reform crusade when he remembered and agonised about his grandmother's death in the past year.
On a western tour mixing high-stakes politics with stops in majestic national parks, Obama said Saturday he was fighting a battle of hope over fear against critics who want to thwart his reform drive and stall his presidency.
AdvertisementObama debated several skeptical members of a Colorado crowd, and fired off high-octane rhetoric reminiscent of his 2008 campaign.
"Because we are getting close, the fight is getting fierce," Obama told a town hall meeting of around 1,600 people packed into a high-school gym here, accusing critics of trying to scare the American people.
"These struggles have always boiled down to a contest between hope and fear," he said, referring to past presidents' crusades for pension and health care reform.
Obama also took another swipe at Republicans who have claimed his plans would include a "death panel" to make fateful decisions to deprive terminally-ill elderly patients of expensive treatments.
"What you can't do, or you can, but shouldn't do is say things like we want to set up death panels to pull the plug on Grandma," Obama said.
"I just lost my grandmother last year. I know what it's like to watch somebody you love, who's aging, deteriorate, and have to struggle with that."
Former Republican vice-presidential candidate Sarah Palin and other Republicans claimed death panels were included in draft Democratic legislation, but the bill would simply allow federal funding for counselling about end-of-life care.
Obama's grandmother, Madelyn Dunham, who partly brought him up in Hawaii, died last year after he paid her an emotional farewell visit in his native Hawaii, just days before he was elected president.
The president's event here, and a town hall meeting in Montana on Friday were designed to counter what the White House says are waves of "misinformation" about his plans drowning out lawmakers as they hold town hall events in the August recess.
Obama continued his campaign for reform Sunday as he warned, in an op-ed piece in The New York Times, that in the coming weeks "cynics and the naysayers" would continue to try to undermine his proposals.
"But for all the scare tactics out there, what?s truly scary -- truly risky -- is the prospect of doing nothing," he stated.
"If we maintain the status quo, we will continue to see 14,000 Americans lose their health insurance every day," noted the president. "Premiums will continue to skyrocket. Our deficit will continue to grow. And insurance companies will continue to profit by discriminating against sick people."
In Colorado, one young man bluntly challenged Obama, saying his plan for a government entity to compete with insurance firms to offer healthcare was not fair and would not work.
"I'd love to have a debate, all-out Oxford-style," Colorado University student Zack Lane told Obama.
Obama rejected Lane's arguments, but praised his boldness and respectful tone, implicitly comparing it to raging tirades replayed over and over again from congressional town hall events.
Earlier, swapping political hot water for the real thing, Obama and his family left the snow-topped peaks of a Montana ski resort where they spent the night to see the famed "Old Faithful" geyser in Yellowstone National Park.
"Oh, that's pretty good -- Cool," Obama was heard to say to wife Michelle and daughters Malia and Sasha, as Wyoming's geothermal natural wonder spurted thousands of gallons of boiling water and steam into the air.
On Friday, the president had tried a spot of fly fishing for trout, while his family braved frequent heavy downpours to take a thrilling whitewater raft ride in the shadow of Montana's craggy peaks.
Sunday, the first family was set for another day of adventure tourism with a trip to the Grand Canyon during a visit to the southwestern state of Arizona.
Obama denies claims he is attempting to introduce a "socialized" system like the national health services in Canada and Britain, following dire portraits painted by his rivals of state-run medicine in those two countries.
Republicans argue that "Obamacare" would be too expensive, swell the ballooning deficit, worsen the quality of care now offered by the private system and strangle the industry with government bureaucracy.
Obama promises to expand coverage, control spiraling health care costs, rein in insurance companies and prioritize preventative care.