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As Year Ends, Obama Battles For His Legacy on Health Care and NSA Spying

President Obama delivers remarks at a ConnectED Champions of Change event- DCAs the first year of President Obama’s second term comes grinding to an end, the president is battling for his legacy on two separate fronts: the health care law and the NSA spying scandal.

Obama is going on the offensive with health care, aiming his focus at mothers and at African-Americans, two constituencies that are much more apt to be supportive of his goal to make sure all Americans are insured.

The president and first lady Michelle Obama were scheduled to meet today with a group of mothers “to discuss how health care reform could benefit their families,” according to the White House schedule.

“They will discuss the critical role moms are playing in helping their families access quality, affordable health care by encouraging their adult children, family members and peers to sign up for coverage,” the schedule said.

In the midst of continuing attacks on the law and the website, healthcare.gov, the White House knows winning over mothers will be key in getting healthy young adults in their 20s to sign up, which is mandatory if the initiative is going to profitable for the insurance companies.

In addition to the moms, the first lady will be appearing on three popular radio shows in the African-American community hosted by Yolanda Adams, Al Sharpton, and Joe Madison.

The White House is mounting a concerted effort to keep hold of the Senate and win some seats in the House by painting the health care law as a benefit to Americans. To help in that effort, they have enlisted an old hand, Phil Schiliro, who helped pass the 2010 Affordable Care Act as President Obama’s legislative director. Schiliro’s job is to help Democrats pitch the law to voters in the 2014 midterm elections.

“He was talking to us about how to coordinate our responses. We want to be in a better position to anticipate issues that arise,” Maryland Rep. Chris Van Hollen, who attended the Dec. 12, half-hour meeting led by Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi, told Bloomberg News. They also discussed “how our members could participate in making sure implementation could work more smoothly,” he said.

While Democrats are defending a six-seat majority in the U.S. Senate, they have their eyes on gaining a net of 17 seats in the House to retake the control they lost in the 2010 elections, in part because of the just-passed health-care law.

A Bloomberg National Poll released last week showed 60 percent disapprove of the president’s handling of health care, which was the highest disapproval rating since the survey began asking the question in September 2009.

The White House also named former Microsoft Corp. executive Kurt DelBene as manager of the health-insurance enrollment system, which includes the much-maligned website, replacing Jeffrey Zients, Obama’s soon-to-be top economic adviser.

The White House also appointed as legislative director Katie Beirne Fallon, a former top aide to New York Sen. Charles Schumer, who will be tasked with the challenge of reassuring Senate Democrats about the need to promote the health care law.

The president met yesterday with leaders of the nation’s biggest technology firms, who warned him that the NSA spying scandal is damaging their reputations and could harm the broader economy.

During the White House meeting, the president heard from Cisco Systems, which said it is seeing customers, especially overseas, back away from American-branded technology after documents leaked by NSA whistleblower Edward Snowden showed that the NSA worked with tech companies to secretly tap into their data hubs around the world to pursue terrorism suspects. Angry shareholders for such mammoth firms as IBM, AT&T and Verizon Communications have filed lawsuits demanding that the companies disclose their participation in NSA intelligence programs.

The companies told the president there is a need for more transparency and limits on surveillance to restore the credibility of the U.S. government, according to officials who anonymously spoke to the Washington Post.

“Most companies” in the room pressed this point, “and they did so loudly,” said one U.S. official.Obama told them he understood their fears and said the White House would consider the group’s views as it completed a review of NSA surveillance programs.

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