President Obama is now trying to do what the Democrats had said they were going to do and didn't do.
For months, the president has endured criticism that he reneged on a promise to televise healthcare negotiations on C-SPAN. By opening up the summit to the cameras, Obama can argue he is making good on that commitment at a crucial point in the process.You want to resort to an approach that you promised but avoided when you thought you could get away with it? To say that's the same as keeping the promise is like saying you're not a thief after you try to shoplift and then offer to pay when you get caught.
But if it was a good idea to televise negotiations once, it might be a good idea now. It would test the Republicans' assertion that although the current bills are bad, reform is needed.
[T]he summit gives the president a chance to paint Republicans as obstructionists who refuse offers of compromise. If that's how the event is perceived, it could pay off for Democrats in the November midterm elections.Or the event could be perceived as a political tactic, which is what it is. The Republicans could participate, but only in order to make their own strong offer. Let the GOP say exactly what the GOP position would be if it had the majority power. Think of it as a debate for the fall election. Defend that plan and critique the Democrats' plan. Put the choice before the people, so we can think about which party it wants to put in power in the fall. It should be: Decision 2010 time. Not: Come on, we're on TV, now compromise.
Republicans said Sunday that they are prepared to participate in the summit, but would like a White House commitment to start from scratch.That's the way to get out of the TV show altogether. A good parry.
Senate Republican leader Mitch McConnell of Kentucky said: "We always appreciate the opportunity to share ideas with the president, particularly on an issue where Americans have spoken so clearly. If we are to reach a bipartisan consensus, the White House can start by shelving the current health spending bill."Oh, let's share ideas. An amusing/infuriating way to put it.
But starting fresh is not part of the White House plan.
In an interview Sunday night, a White House official said, "The Republicans are going to interpret this as we're starting over. We're not starting over. We're coming in with our plan. They're welcome to come in with whatever plan they'd like. But we're moving forward."Healthcare reform is a big, overloaded truck — currently stalled — the Democrats intend to drive in a direction they like to think of as "forward." The Democrats' idea is that the Republicans can take a couple little things off the truck and then give them a jump start. But if the Republicans' plan is to go in a different direction — preferably in a Smart Car — how does the truck start moving again?