Free Markets, Free People

“Bi-Partisan Health Care Summit” Or Political Theater? (Update)

The GOP has every reason to be wary of and, in fact, refuse to participate in the televised “bi-partisan” health care reform summit the President is calling for on NPR unless a number of preconditions are met. The reasons are many, but perhaps the primary one has to do with the fact that this isn’t a summit proposed to begin bi-partisan talks on reforming health care, but instead, an attempt to shame Republicans into supporting the present Senate bill passed. The president refuses to abandon it and reset the health care reform debate at the beginning.

After months of behind closed door negotiations, it’s suddenly “sunshine” time. Why in the world wouldn’t Republicans be suspicious?  It’s hard not to conclude (especially after the results of the televised meeting at the GOP retreat) that this is nothing but political theater designed to show the Republicans as “obstructionists” and the “party of no”.

What the televised “summit” will likely consist of is Obama and the Democrats pushing for acceptance of the same bill now pending and the Republicans saying “no”. The desired outcome is to have them say it right there in the open on TV.  Of course they’d love to have enough Republicans submit to the pressure and commit to passage as an outcome. That’s most likely not going to happen. The most likely scenario has the Republicans say “no” and Democrats claim “see we tried to include them, but they refuse” and use that as a justification for reconciliation. As Democrats see it, it would be a win-win for them with a chance to make the GOP look bad.

The House Republican leadership has sent a letter to the President in which they question all of this. You can read it here. My favorite part of the letter comes after a series of very pointed questions are put to him:

Your answers to these critical questions will help determine whether this will be a truly open, bipartisan discussion or merely an intramural exercise before Democrats attempt to jam through a job-killing health care bill that the American people can’t afford and don’t support. ‘Bipartisanship’ is not writing proposals of your own behind closed doors, then unveiling them and demanding Republican support. Bipartisan ends require bipartisan means.These questions are also designed to try and make sense of the widening gap between the President’s rhetoric on bipartisanship and the reality. We cannot help but notice that each of the President’s recent bipartisan overtures has been coupled with harsh, misleading partisan attacks. For instance, the President decries Republican ‘obstruction’ when it was Republicans who first proposed bipartisan health care talks last May.

The questions mentioned address reconciliation, starting over and other important ones. It’s a letter that makes it clear that the House GOP leadership is very suspicious of the intent of the so-called summit – and rightfully so.

Of course that doesn’t mean they won’t end up playing along. The possibility that the summit would turn into a “bash the GOP” event is something they just won’t be able to stand and will show up in an attempt to avoid that.  Instead, they’ll just play into Democratic hands.  If I were them, I’d instead issue a statement saying that the GOP has concluded there is no good faith attempt on the behalf of the administration or the Democrats toward bi-partisanship in the summit citing their refusal to reset the debate and include the GOP from the beginning. As a consequence the Republicans see no utility in trying to make a silk purse out of the sow’s ear of legislation they already universally oppose.

I don’t know about you but I’d respect them much more if they did that than if they show up and play along in a bit of political theater that is designed primarily to cast them in a bad light for the benefit of the opposition.

UPDATE: White House (non)response to the GOP’s letter.



Tweet about this on TwitterShare on FacebookShare on Google+Share on TumblrShare on StumbleUponShare on RedditPin on PinterestEmail this to someone

17 Responses to “Bi-Partisan Health Care Summit” Or Political Theater? (Update)

  • I’m inclined to think the Republicans have more potential upside than the Democrats.  If they get someone who knows the Republican proposals well enough, how to distinguish them from the Democratic proposals, and thinks quickly on his or her feet, then I can see it turning into a forum for the Democrats to behave badly (providing lots of election footage for campaign ads) and a Joseph Welch/Joe McCarthy “Have you no sense of decency, sir, at long last?” style rebuttal to Obama’s two-faced “Let me be honest with you” preface to truth-stretchers.
    Whatever the approach, I think the key for Republicans is to be aware that the Democrats will start with their current bills and push to the left, rather than start from the status quo and push to something that both sides might agree to.  If Republicans prepare for that, they should be in a good position to clearly and articulately explain why their proposals are better for Americans and better for America.

    • Someone like a Reagan (“I paid for this microphone”) or a Scott Brown (“Its the people’s seat”) is needed.
      Sadly, we’ll get someone who will say nothing, will nod their head, and screw it all up.

    • ” If they get someone who knows the Republican proposals well enough…”

      Ay, there’s the rub.

    • If Republicans prepare for that, they should be in a good position to clearly and articulately explain why their proposals are better for Americans and better for America.

      The Republicans can explain their proposals till the cows come home, but that does not mean those explanations will ever be heard in any objective retelling from CBS, NBC, ABC, NYT, Washington Post, CNN, LA Times, and certainly not from media outlets such as MSNBC. 

      Those outlets will be looking for the soundbite from Obama sounding presidential and concilatory, and will cast any Republican resistance as churlish and partisan. 

      I really don’t see any upside for Republicans on this unless they get a quid pro quo just for appearing, namely that the current bill is dead and Obama is willing to start over.

      Having the Democrats get to sit in backrooms excluding Republicans for over a year writing a 2700 page bill, and then magnanimously offer to insert a few minor Republican things here and there, is not being bipartisan. It’s playing to a compliant media. From what I’ve heard, even McConnell has figured this out.

  • To that letter in response from the White House, I would send yet another letter.  It would read, in its entirety, “Yes, that’s very nice…  Were you going to actually address the points and questions we raised, or should we take your non-answer as the answer?”

  • Obama has one card trick he plays over and over again, (1) He says something vaguely conciliatory, (2) he talks about bi-partisanship, (3) then he bashes Republicans in the most vile and hateful way.
    I hope they don’t fall for that crap again.

  • The GOP is playing against a stacked deck (not that their natural stupidity isn’t plenty disadvantage enough): MiniTru will dutifully caste ANYTHING they do as obstructionist, partisan, and just downright mean.  After all, this has been the meme since Porkulus was up for debate; why should MiniTru start telling the truth now?

    It would be nice to see the GOP leaders hold their own primetime presser to explain how they’ve been systematically cut out of negotiations from the beginning, how their own proposals and amendments have never seen the light of day, and how they have made their own proposals for a bipartisan “summit”.  However, I’m not sure they’d get the air time, and even if they did, who the hell wants to listen to Mitch McConnell, chief loser in a pack of losers?

  • Coming on the heels of …

    “Politically motivated criticism and unfounded fear-mongering only serve the goals of al-Qaeda.”John Brennan — Assistant to the President and Deputy National Security Advisor for Homeland Security and Counterterrorism

    If the Bush Administration had said this the “Press Corpse” would have laugh out loud.

    • Wasn’t Bush pilloried for having a “if you’re not with us, you’re with the terrorists” approach?  As with so many other things, the reaction to this sort of demagoguery changes drastically when the other guy says it…

    • The Bush administration was accused of saying this, or things just like it. Remember all the todo about questioning their patriotism? Of course this is not much different than all the crap about not supporting our troops if you didn’t support Bush’s policies in Iraq.

  • It’s theater, and the media is framing it properly for the Democrats.  Now, suddenly, they no longer have a bullet proof ability to prevent a filibuster, this one magic extra vote that allows for things to be delayed, not stopped, requires that the Democrats suddenly listen to the Republicans (tacit admission that was NOT a requirement at all before, but move along folks nothing to see, the body is gone….).
    So NOW, when they continue to flail ineffectively the fact that they can accomplish nothing, will be only because Scott Brown, 41’st vote, and the mere possibility of filibuster, is stopping them from all the good and wonderful legislation they were going to pass.   Now we can move on to a constantly framed situation where anytime they get nothing done, Republican input, argument or not, it’s the Republican’s fault.  Don’t bother to consider the implications of how a 41st vote stopped them, don’t bother to consider the effectively stated sentiment that, like Red China, it would really be better if we only had ONE party.
    And the media is right there with their megaphone parroting all of it.

  • After a year of discussions, arguments, speeches, meetings, etc. the problem is now going to be solved by a couple of hours of a staged and scripted live television spectacle.

    Sure, go for it you Republicans! What could go wrong?

  • Looker is right, it is theater. Bad theater at that. Predictable plot, predictable uninspired dialogue, shallow and ludicrous characters, bad acting by bad actors, etc. ad nauseum. Instead of the usual television commentators they hould have theatre critics doing the live commentary and post-game analysis and ‘highlights’. Or comedians. If they had Jon Stewart and Dennis Miller doing the commentary it might be fun to watch. Otherwise, reruns of Gilligan’s Island . 


  • The liberals dictionary:  “Bipartisanship” = I want you to agree with me.  “Obstructionism” = You want me to agree with you.  Illustration:  “In the spirit of bipartisanship, we’re asking the Republicans which of the Democratic health care proposals they want to  agree with.  Their insistence on starting over to allow their ideas to be considered is typical Washington obstructionism from the party of ‘no’.”

  • This whole thing has a simple analogy – dinner out.  The Republicans can’t even help pick the type of food, or the restaurant, they must pick from the menu offered in a place they don’t even want to be.