The health care summit today made for some interesting television…if you find policy discussion devoid of any real confrontation interesting. Although boring, I love watching politics in action…I am a political wonk like that. I listened to way too much of it, and jotted down a couple things I liked and didn’t like about today’s forum.
- Thumbs Up: The Forum In Principle – I love public forums and listening to politicians explain their positions. I am all for more openness in venues such as this summit or the Q&A the President held with the Republicans. Although it came after much deserved heat for promising negotiations on C-SPAN then not following through, I will give the President credit for holding events such as this, that can be risky, but educational.
- Thumbs Down: The Forum In Practice – Why can’t senators debate the issues of today spontaneously? The back and forth, tit for tat, rhetorical speeches are tiresome. It accomplishes little when they don’t address each other and instead just read their prepared statements to each other. I understand there is a major philosophical difference between the parties (which I’ll address in a minute), but why not challenge the other side – high school debate style? YOU’RE PROFESSIONAL POLITICIANS!
- Thumbs Up: Sen. Coburn, Sen. Alexander, Sen. Barasso, Sen. Enzi, Rep. Roskam, Rep. Ryan, Rep. Cantor – Overall, I believe the Republicans were well prepared, and had a very simple, positive message during the health care summit. I know I am conservative, but I am hearing the same impression shared by many independent and even liberal-leaning honest pundits. Republicans did a masterful job, sticking to the message and questioning the Senate bill, especially after what was regarded as a sub par effort in the Q&A. Coburn, Alexander, Barasso, Enzi, Roskam, Ryan, and Cantor stood out the most to me as winners in the summit and great conservative policy advocates.
- Thumbs Down: Minority Leader Boehner – What will it take to replace him in 2010? I am tired of Boehner and would love for Cantor or Ryan to take the lead among House Republicans. The weakest speaking member on the Republican side was Boehner – while many spoke strongly on conservative policy, Boehner only mentioned skeptical rhetoric and hyperbole. It’s time for a new generation to take over our House leadership.
- Thumbs Up: Policy Talk – More so on the right than on the left, we got 6 good hours of policy talk. I felt I learned a lot from listening to most politicians express the basis of their views.
- Thumbs Down: Sob Stories – More so on the left than the right, sob stories are becoming tragic clichés of woe. Nearly everyone, “got a letter from…”, “spoke to…”, or “heard a story about…” a different health care horror story. I am not saying they don’t exist or that they don’t work to sway public opinion. But in the middle of a strong policy debate, there is no need to play the sympathy card to score cheap points.
- Thumbs Up: Ignoring “Talking Points” – Obama did a pretty good job keeping people on point. When a Republican strayed, he was quick to bring them back to the topic. Even when Democrat Henry Waxman used some time to preach to Obama not to trust the Republicans and that they don’t want to pass anything. Obama was quick to repudiate Waxman and tell him this wasn’t the time or place.
- Thumbs Down: Deflecting from “Talking Points” – However, the depressing part was when Obama would use this “Talking Points” meme, to not address questions from the Republican Party. Whenever a disagreement was brought up, rather than face it, they would agree to disagree. This left the whole summit with an unsatisfying open-ended conclusion. Rather than a debate, it felt more like an infomerical in this way.
- Thumbs Up: President Obama – There were many times, especially before the lunch break where I thought President Obama was too defensive, arrogant and confrontational. But he got better at listening, mediating, and calling out both sides. And he absolutely carried the Democratic Party in this forum. I might not have agreed with him, but he is the one Democrat that carried his side.
- Thumbs Down: All Democratic Congressman – All might be harsh, but it was definitely most. I’m not sure if they were told to stand down and allow the President to take the lead, but it almost seemed like the Democratic Congressman were in awe of the President. It was a poor showing by the liberal members of Congress.
- Thumbs Up: John McCain – For the old man sticking to his guns. McCain is known as a crummedgeon when it comes to kickbacks, earmarks, and special deals. He used his speaking time to rail against the Pharma deal and special state exceptions throughout the reform bill. But Obama would have nothing of it. He nailed McCain by saying this election was over, and its time for the campaigning to stop. An ironic comment from the ultimate campaigner.
- Thumbs Down: The Media – For turning the lead story of today’s summit into an Obama vs McCain flame war. Predictably, within an hour, all political sites were reporting on Obama chastising McCain rather than any actual policy events from the summit. Granted…it was boring, and this was one moment of conflict. But just listening to it transpire, I knew it would be the lead story for everyone to talk about.
- Thumbs Up: CBO – The big winner today, the Congressional Budget Office. Quoted several times by both parties to defend their points of view, the CBO came away from today’s meeting as the undisputed heavyweight champ of political debate. Don’t cross the CBO. The CBO could knock out Tyson in his heyday.
- Thumbs Down: Reconciliation – The big loser, reconciliation. Reconciliation has become a dirty word on the hill. Republicans presented spirited debate through Alexander and McCain against the use of reconciliation and Dems didn’t want to admit they were even considering it, although they are and will need to use it. Savannah Guthrie is even reporting this evening on MSNBC, the White House is actively trying to rebrand “Reconciliation” as the “Majority Vote” or a “Straight Up-and-Down Vote”. Any way they can pass reform without using the dreaded “R” word.
- Thumbs Up: PROPS! – The big winner today? PROPS! Nothing seems to rattle the President…except the site of a 2400 bill sitting in front of Republican speakers. Obama lashed into Rep. Cantor and Republicans in general for using the size of the bill as a repudiation of reform. Apparently Obama is too distracted by props to listen to actual policy discussion.
- Thumbs Down: Faux-Friends – We get that both sides disagree, but its nothing personal. Stop prefacing every point you make with, “With all due respect to my friend Rep. Doe…” or “I think this is a great meeting, but…”
- Thumbs So Far Down They Become Dislocated: Achieving ANYTHING Productive
For the better part of two weeks, Republicans warned that this summit would achieve nothing and that they were being used as props (PROPS!) in Obama’s master plan. They were battered by the Left as weak and warned by conservatives such as Limbaugh and Ingraham that it was a trap. Sure enough, minutes after the summit ended, Obama expressed uncertainity if the bi-partisan effort could go any further. It makes sense, since he would never acknowledge the Republicans desire to start fresh and work together from the points they agree. See, Obama and the Dems never wanted to meet in the middle. They wanted Republicans to meet where they already were. And if they couldn’t have it, they will pass it their way. Tonight, Democrats have been communicating through the media that they are more certain than ever a bill they want will get passed.
Once again the Democrats show they are out of touch with the American Public. After the summit, 59% of people surveyed said Congress should start fresh, while 34% said to go forward without GOP support. But unless its a sob story, why should they start listening now? Maybe in the end, it was just a trap…
UPDATE: From Breitbart, video from 2005 of the Democrats calling reconciliation an arrogant power grab that they would never consider. Listen to Senators Obama, Clinton, Schumer, Reid, Feinstein, Dodd, Baucus and Biden tear apart the idea of a majority vote and compare their words against what they are trying to do with their current health care legislation. Hypocrisy defined: http://www.breitbart.tv/obama-dems-in-2005-51-vote-nuclear-option-is-arrogant-power-grab-against-the-founders-intent/