I watched and then listened to the summit for exactly a half-hour yesterday (I actually have a day-job), but I saw enough of the highlights to know that congressional Republicans had a pretty good game plan and stuck to it.
The Democrats, whose only game plan seemed to be to get this stupid thing over with so they could get on with jamming it through the Senate, didn’t do very well. Reid was almost unintelligible, Pelosi inconsolable, Obama unstoppable, Rangel not indicted (not yet, at least), and the rest of gang was pretty un-noteworthy.
The president attacked Eric Cantor for having the temerity to actually bring a copy of the House-passed bill to a meeting that was in no small part about the House-passed bill. Not sure what Cantor did wrong. Why is it such an insult to bring a bill to a meeting that was being held to discuss the bill? It is certainly not Cantor’s fault that the bill he opposed, largely because the bill was way too large and way too expensive, was too big and too expensive and frankly an embarrassment to the president.
The Republicans tricked Harry Reid into talking about reconciliation by simply asking the president not to use reconciliation as a way to jam this bill down the throats of a skeptical American people. Reid said, implausibly, that nobody was talking about reconciliation, then gave a spirited defense of the procedure that is used to short-circuit democratic debate in the upper body. At that moment, everybody, even the media, knew that the Democrats were going to use reconciliation. It was at that moment (near the top of the meeting), that I knew the jig was up and nothing was coming from this meeting (well, I knew that the week before, but at that moment, I really knew it).
Democrats are good at talking sob stories when they don’t want to talk about policy. Republicans tend to talk about process when they don’t want to talk about either policy or sob stories. So today, we had the Democrats talking sob stories and Republicans talking process.
The fact of the matter is that sob stories are a very dangerous reason to make public policy. It is a quick way for a nation to go bankrupt. And it seems that a solid majority don’t want to hear them anymore.
What they want to hear is that Congress is working in a bipartisan way to pass a healthcare bill that won’t sharply raise taxes, won’t put us in the poorhouse, and isn’t overly complicated. What they will get is a partisan bill that will break the bank and raise taxes in the middle of a slowing economy.
Who says the Democrats aren’t listening to the American people? Well, besides most Americans?