Thursday, February 25, 2010

The Summit

Three commentaries about the summit caught my eye as being particularly on point - (with highlights added) I have added my own thoughts at the end of this post.

Slate - Obama debated Republicans vigorously and with precision—but it looked like a debate among people with actual philosophical differences, which in part it was. After an in-the-weeds debate about how the Congressional Budget Office accounted for premium increases, it became clear that the debate was between Democrats who want to set minimum standards for coverage and Republicans who want the market and individual choice to rule. The Democratic plan is more expensive but covers more people. The Republican plan is cheaper and doesn't.
As it played out, the event didn't look like one reasonable person aligned against a company of hooting morons. As Obama said during the lunch break: "The argument Republicans are making really isn't that this is a government takeover of health care, but rather that we're insuring the—or we're regulating the insurance market too much. And that's a legitimate philosophical disagreement." Obama continued to affirm this view by saying things like this: "Neither of these proposals is radical. The question is which one works best."

Peggy Noonan in the WSJ - The way the meeting was arranged, the president was the teacher, the lecturer. Arrayed before him were the bright if occasionally unruly students. He was keen to establish that it was his meeting—he decides who speaks next and who should wrap up, he decides what is and is not "a legitimate point." Pelosi's remarks were "dull and witless"

The Editorial in the NYT the next day - The main lesson to draw from Thursday’s health care forum is that differences between Democrats and Republicans are too profound to be bridged. That means that it is up to the Democrats to fix the country’s dysfunctional and hugely costly health care system.

From my perspective the NYT editorial (like much of what they write) seems to have been concocted well before the summit actually took place. I am not sure what the President was trying to achieve, but from my perspective, whatever it was, he was unsuccessful. I suspect that if the democrats, as they seem to being urged on by the "dull and witless" Speaker of the House, attempt to make these changes in reconciliation that the number of democratic seats in play will increase by at least 50%. Pelosi at this point seems a lot like Stalin during the purges - "we might have a lot fewer communists after the purges but they will be better communists." If the president buys that "logic" he is likely to have a very frustrating second half of his initial and possibly final term in office. The American people, based on a number of polls, are clear on one issue - they are increasingly concerned about the scope of government. A massive increase in that scope without some bipartisanship is likely to leave voters even grumpier than they are today.

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