Thursday, February 25, 2010

Summit Sum Up

I said going in that the real audience here was marginal Members of the House, but that it wasn't clear what they wanted.

If they wanted the president to make a serious commitment, they got that.

If they wanted a show of bipartisanship, they got that -- although they didn't get the GOP stomping out, or not showing up, or bragging about being the party of "No."

If what they wanted was an assurance from the Senate, I don't know that they were helped with that.  I didn't see anything at the summit, per se, to help with that, although Harry Reid has been more positive about it over the last couple weeks. 

If what they wanted was major changes in the polls?  There wasn't anything here to do that, because events like this can't change the polls.

I don't know which of these things they want.  We'll learn more in the next few days.  If it's either of the first two, then today probably moved the ball a bit.

As for the rest of it, Obama did well, and most Members on both sides did an okay job.  If you want to understand the Democrats' core argument, watch the Obama/Barrasso exchange on coverage.  I'm not sure that I could single out a core moment for the GOP, though.  They had a set of talking points: bill is very large, bill is unpopular, clean slate, best health care in the world...but none of those is an argument about how health care should be organized. Either they're not interested in advancing their ideas about how health care should be organized, or they're incapable of doing so, or, more likely, they'd rather try to win the argument about whether the bill should pass than try to win the substantive argument.  The Democrats were also reciting their talking points, but for the most part theirs were much more substantive, and I agree with Jonathan Chait that the Republicans pretty much just let those talking points go uncontested.

So, bottom line, the fact of the summit may have helped reassure wavering House Dems to vote for the bill.  The actual discussion within the summit didn't really do much of anything, although I have nothing against it at all as an exercise in democracy.  Next step I guess is putting the president's compromise into legislative language, getting a CBO score, and then finally finding out whether Pelosi has enough votes.  We'll know soon.

5 comments:

  1. I agree this is a fine thing to have happen as a general matter. And I am not by nature a rabid anti-Washington populist. But I find myself increasingly indignant at the degree of Beltway isolation demonstrated by so many (not here) who think a stage-managed event like this could have a public impact great enough that the fate of the bill would ride on it. What then is the job of legislators in a representative form of government? Do they think the people they work for want to have to hold their hands for them to be able to their jobs, which is to legislate? It just seems absurd to me to think people in the country have time to wade through a discussion like today's, which if you come to it with ears not attuned to Washington-speak was still incredibly process-focused despite the fact that the people in the room likely felt it was extremely substantive, in a way where their views are going to be changed. If you're a member of a party who claims it has pursued a goal for more than half a century, and passage is right there for the taking likely for the only time in decades before or after, it's frankly just pathetic to need a last-minute p.r. event to get the nerve up to pass it into law. There's an element of risk in participating in the democratic form of government. If it turns out the thing is unpopular with the public then you deserve to lose; you've committed your political career to a party whose agenda the people don't support. At some point, representatives have to deliver what they say they have wanted to if only the people would give them the power to do so. Our system can't survive being solely driven by the kind of sniveling careerism we're seeing on display today and not the courage of convictions expressed when it was thought the system would insulate actors from having to be responsible for their agendas. You've been given your (apparently falsely) wished-for power. Act and be judged, cowards!

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  2. Above comment by me, Michael. Was signed into Google under a different account. (Mustn't go letting the g/f take credit for my work!...)

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  3. Michael/Maggie might like last night's Daily Show bit with Stewart and Oliver:

    http://www.thedailyshow.com/watch/thu-february-25-2010/bipartisan-health-care-reform-summit-2010---government-unity

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  4. Good point by Michael...guess I'll go watch the clip.

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  5. Maggie/Michael: "If you're a member of a party who claims it has pursued a goal for more than half a century, and passage is right there for the taking likely for the only time in decades before or after, it's frankly just pathetic to need a last-minute p.r. event to get the nerve up to pass it into law."

    Since I am a Democrat it ain't fun that this rings true. I hope that Pelosi is whipping the Dems with lines like this.

    The Dems really need to pass this thing. It is bad to be wrong; it is worse to be pathetic. Why should the public at large put losers in charge?

    Mickey Kaus of all people has this right:

    http://www.slate.com/blogs/blogs/kausfiles/archive/2010/02/24/the-real-reason-cynical-dem-pols-should-vote-for-the-health-care-bill.aspx

    Bernstein's #1 point is the bog one. Obama put his prestige on the line yesterday. If House Dems fail on this he will be hurt. This raises the stakes for every House Rep who votes no.

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