Is Thursday's six-hour summit on health-care legislation--assumed dead
by many in January--anything other than theater? On the one hand, Democrats and Republicans have already scripted their "post-summit messages" and handed them off to Politico's Mike Allen
before the event has even begun. On the other hand, The Washington Post's E. J. Dionne
goes so far as to say that the outcome of the summit "will determine the shape of American politics for the next three years." So what's the deal?
- 'Lights, Camera, Bipartisanship!' reads Karen Travers's
headline for ABC News. "What happens," she asks, "when you put
President Obama, members of Congress and three cameras in one
room--bipartisan compromise on contentious health care legislation or
pandering for the television audience?" The political analysts she
quotes come down on both sides, but she ends with a quote from
Republican Tony Fratto, who suggests that putting everything in front
of a camera could reduce partisan finger-pointing. The Atlantic's Marc Ambinder
and CBS News's Mark Knoller are less optimistic about the effect of
transparency, thinking "the presence of television cameras makes it
unlikely for a bipartisan breakthrough."
- Even Audience
Not Expecting Much "There is unlikely to be much bipartisan agreement
on a plan that the president is presenting today," writes Mark Silva for the Chicago Tribune, "and public expectations for an agreement are not running very high."
There Won't Even Be That Big of an Audience "Live viewing will be limited
to those who watch live via C-SPAN, cable news networks or the
internet," Pollster's Mark Blumenthal
reminds readers, picking at the hype about an "audience of millions"
for the summit. "As such, that audience is likely to be a
significantly smaller than the numbers that watched the Obama-McCain
debates or typically tune into prime-time presidential addresses." He
estimates that the summit will likely draw a "single digit percentage
of all American voters." Then again, he points out, "this event is
extremely important with one small but very crucial audience: The
members of the House and Senate and the news junkies that surround and
- 'Six Hours of Health Care Fun,' responds The Washington Post's Ezra Klein
dryly, when asked what to expect from the summit. He doesn't predict
much "substantive compromise," but does say that what to watch for is
the fight over the reconciliation process.
- What It's Really About Marc Ambinder's
conclusion: "today's meeting is not about policy breakthroughs: it's
about putting Republicans into a box and moving public opinion." At
Time, Karen Tumulty and Kate Pickert
agree. This "political show" is being put on for "the American people.
For the White House, it is also a badly needed opportunity to change
the dynamic around the President's signature domestic policy
initiative." Then there's Jonathan Cohn. In a ceaselessly earnest piece for The New Republic, he discusses the urgency of the health care situation in this country. This summit is the last chance, he says, and it's "about how best to solve this problem."
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