ObamaCare is weakly protesting "I think I'll go for a walk," while the pundits insist "You're not fooling anyone."
But are the pundits wrong on this? I've long since given up the caricature of Obama as the Jedi Master playing eleven-dimensional chess games against hapless opponents. His post-Coakley strategy, however, of playing it cool and allowing the dust to settle may well pay dividends in the end. The televised bipartisan summit idea may breathe much-needed life into the initiative, and based on how he schooled congressional republicans at their retreat, I'm not surprised that they are reluctant to participate. This is a nasty little Catch-22 for the GOP, though, because if they choose to boycott, I can't think of a photo-op which would better illustrate GOP obstructionist tactics than the camera slowly panning across a row of empty chairs with the nametags of republican leaders sitting in front of them.
But will it be more than a photo-op? History suggests not. While Obama once again holds out key Republican priorities like Medical Malpractice Reform as an incentive to compromise, the GOP has rejected such overtures before, and despite the death of the public option and despite the inclusion of several republican ideas in the bill, they remain steadfastly committed to obstruction. In fact, Boehner's preliminary response to the President was to insist that their participation was contingent on the Democrats' willingness to scrap the proposal and start from square one. Bipartisanship only works when there are two parties willing to compromise, and despite multiple painful policy concessions from the left, there has not been a single discrete commitment from the other side of the aisle describing the basics of a compromise they would find acceptable.
I suspect that the summit will consist of much posturing and a great show of reaching out to the intransigent GOP, and then both sides frantically playing the spin game to drive the narrative that it's the other guys who are being inflexible.
Reminds me of my last negotiations with the Blues.
It's also worth noting that although polling (for whatever you believe it to be worth) indicates that the reform bill has lost much public support, there is also a strong feeling from the public -- by a two to one margin -- that this crisis is severe enough that lawmakers should not walk away from the efforts to achieve comprehensive health care reform:
Compromise is hard (it's been excruciating for this liberal), but it has to be bipartisan. It will be interesting to see whether the GOP is willing to bring anything to the table to seal the deal. And if they don't, they deserve to have the Democrats ram their bill through on a straight party-line vote over their objections.
This is too important to fail. We need to pass the damn bill.