A Skeptical Take on Obama's New Health-Care Summit.

Obama's first health-care summit, in March of 2009.

On a news-slow, snowed-in Monday (TAP's Washington-based staff is corresponding from various neighborhood bureaus today) the most interesting topic -- barring The New York Times deciding to bring the thunder -- is the White House's decision to host a big, televised, bipartisan family meeting on health-care reform next week. On the subject, here's Ezra Klein, here's Jon Cohn.

Just about everybody figures that Obama is trying to capitalize on the success of his last televised interaction with the GOP to disarm the argument that Republicans have been left by the wayside on health-care reform, giving cover for Democrats to push ahead with the bill. It's not the worst idea in the world if he can't privately convince Senate leaders to use reconciliation to modify their bill and induce the House to pass it. Indeed, this may be what is needed to get reluctant Dems over the line. But I'm a little concerned because, as Kevin Drum observes, this effort is "largely going to succeed or fail based on how well Democrats and Republicans are able to make their case in the media." We've had these summits before (for health care, above, and for energy, and for the jobs bill as recently as December), and they haven't moved the debate.

Thus far, Republicans have been very effective in making this bill out to be a grand social experiment in Marxist horror, even though it actually incorporates many of their ideas. The legislation's component parts also remain individually popular. Republicans are going to come out of this meeting just as they are going into it -- complaining and demanding that Obama follow their advice. However brilliant the president's performance may be, it won't change the Republican-promoted narrative that the GOP was left out of making this bill, that it is is too complex to understand, and that it represents the end of the world. I mean, the media isn't even willing to challenge Republican claims that the bill "spends money we don't have" when the nonpartisan CBO has scored it as deficit-neutral in the short run and a deficit-reducer over the long term.

What might change that narrative would be if Democrats demonstrated their belief in the quality of their proposals by passing them. Show, don't tell, Dems.

-- Tim Fernholz

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