In an effort to rescue the drowning ObamaCare bill, Barack Obama will hold a televised meeting with leaders in Congress to attempt to advance some kind of reform effort this year.  The White House has set half a day aside on February 25th for an open meeting on fresh ideas for a compromise that can pass both chambers of Congress and get to his desk for a signature.  However, leaders of both parties feel pessimistic about the chance for anything other than a photo op:

President Barack Obama is planning to host a televised meeting with Republican and Democratic congressional leaders on health care reform.

The Feb. 25 meeting is an attempt to reach across the aisle but not a signal that the president plans to start over, as Republicans have demanded, a White House official said.

“I want to come back [after the Presidents Day congressional recess] and have a large meeting — Republicans and Democrats — to go through, systematically, all the best ideas that are out there and move it forward,” Obama said in an interview with Katie Couric during CBS’s Super Bowl pre-game show Sunday.

Many critics contend that Obama intends on using the forum to shift the blame for ObamaCare’s failure onto the Republicans, and certainly there’s nothing he’d like better.  However, Obama and the Democrats had all of the votes they needed for almost seven months to pass ObamaCare without the GOP — and they failed to get it done.  Now that Scott Brown has assumed his seat in the Senate, Democrats have no chance to move forward on this bill without getting Republicans involved.

The real motive for Obama is to address two criticisms that have overwhelmed public perception of his presidency after the first year.  The backroom wheeling and dealing on ObamaCare made a mockery of his claims to have heightened transparency in Washington, especially since November.  The Cornhusker Kickback and the Louisiana Purchase showed that Democrats are just as bad as anyone they’ve criticized for shabby and shady deals, and actually a good deal worse.  Obama himself invited union lobbyists while locking out Republicans in the first two weeks of January, apparently convinced that Martha Coakley would hold that Massachusetts seat for the Democrats.

Obama wants the meeting televised so that he can start claiming transparency again, but also to demonstrate some leadership.  Al Franken’s angry dressing-down of David Axelrod last week showed that Congressional Democrats are fed up with a President who likes to talk endlessly about himself but refuses to engage and take on some of the political risk he shoves onto them instead.  His White House has become adrift and increasingly disconnected from the public, which is part of the reason why his approval numbers have sunk this quickly.  A televised event like this will restore some of the veneer of leadership Obama has lost.

Still, there is a significant risk that Republicans will get attacked from all quarters during this round-robin event, and Hugh Hewitt offers some good advice to Rep. John Boehner and Sen. Mitch McConnell in three points Republicans must make:

1.  There can be no comprehensive health care cost control and thus no real health care reform without tort reform.  In addition to a national cap on pain and suffering damages similar to California’s, we will offer some other keys to controlling the cost of defensive medicine in this country.  We urge you to ask your colleagues to refrain from immediately rushing to the defense of the plaintiffs’ bar.  The only way to stop the rising cost of medicine is to stop the need for doctors to practice with a lawyer on both shoulders.

2.  There is an enormous need for an interstate market in health care policies.  We should move immediately to eliminate this artificial and extremely expensive obstacle to the lowering of the cost of health insurance.

3.  There can be no long term confidence in our health care system without confidence in a growing, vibrant and robust economy, one freed from crippling entitlement debt and massive borrowing.  Therefore we will use our last presentation to acquaint you and your colleagues with the details of Congressman Paul Ryan’s “Roadmap,” which we believe could be enacted in parallel with comprehensive health care reform thus setting our domestic policy house in order.

Hugh finishes with an insistence on holding a similar forum on national security in order to discuss Mirandizing terrorists, which wouldn’t be a bad forum to watch, either.