Did I miss anything here? We’ve got the Perpetual Campaigner reminding McCain that the campaign is over; The One declaring his entitlement to extra speaking time based on the fact that he is, after all, The One; and Tom Harkin lamenting the malevolent Jim Crow dynamic involved in charging higher premiums to people who incur greater health costs. Thanks to the Breitbart folks and our pal Greg Hengler for the vids.
I watched five minutes this morning and thought it would backfire on both parties. Everyone knew it was theater (well, 77 percent), everyone knew nothing would come of it, yet the premise seemed to be that the public might be gullible enough to believe they were negotiating in earnest. “We think you’re stupid” is rarely a winning slogan, least of all in this political climate. I actually laughed out loud when Politico put out that story announcing the Dems’ plan to go it alone on Obama’s bill when there were still, oh, around four hours or so left in the Summit That Saved America. But after watching a bit longer, I came around to Jay Nordlinger’s view:
This health-care summit was a bad idea for the Democrats for this reason: They have long benefited from a perception — a perception greatly abetted by the media: The Republicans don’t care about health care, they don’t know about health care, they are the Party of No. All the ideas and caring are on the Democratic side.
It is not so, and it has never been so. And now everybody knows it.
Yeah. The flaw in the Democrats’ bipartisan kabuki is that they’ve invested so much time in painting the GOP as brainless and feckless that the media — and public — almost can’t help but be pleasantly surprised. Yuval Levin’s also right that it’s not to Zeus’s advantage to descend from Mt. Olympus, because the lesser gods that surround him on his side of the aisle are … what’s the word? Ah yes — unappealing losers.
Third, an important part of the Democrats’ problem is that Obama himself is their only star, and this format is not working for him. He certainly seems engaged and well informed (even given a few misstatements of fact, at least one of which John Kyl made very clear.) But he doesn’t seem like the President of the United States—more like a slightly cranky committee chairman or a patronizing professor who thinks that saying something is “a legitimate argument” is a way to avoid having an argument. He is diminished by the circumstances, he’s cranky and prickly when challenged, and he’s got no one to help him. The other Democrats around the table have been worse than unimpressive. The Republicans seem genuinely well-prepared, seem to have thought through the question of who should speak about what rather carefully, and several of them have done quite a good job making their case against the Democrats’ approach. If we were to judge by debating points, Republicans certainly won the morning handily.
For once, I think Slow Joe got it right: “This could end up being not good.” A few moments for your amusement here of how not good it was.