For those who thought today’s summit was a carefully-laid trap for Republicans set by Barack Obama, let me ask this: How many networks would have carried the following argument by Rep. Paul Ryan (R-WI) had he made it on the steps of the Capitol? It likely wouldn’t have been aired even in passing on the talking-head -cable network shows. Instead, with multiple networks covering the proceedings, Ryan laid out the conservative argument and laid bare the central conceit of the Democratic efforts on reform, which is that one set of standards fits all:
The difference is this. We don’t think all the answers lie in Washington.
By federalizing the regulation of insurance, and by mandating exactly how it’ll work, you make it more expensive and you reduce the competition among insurers for peoples business. We want to decentralize the system, give more power to small businesses, more power to individuals, and make insurance compete more. But if you federalize it, you standardize it and mandate it, you do not achieve that. And that’s the big difference.
The risk going in to the summit wasn’t that Republicans would get trapped into a bill they opposed. It was that the media attention that follows Barack Obama would give Republicans the media platform for their own principles and proposals. What will resonate more strongly with Americans — the idea that the federal government should narrow our choices to a couple of key mandates, or the idea that grown-ups can make their own choices and that government should just ensure that fraud doesn’t occur? Democrats have just set themselves up to get a loud and clear answer to that question.
Update: The Senate Republican Caucus has been rounding up media reaction, which tends to support the decision to battle the Democrats in public, emphases mine:
CNN’s WOLF BLITZER: “It looks like the Republicans certainly showed up ready to play.” (CNN’s “Live,” 2/25/10)
CNN’s GLORIA BORGER: “The Republicans have been very effective today. They really did come to play. They were very smart.” (CNN’s “Live,” 2/25/10)
- BORGER: “They took on the substance of a very complex issue. … But they really stuck to the substance of this issue and tried to get to the heart of it and I think did a very good job.” (CNN’s “Live,” 2/25/10)
- BORGER: “They came in with a plan. They mapped it out.” (CNN’s “Live,” 2/25/10)
CNN’s DAVID GERGEN: “The folks in the White House just must be kicking themselves right now. They thought that coming out of Baltimore when the President went in and was mesmerizing and commanding in front of the House Republicans that he could do that again here today. That would revive health care and would change the public opinion about their health care bill and they can go on to victory. Just the opposite has happened.” (CNN’s “Live,” 2/25/10)
- GERGEN: “He doesn’t have a strong Democratic team behind him.” (CNN’s “Live,” 2/25/10)
THE HILL’S A.B. STODDARD: “I think we need to start out by acknowledging Republicans brought their ‘A Team.’ They had doctors knowledgeable about the system, they brought substance to the table, and they, I thought, expressed interest in the reform. I thought in the lecture from Senator John McCain and on the issue of transparency, I thought today the Democrats were pretty much on their knees.” (Fox News’ “Live,” 2/25/10)
Maybe the GOP sandbagged Obama the first time around?