Why Obama's town-hall appearances won't help

The unexpected furor over the administration’s plans for revamping the nation’s health-care industry has forced Barack Obama to hit the campaign trail again.  Obama plans to visit three town-hall meetings this week in order to lend his star quality to Democrats attempting to sell the plan to a hostile electorate.  Given the President’s history with town-hall forums and the stakes involved, it’s not likely to help him much at all:

President Barack Obama, moving to counter noisy opposition to his health care overhaul proposal, will hold three public town hall meetings this week as his advisers push back against what they describe as false “scare tactics.”

Obama is scheduled to appear on Tuesday in Portsmouth, N.H. at 1 p.m., at an event expected to draw roughly 1,800 participants. His goal this week, advisers said, is to address the concerns of people who already have health care and to illustrate how those people would benefit from adjustments to the current system.

Along the way, Obama will address specific health care topics — none of them new, but each important, advisers said. On Tuesday, he will talk about people who are denied coverage because of pre-existing conditions. On Friday, he will hold a town hall meeting in Bozeman, Mont., to discuss the plight of people dropped from their health insurance plans because of an illness. And at a third session on Saturday, in Grand Junction, Colo., Obama will raise the subject of high out-of-pocket costs, such as co-payments and deductibles.

First, anyone expecting a real town-hall forum to occur with Obama in attendance is deluding themselves.  Even the press — even Helen Thomas — criticized Obama the last time he held a “town-hall meeting” on health care.  Each of these three meetings will carefully screen attendees and get the questions in advance, to minimize embarrassment to Obama.

Beyond that, town-hall meetings won’t solve the problem of national rejection of ObamaCare.  People want insurance reform, but they don’t want a government takeover of the system.  The big problem is the legislation itself.  If Obama wants to fix that, then he needs a meeting with Nancy Pelosi and Harry Reid, not the people of Bozeman and Portsmouth.

The legislators who have to hold town-hall meetings without Obama won’t get to use the Secret Service to screen attendees.  They need to connect to their constituents in order to get re-elected in 2010, and their constituents are angry at an overspending, overreaching federal government that doesn’t know its place.  Even if Obama could be in all of these and screen out the dissenters, they’d still be in the districts — and ready to replace ObamaCare-supporting Representatives next year.