Two weeks from tomorrow the great Health Care Reform Summit will take place at the White House -- that is if the city has dug its way out of the 4 feet of snow that's shut everything down. Washington is all abuzz about the meeting with politicos asking, what does it all mean? What is the president really up to? Will the Republicans show? Which party does this benefit? Does anyone really think that this is going to lead to a bipartisan bill that can pass both houses of Congress? And who will win in the end?
Meanwhile, most Americans in the Northeast are shoveling their driveways, making up games for their kids to play indoors, and getting ready to cheer for their favorite athletes in Vancouver.
Most Americans are convinced -- and grateful -- that the health care bill, as it’s been crafted is dead. They don't see how the bill can be revived and they don't think the Democrats are foolish enough to try to ram it through using obscure Senate rules.
But the summit will happen and it'll be on C-Span and it gives all of us something to talk about.
The posturing before the event is already underway, and I wonder if the White House, and the process, would have been better served if they had not announced the meeting and had just invited in key GOP members in for a meeting without telling the press. -- Remember, it's not that the public was upset about a lack of transparency when it came to meetings with Republicans (since there weren't any), it was that they didn't like the back-room deals struck to buy votes from the Senators from Louisiana and Nebraska. And let’s not forget, the straw that broke the camel's back was the secret meeting with the unions that kept them out of tax increases at the expense of everyone else.
So a private meeting could have provided an environment where members didn't feel like they'd be ridiculed or stabbed in the back for making a comment about how to improve America's health care system. They all would have been more relaxed and a path forward might have been cleared.
Instead, now you'll have some members of Congress who will peacock around -- there's just no getting around it -- for the cameras. They've got races to win back home, people! And while some need to tack to the left or the right to win their primaries, their constituents are more centrist. Although some might have good ideas to share they might clam up and decide to take a pass and save their comments for a moment when the cameras have stopped rolling.
And for the Americans who might consider tuning in to the gathering that day, the coverage leading up to the meeting will likely convince them this is just a show, that there's nothing real that will come out of the meeting and they'll just change the channel and shake their heads at the whole thing once again.
So, what's a Republican member to do in the time leading up to and at the meeting?
First, he or she should consider this a big win. They fought on the merits all of last year about making the case for their commonsense solutions - letting people take their health insurance with them if they change jobs, alleviating discrimination against people with pre-existing conditions, curbing medical malpractice reform, and encouraging competition across state lines - but they could barely get a word in edgewise, as it's always going to be the president that can lead the news.
Next, they should be of calm purpose. They don't need to put on any shows or be too dramatic at the summit. Listen politely, make the case for the solutions the GOP believes would help solve the problem, and don't let themselves get caught rolling their eyes or yawning because given the way things are today, that'll be more interesting to the media than any substance that's being debated.
Finally, as unreasonable as it is for the president to think the bill can be tinkered with and then embraced with bipartisan support, it's unreasonable for Republicans to expect them just to throw their product out the window. But take heart -- most Americans know the current bill is not fixable, and that's why they think this whole thing is over. And that's why they're much more likely to be watching the final race for the gold instead of D.C.'s race for reform.
Dana Perino is Fox News contributor and a former White House Press Secretary.
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