Republicans Beware, It's a Trap

Break out the bipartisanship. President Obama is ready for another summit. This time he’s invited Republicans to the table later this month to discuss potential compromises on health care reform amid widespread complaints that efforts so far by him, and his Democratic allies in Congress, have been too one sided and secretive.

But Republicans must proceed with caution. This is a trap.

Obama needs to publicly appear more pragmatic and less partisan. And, after Scott Brown’s upset win in Massachusetts last month, he also needs some Republicans to help him get his proposal passed. By letting the bill totally fail, he doesn’t get that glossy narrative in the history books that he so desperately wants. If he can persuade a few moderates in the GOP to reconsider their opposition by co-opting a Republican idea or two, Obamacare becomes law and he can tout bipartisanship. Then, when the massive tax increases hit and problems ensue, he can shift the blame to his enemies. If it sounds shady, it is.

The setting of another televised meeting also benefits Obama more than it helps Republicans. It’s called calculated political window-dressing, and Team Obama has a black belt in the sport.

The President knows he’s the better orator and will make Republicans look like a bunch of stone-walling, puerile jerks in the process – much like he did two weeks ago when he visited House Republicans at their Baltimore retreat. There, he lambasted them for saying no to his policies and chastised them for not cooperating – all in front of the TV cameras, even though Republicans had already put forth ideas and were ignored all along.

So why not call a do-over? A majority of Americans want Congress to hit the reset button. According to a Fox News/ Opinion Dynamics poll conducted February 2-3, 2010, 47% of respondents say that the next step in health care reform should be starting over, something Democrats are unwilling to do.

It would be one thing if Republicans actually wanted to reform health care above all other issues. It would be another if the American people actually *wanted* health care reform, but they don’t -- and they certainly aren’t buying the alarmist language being peddled by the left. In fact, they never have.

The health care "crisis" is largely trumped up to justify greater government. A genuine problem exists for about 12 million people who cannot get health insurance for their families. You don't need to take over one sixth of the economy to do that. In their political calculus as they work they way to the “30 million uninsured” figure they so frequently tout, Democrats factor in illegal immigrants, healthy 20-year-olds, and the financially blessed who simply refuse to buy insurance and say that there is some gigantic calamity.

The challenge is that if you want to solve the issue of the uninsured, or even the problem of pre-existing conditions, all roads lead to big government solutions (as Mitt Romney discovered in Massachusetts). If you want to cover the uninsured, you must require everyone to buy insurance and fine people who don't sign up; you simply have to subsidize those who cannot afford it. Tackling the issue of pre-existing conditions results in the same outcome. To cover those sick people, the government must force the healthy people to sign up and pay -- hence, big government. One thing leads to another and you inevitably end up back at square one: Obamacare.

The GOP must not be fooled. Obama will not suddenly and seriously consider tort reform or allowing the purchase of insurance across state lines when he hasn’t budged on them so far. Both run against his core beliefs. Moreover, if you let Obama define the problem, then the solutions will be ones that Democrats favor, ones that have already been rejected. That is just a fact.

Republicans cannot afford to appear as the Democrats do: distracted. The primary concern of the electorate is jobs. By following the president, aka the Pied Piper of policy, the GOP will be led off the same cliff from which the left is currently dangling.

The GOP doesn’t have to work with Obama on bad policy simply because he asks for it. Bipartisanship means working together on issues both parties want -- issues Americans want. Republicans should want no part of this effort, unless they can totally start from scratch. That should be their price of admission.

Andrea Tantaros is a conservative columnist and contributor. Follow her on Twitter: @andreatantaros.