The Healthcare Summit

| Tue Feb. 9, 2010 3:52 PM EST

Jon Chait writes about President Obama's proposed healthcare summit meeting later this month with Republicans:

Skeptics around Washington are already warning that the summit will be nothing more than Kabuki theater, allowing each side to grandstand on television while providing little in the way of substantive debate or additional understanding for the folks watching back home.

That's not the point. Obama knows perfectly well that the Republicans have no serious proposals to address the main problems of the health care system and have no interest (or political room, given their crazy base) in handing him a victory of any substance. Obama is bringing them in to discuss health care so he can expose this reality.

I agree that this is almost certainly Obama's intent. The question is whether it will work. The GOP leadership has already responded to Obama's offer with a list of preconditions for the meeting, a tactic straight out of Negotiation 101, but also one that works pretty well. What's more, if they decide to show up anyway, they'll be a lot better prepared than they were for their Q&A a week ago. My guess is that they'll have some pretty good sounding arguments lined up about consumer focused healthcare, the need for market-driven reforms, the evils of top-down government control, etc. etc. Those aren't things that Obama will be able to conclusively swat down in a few hours.

But we'll see. I don't have high hopes for the summit because Democrats haven't shown much ability to control the media narrative lately, and that's what this is really all about. Hopefully they'll do better than I think.

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