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2/26/2010
SUMMIT OF STUPID

Yes, it was great the our president reached out his holy hand and tried to bring his adversaries to the promised land of health insurance reform. Just more proof that our president really, really, really wants to govern in a bi-partisan manner. Liberals and little children believe that fairy tale - and if you can point to a difference in emotional and intellectual maturity between the two, I would welcome it.

Only partisans believe the bi-partisan shtick, of course. Just as only partisans on the other side believe that the GOP was anxious to cut a deal. It’s part of the reason that this whole summit idea was stupid to begin with. When the president has been plotting with Harry Reid for weeks to ram health insurance reform through using reconciliation, the idea that there was any attempt to do anything save make the GOP look bad at the summit is absurd. “Bi-partisanship” was the farthest thing from Obama’s mind, and the cynicism it took to stand in front of a television audience and piously proclaim otherwise was breathtaking.

And what of the “start over” Republicans? Yeah, right. Since many conservatives think our health care system is the finest in the world and we shouldn’t mess with it at all, the idea that any of the GOP ideas on health insurance reform - some of them good ones - would be advanced by the Republicans is equally absurd. The GOP was no more interested in bi-partisanship than Obama and the Democrats but at least they didn’t pretend that they could find enough common ground to pass something both parties could support.

Meanwhile, health care costs and the price of insuring Americans continues to go through the roof while millions go uninsured because they can’t afford it or can’t get coverage at any price due to a pre-existing condition.

Earth to Republicans: This is a problem. This is a problem that needs to be addressed by responsible legislators. I agree with you that the ultimate goal of the Democrat’s plan is a single payer insurance system and a near total takeover of the health care segment of the economy. Plenty of Democrats haven’t even bothered to hide their feelings about that and have openly said as much. But this is why God gave you a brain; figure out a way to pass health care reform that will prevent that from happening. Slippery slopes are not inevitable if you recognize them and work to avoid them.

Moon to Democrats: Read any good polls lately? That sucking sound you hear is your ironclad majorities going down the drain because, as the economy slips even further into recession, your constituents are wondering what in the name of all that is good and holy you are doing fiddling with health care reform while they can’t even get a job flipping burgers. Have you noticed those cooking pots of tar and people tearing into feather pillows when you’re speaking to the home folks? Lots of pitchforks in evidence too. The contorted faces of rage that shocked you last summer are nothing compared to the lynch mobs that await many of your colleagues on election day if you continue to pursue this Ahab-like obsession of our presidents’s.

Did one side “win” the day yesterday?” I’d say from what I saw of the summit (the first 4 hrs - then I watched woman’s hockey which was far more interesting), the Republicans had a clear advantage. It’s always better to be on offense and the GOP speakers scored several hard blows to the Democrats while offering some modest reforms of their own. For their part, the Democrats weirdly tried to get everyone watching to break down weeping as they related story after story of Americans losing insurance, having inadequate insurance, or some insurance executive beating them up, eating their children, or sucking their blood vampire like from their necks. I’m sure the wonks who were watching the fiasco had to excuse themselves to dry their eyes and blow their noses. Or not. Such emotionalism plays well on campaign commercials but only made Democrats look unserious and mostly silly for their going for the heart tactics.

For their part, the Republicans scored some good points when pointing out reality about many parts of the bill. There was an interesting dust up over a useless argument on CBO’s estimate of premium costs for the average family. Lamar Alexander said the CBO calculated that premiums would rise, Obama differed. The president was right; the CBO said premiums will go down - except that families may choose to purchase more insurance at a higher cost.

The whole question is moot anyway. The CBO numbers calculate that Obamacare will find $500 billion in Medicare savings. Everyone knows that’s off the table so, while the actual CBO report claims lower premiums for families, the reality is going to be different if Obamacare is passed because the CBO estimates on premiums are based on the idea that the Medicare reduction in hospital and doctor payments will actually come about and lower health care costs. No lowering of health care costs means no lowering of health insurance premiums. So, score one for the president on accuracy, but deduct a half for disingenuousness.

Other than that, Dr. Tom Coburn had some devastating points about malpractice and defensive medicine and really landed some body blows when talking about waste and fraud in Medicare. Since there is no tort reform in the bill, Democrats had no coherent answer. And in one of the few truly bi-partisan moments, the entire room agreed about waste in the system.

Such esoterica was nothing compared to the tour de force presentation by Paul Ryan (video here). Ryan took the Democrats to school with his treatise on the budget and deficits, and how simply dishonest the Democrat’s bill is in presenting itself as a budget cutting measure. Ryan proved once again why he is a young turk in the Republican party. That 5,000 watt brain of his cannot be ignored.

I was wracking my brains thinking of something good to say about another Democrat on the panel but frankly, only the president impressed me. The rest of his colleagues only revealed a “stature gap” as Mike Gerson pegged it. There was the president. And then there were the seven dwarfs.

But no clear Obama advantage this time, as there was in Baltimore at the GOP retreat a couple of weeks ago. There, Republicans sputtered while Obama - completely at ease and in full professorial mode - lectured his opponents and made them look small.

But the GOP came loaded for bear yesterday and it showed. They were sharp, penetrating, and for the most part, reasonable. If the White House strategy was to repeat the president’s performance from Baltimore, they were clearly disappointed. Even David Gergen, who spends a lot of his face time on TV bashing Republicans, said it was the GOP’s “best day in years.”

Considering what has transpired in recent years, that ain’t saying much.

By: Rick Moran at 10:59 am

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