IF NECESSARY, DEBATE EMPTY CHAIRS
Well, you know me: I think the public is sick of health care and won't respond well to President Obama's proposed bipartisan TV summit -- right now, I'd say the public would much prefer to see a damn jobs bill passed. But maybe Professor Obama can school a few haters, the way he did at that Republican confab a couple of weeks ago -- except that, of course, John Boehner and Eric Cantor have sent a letter to the White House implying that they won't participate unless a number of preconditions are met, including scrapping the existing legislation altogether and ruling out reconciliation to pass a bill in the Senate by a simple majority vote.
Well, fine -- if the White House wants to hold this summit and Republicans want to have a hissyfit, the White House should have the summit anyway ... with empty chairs and place cards for Boehner, Cantor, and any other Republican obstructionist who refuses to attend. But allowing empty chairs and GOP rudeness to be the signature image of the event would be too much for our comity-addict president, right? He'd never do it, would he?
If not that, I'd say what the hell -- Obama should just do a health care summit with a crowd of unelected haters. Invite a whole crew of 'em. Call up Betsy McCaughey. Call that teabagger NPR found so engaging. Hell, maybe even call Breitbart and Beck and Palin. Sit 'em down in the White House and see if they can mind their manners in his house, and let them show their true colors if they can't. Yeah, I know -- that would be "elevating" them and making them his "debating partners," which would diminish Obama's status and elevate theirs. But it's probably already too late for that to be a problem -- the conventional wisdom now simply seems to accept that the president and the vast, duly elected Democratic majorities in Congress are on the wrong side of history and are therefore illegitimate, while the tea crowd and other opponents are the legitimate government in exile. (Some of this, I think, is because "liberal" journalists are looking at the tea party crowd and beginning to see them as the romantic '60s radicals they used to be, or think they used to be, or wish they had been.)
I'd even mess with their heads -- have a teleprompter ready, then, on camera, have Obama loudly say to the setup crew, "Get that out of here. We don't need that today." Then he should deliver opening remarks from memory -- and then ask Palin if she'd like to make an opening statement of her own.
And if it's unseemly for Obama to do this himself, why the hell doesn't he have a surrogate who can get down and dirty with his administration's enemies? Why doesn't any Democratic administration ever have an Agnew? (I still think Joe Biden might be able to do it. His problem isn't his propensity for gaffes, it's his and everyone else's propensity for acknowledging the gaffes as gaffes. Just. Keep. Going. Never apologize, never explain. Argue relentlessly that the critics are the problem. That's what Republicans do. It works.)
And speaking of journalism that treats the GOP as the legitimate government in exile, here are Robert Pear and David Herszenhorn treating the Republicans' health care "plan" oh-so-seriously. The piece, with its preposterous even-handedness ("it is not clear that Republicans and the White House are willing to negotiate seriously with each other"), is brilliantly eviscerated by Jonathan Zasloff at The Reality-Based Community. I don't want to duplicate his efforts -- just go read. I will point to these excerpts, however:
Republicans ... contend that changes in state medical malpractice laws could lower costs and slow the growth of premiums.
Many Republicans want to expand the role of private insurance companies in Medicare....
Republicans would help small businesses band together and buy insurance through trade associations and professional societies.
But Democratic lawmakers, like consumer advocates and many state officials, oppose Republican suggestions that such small-business health plans should be exempt from state regulation, including requirements for the coverage of specific services....
Based on that last one in particular, I have a soundbite for Democrats:
Republicans want to regulate health insurance the way the Bush administration regulated Wall Street and the banks.
It's true, isn't it? Shouldn't someone say it?
UPDATE: Instead of an Agnew, we get this from the White House: the person tasked with responding to Sarah Palin is Michelle Obama on Good Morning America.
Michelle Obama's comments came in response to recent criticism from Sarah Palin who told TEA Party conventioneers in Nashville, Tenn., this weekend she wants to ask Obama supporters, "How is that hope-y, change-y stuff working out for you?"
"Rightfully, some people are frustrated, right?" Michelle Obama said. "But one of the things that Barack Obama said and continues to say is change isn't easy and it doesn't happen overnight. And it certainly doesn't happen in a year.
"It's not, he's not done yet. He's got more time," she said.
* For sending out Michelle, the administration will be accused of sexism (by right-wingers and/or by PUMAs) in 5, 4, 3, ...
* I would have at least asked Michelle to say, "I know some people think you should just quit when things don't go your way immediately...." Get it? Palin "Quit"? Do I have to draw a map? Couldn't what she said have had at least some sting to it?