Here's how CNN is characterizing Obama's trek inside the lion's den so far:
Rick Sanchez: the tweets I've seen so far seem to indicate, and frankly one of them was from Virginia Fox, uh, but the tweets I've read seem to characterize this meeting as not so good, almost as --- they hate this guy.
Jessica Yellin: There is enormous frustration toward the president from Republicans in that room. One of the members stood up and said, "Mr President, you also have broken your promises. You said you'd hold health care negotiations on CSPAN, they were held behind closed doors. You promised that there would be no lobbyists in top positions, they're there." So enormous frustrations on both sides.
Look, the parties are at this critical pivotal moment. Do they want, does the Republican party want to make some bipartisan deals with Democrats, so that they avoid being called the Party of No going into the 2010 election, and let the Democrats have a win on bipartisanship? Or do they decide not to go along with President Obama on anything and risk being called the Party of No.
On the other hand, the Democrats are in the very awkward position of trying to compromise but how much are they willing to give up?
So, it's a very difficult dance. And Rick, I go back to that focus group I talked to you about during the state of the union. It's much more imperative right now for independents, that President Obama achieve bipartisanship. Independents blame President Obama more for the lack of bipartisanship because they say he promised to change things, the other side didn't promise to change it so it's up to him.
I think his performance was quite good. But I also think that his appearance there, as if he'd been summoned to explain himself, looks like weakness, especailly in a week in which he already gave a major address. The optics look very dicey to me.
Be that as it may (and I could be wrong) everyone surely must realize that if what Yellin just said is correct and the vaunted Soccer Independent Dads believe that it is 100% up to Obama to be bipartisan, then the Republicans have absolutely no real incentive to meet him halfway. Their base is fired up. If they can convince enough of these illogical SIDs that Obama has failed because he didn't magically deliver kumbaaya as promised, then they win by default.
This is a terribly important game they are playing and I don't think they are getting it right. On the optics, the President should have summoned them to him, not gone to them. As much as I wish it were different, we have no tradition of the Prime Minister question hour in America and the average voter will see his being put on the spot in that setting as a weakness.
And while his answers were all very convincing to me and, I assume, most Democrats, it's not likely to result in any movement among Independents because they don't understand these gestures and only see the bickering and lack of results --- which the Republicans will continue to deliver and blame on the Democrats.
On the other hand, if they only saw the chyron running on the bottom of that CNN story, they might think differently. It said:
"President Obama Joins GOP"
Update: Interestingly, the story immediately following was Tony Blair on the hot seat, under oath, answering for his Iraq decisions. I only wish that the American corollary today was Bush being grilled instead of Obama.