I’m not questioning the CBO’s quality, I’m questioning their reality. Representative Paul Ryan.
As a good liberal political junkie I watched the summit today and saw Democrats staying within the bounds of reality in discussing the various ideas on the table and I saw the Republicans making things up. The president was in command of the facts, competently defended the Democratic position and successfully batted back many of the GOPs misrepresentations. The Republicans were effective in repeating their usual talking points and non-sequitors.
However, if I were to tune in to this summit without having a fairly good grasp of the politics in play, I’m afraid I might come away from it thinking that both sides are equally earnest in trying to fix the problems with our health care system and they both have equally good ideas. After all, they told us that all day and the picture of these people all sitting around a table politely exchanging ideas creates that appearance. But the fact is that the substantive disagreements between the two parties represent more than an abstract philosophical difference of opinion. They represent a hardcore, political impasse.
Much, as always, depends on how the media chooses to frame this summit, but I’m afraid that many people are nonetheless likely to be left with the impression that problems passing this bill are the result of Democrats refusing to put all these neat Republican ideas into the mix --- and if they can just agree to do that, we can all hold hands and sing kumbaaya. This is, of course, nonsense. Republicans do not want to pass any health care reform that will be signed by President Obama and even if he agreed to implement their ideas in whole cloth and call it day, they still wouldn’t vote for it. In fact, even if a Republican president were in charge, conservatives of both parties don’t want health care reform except to the extent it reduces the current inadequate safety net and loosens existing regulations. They basically say that the answer to this problem is to eliminate physician liability, allow people to buy insurance across state lines, require Americans to get healthier and make them shop around for cheaper services in order to bring down costs. There’s really not much more to it than that. (Senator John Barasso, a medical doctor, even said that patients who have only catastrophic insurance are the best patients because they have to consider whether or not they can afford tests when they get sick.)
The fact remains that Republicans and certain conservative Democrats are bad faith players in this process. They have no serious plan to fix the health care system but this summit’s optics may have led people to erroneously believe they do. And rather than helping speed the momentum to pass the plan through reconciliation by sharpening the differences, I am afraid that this meeting may have slowed it down. And that may, unfortunately, lead inexorably to “Plan B.”
We’ll have to wait to see what the mainstream media highlights to know if the unctuous disingenuousness of the Republicans will be obvious for all to see. Let’s hope so.
Update: Gergen just said that the Republicans just had the best intellectual day they've had in years, especially our cutest li'l Randian, Paul Ryan. Oy vey ...
Update II:Cilizza thinks the Republicans did pretty well --- except for McCain, of course, who is the new GOIP sin-eater.
And Ryan really is the new "it boy." It must be the village's version of "going Galt."
Update III:Media Matters has collected Republican comments to the media throughout the day. Here's one example: