Will it do any good? Any harm? No idea. But I think the invitation Obama sent to Republican leaders, to discuss health care reform on teevee, is being seriously underestimated for its potential impact. It seems to me a central moment not just in the health debate, but in Americans' understanding and expectation of the process of governing. It could do for legislating what debates now do for campaigning: turn the public eye on elected officials' ability to be serious and reasonable, knowledgable and practical.
Jon Chait says it's also clearly part of the Obama Method:
Obama uses a similar approach toward Republicans as foreign enemies like the Iranian regime: take them up on their claim to some shared goal (nuclear disarmament, health care reform), elide their preferred red herrings, engage them seriously, and then expose their disingenuousness.The truth is, we can no longer depend on our mainstream media to accurately report the substance and import of what our government is up to - the good or the bad. If this works, not only will health care reform have a chance, but smart politicians may have found a way to finally and helpfully bypass media spin and sensationalism - if only for 60 minutes or so - and speak directly to the public about their ideas.
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.
What if events like this over major issues facing America become must-watch-tv for the general public the way campaign debates are? Even if Obama ends up losing this battle, that development could be a silver lining. What both sides surely realize is: nobody has done this before. They don't *really* know how to prepare, how it will look, what they have to do to win, etc. Along with answering Republican questions last week, this really could be a game-changer in getting Americans to demand our leaders talk to each other, about important issues, in front of us.
Could that be an even more awful thing for the legislation to come from it? I can imagine that as well...but feeling optimistic today. Am I wrong? Is this a one-time thing? Disaster in the making? Much ado about nothing?