3 Lessons from the Health Care Summit

The health care summit is over. Health care reform is not. President Obama pushed and prodded and repartee'd with Republicans over cost control and insurance expansion but at the end of the day, the summit produced nothing except a reminder that health care reform is still onerous and a long shot.

I expected my reaction to the health care summit to be more complicated. It's not. I have three things to say, and they're all pretty straightforward. Nobody won. Bipartisanship died again. And the ball is still with the House.

1) Bipartisanship Fail. This whole game just reminds me how misguided and damaging the bipartisan Baucus strategy was last year. Democrats want to raise taxes to pay for health care expansion. Republicans don't want to raise taxes, period. That's it. Then end. There is no more debate to have.

It's informative to learn that there is small-ball overlap between the parties' health reform ideas, but they're beside the point. It's like a car salesman trying to sell a stretch Hummer to somebody who wants a sedan, and saying, "But this stretch Hummer has seats, and radio, and carpeted floors, and power windows; it's just like that sedan you want!" It does have all those things. And it's still a stretch Hummer. Democrats wasted months selling this plan to a non-buyer.

2) Nobody won. Yesterday I compared the summit to a musical theater revival where everybody knows the songs and the dance numbers, but we're watching for transcendent performances. The summit was a good reminder that there are no transcending performances in health care reform. It's too damn complicated and ponderous to make a splash, like hitting a home run off a knuckle ball. Next week, this summit will sink back into the sea of health care reform events and we'll be back at square one, with the rotten poll numbers and the Democratic supplications.

3) Ball's in Your Court, House. House Democrats know what the polls look like, and they'll bite the bullet if party leadership makes the case that this vote isn't poll numbers today, but rather about building a narrative of accomplishment rather than settling with a story of party failure in November. That said, I think Megan's making a lot of sense here.

(Photo: Pete Souza/White House)