E. J. Dionne on the Bipartisan Summit

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Thursday's bipartisan health care summit will bring President Obama together with congressional Democrats and Republicans to try and find a way to finally secure health care reform. But The Washington Post's E. J. Dionne says it's about much more than just the immediate health care debate. The meeting is a culmination of the political challenges that have beleaguered the country for over a year: hyper-partisan acrimony, congressional deadlock, obstructionism. The summit, Dionne argues, is an opportunity finally to address those problems, but it also risks entrenching them.

This week, particularly the health-care summit President Obama has called for Thursday, will determine the shape of American politics for the next three years.

The issue is whether the summit proves to be the turning point in a political year that is moving decisively in the Republicans' direction. If the summit fails to shake things up and does not lead to the passage of a comprehensive health-care bill, Democrats and Obama are in for a miserable time for the rest of his term.

Dionne says the blame isn't all within politics. Obama's summit will also seek to address the media's oddly complicit role in Washington's worst problems.

I don't blame the Republicans for any of this. They have a right to be as conservative as they want. They have both substantive and political reasons for blocking health-care reform. So far, the strategy has worked. Why should they do anything differently?

But I do blame those who pretend to be nonpartisan or "objective" for falling for this ploy.

And that's whose bluff Obama is really calling with this summit. He's saying: Please, establishment media, look honestly at what the Republicans are doing. Instead of offering lectures about bipartisanship or nostalgia for some peaceable Washington kingdom, look at the substance of our respective proposals and how they match up against the problems we're trying to solve.

This article is from the archive of our partner The Wire.