Health Care Rashomon: 5 Completely Different Summit Takeaways

Great minds don't always think alike

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Sometimes great minds don't think alike. When it comes to perspectives on Thursday's health care summit, this is one of those times. Most everyone agrees the summit was a display of political theater. But pundits disagree greatly on how the general public will perceive the summit and why it turned out so poorly. Here are the final takeaways:

  • Republicans Lost, concludes Michael Kinsley in The New York Times. He slams the GOP for its lack of candor. "Republicans didn’t want to justify their label as 'the party of no.' They slung nightmare anecdotes about terrible things the current system had done to their constituents just as enthusiastically as the Democrats. You would never know that Republicans had killed health care reform 15 years ago and then done nothing about it during their own years in power. Their tender, if recent, concern to protect every penny of Medicare continues to amaze."

  • Republicans Won, observes Clive Crook at The Atlantic: "The trap the Democrats had hoped to spring was to say to Republicans, 'Here is our plan. Where is yours? Why aren't you bringing anything to the table?' With the opposition exposed as a nullity, reconciliation would look more respectable. It didn't work. The Republicans outmaneuvered the Democrats, not the other way round. They mostly let spokesmen with relevant experience and expertise carry the burden, and they stuck to a simple script that said, 'Let's do this step by step, starting with things we agree on, instead of trying to do everything at once, which we can't afford.'"

  • Obama Lost, writes Dana Milbank at The Washington Post: "The world's most powerful man too often plays the 98-pound weakling; he gets sand kicked in his face and responds with moot-court zingers. That's what Mr. Cool did at the White House health-care summit on Thursday. For seven hours, he racked up debating points as he parried Republican attacks without so much as raising his voice, but the performance didn't exactly intimidate his foes."

  • GOP 1, Obama 1, Democrats 0, writes John Dickerson at Slate: "Obama was not the crazy liberal caricature of GOP attacks during the seven-hour iron-bottom discussion ... Republicans came out ahead for the same reason: They did not look like hell-bent obstructionists ... This is why it wasn't a good day for congressional Democrats. According to strategists involved in 2010 races, fence-sitting Democrats needed to see Obama change the political dynamic. He needed to show how health care reform could be defended and how Republicans could be brought low."

  • Everyone Lost, writes Ross Douthat in The New York Times. The president was too professorial, the Democrats too cliche, and the Republicans too bereft of solutions, he writes: "No congratulations are in order. The forum exemplified why Americans have every reason to hate Washington right now. The first five hours revealed a majority party whose health care bill probably deserves to be defeated. But the sixth one exposed a minority party that deserves to lose as well."
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