Wednesday's health care summit produced a media orgy of "who's up-who's down" punditry. Treating it as a mere sporting event misses the mark, however. Sports have objective rules to differentiate winners and losers. The summit scorecard relied on the subjective perceptions of politics observers. The clearest description of this reality came from The New Republic's Jonathan Cohn. Though he's clearly coming from the left, he gave an even-handed picture of what the summit revealed:
Who won? It's the exact same question people asked in 2008, after each of the presidential debates. I didn't like it then and I don't like it now. What's "winning"--scoring more debate points, making fewer gaffes, or simply appealing to more voters? And aren't all those judgments pretty subjective anyway?
But if Thursday's event didn't produce a winner, it was clarifying.The Republicans have their justifications--and, to be fair, if they are convinced government spending and regulation will do more harm than good, then they are right to hold these many views... And this explains the message Republicans delivered over and over again on Thursday: Rip up the bill and start over. That's not a plea for compromise. That's a demand for capituation. And it frames the choice for Democrats pretty clearly. Either they will act alone, or they will not act at all.