Process and Appearence; The GOP Must Go to the Health Care Summit

While the Democrats in Congress prepare for reconciliation, the GOP is measuring the value of Obama’s health care summit. Let’s not get mixed up here. The health care summit is a public relations stunt, nothing more. It is being used to provide the Democrats in Congress some leverage to pursue reconciliation. That is the real battleground.

The GOP has the higher ground on two crucial points in the health care debate; substance and process. Conservatives understand the importance of the former, but they cannot afford to underestimate the importance of the latter, especially amongst conservative Democrats and Independents. That’s whom the Democrats covet.

Conservative Democrats and Independents have been disgusted with the process so far; the Cornhusker Kickback, the back room deals, the lack of transparency, the phony deadlines, the last minute legislation dumps, politicians voting on bills they had not read, the lack of responsiveness to the concerns of the people, the arrogance of the Democratic leadership, and, yes, the lack of bi-partisanship.

But the leaders are ideologues on a mission and they were not about to let process impede their great left wing march. However, they underestimated the public backlash over the abuse of process. In this new internet age of voter engagement, their shenanigans were exposed and widely reported. They were rattled by the bumpkins who excoriated them for their transgressions, which had, up until now, gone largely unnoticed.

After Scott Brown’s election, the Democrats knew they needed to change their strategy. They would prefer not to compromise substance. So, they changed their tone. They tried to show some humility and admitted mistakes. They ended the false sense of urgency and stopped pushing phony deadlines. They’ve opened up the process and will post the bill online with proper notice. And they are trying to claim the mantle of bi-partisanship and have invited Republicans to a summit.

Yes, its phony. Its all about appearence. But isn’t their strategy obvious?

They are moving forward with reconciliation in an attempt that is a vile abuse of process. Obama will put on his dog and pony show, the mainstream media will cover it extensively and, if the GOP turns its back or acts cynically, the Democrats will pounce and the mainstream media will eat it up.

It wouldn’t surprise me if Congressional Democrats already have talking points and are making appointments to hit the talk show circuit en masse to declare that the GOP has no intention of negotiating in good faith and therefore they are forced to pursue reconciliation. Republicans shouldn’t cede the high ground on process. They should co-opt the summit and make their case to Obama and the people. They should put tort reform on the center stage. Regardless of the outcome of the summit, it will cripple the Democrats attempt to subvert the reconciliation process.

Also, this is not about the elections. Stopping the health care bill as it is written remains priority number one. We don’t play games with legislation to win elections. We play games with elections to win legislation. Conservatives who would burden our nation with this monstrosity to win a couple of extra Congressional seats are misguided. But even if one were to consider its effect on the elections, the summit is not entirely a bad thing. This is not about Obama. Obama is not up for re-election in 2010. His fate will be decided in future years. This may bruise him, but he has ample time to recover. Congressional Democrats do not. It is they who will suffer for this bill.

There is a fault line is erupting between Obama and the Congressional Democrats. The GOP could exploit the summit. They can use the forum to blame Congressional Democrats; Obama’s team won’t object. That would further undermine the leadership of Nancy Pelosi and Harry Reid, create further divisions and make Congressional Democrats even more impotent and vulnerable.