Republicans Should Beware Televised Healthcare Negotiations

It will be carefully staged to make the president look moderate.

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It may be that the Republicans are on the verge of showing President Barack Obama a way out of the healthcare mess he has made for himself.

Up until the election of Republican Scott Brown to a seat in the United States Senate, the Democrats on Capitol Hill had largely been negotiating with themselves over what the final version of the healthcare bill would look like. They had the votes to pass it without the GOP but they didn't have the will--so the legislation was left to linger while the president talked tough about not running away from it.

All that changed after Obama, who was back to calling it "health insurance reform"--a phrase which polls better than healthcare reform--turned in a better than expected performance during the question and answer session that followed his remarks to the House Republicans, meeting in Baltimore.

The televised session had Obama, it should not come as a surprise, holding up rather well against the nearly dozen members of the GOP selected to ask questions. Politically, however, it is as though lightning struck, pointing out the way forward to members of the White House staff looking to save the president's signature issue.

In a brief interview televised right before Super Bowl XLIV, Obama announced he would be calling Democrats and Republicans together for a meeting on healthcare reform, a meeting that would be televised.

"I want to come back [after the upcoming congressional recess] and have a large meeting--Republicans and Democrats--to go through, systematically, all the best ideas that are out there and move it forward," Obama said Sunday in an interview with CBS news anchor Katie Couric.

"While (Obama's) been very clear that he supports the House and Senate bills, if Republicans or anyone else has a plan for protecting Americans from insurance company abuses, lowering costs, reducing prescription drug prices for seniors, making coverage more secure, and offering affordable options to those without coverage, he's anxious to see it and debate the merits of it," Politico quoted a White House official --sounding like the spider inviting the fly into the parlor--as saying.

This is the kind of thing Obama does extremely well. And it will no doubt be structured to make him appear as the moderating influence, scolding and cajoling the Democrats and Republicans in the House and Senate to work together for the sake of the country. It will put him in the middle of the discussion in the best sense of term while committing him to do nothing different than he has done thus far. In a setting such as this the Republicans, who have kept the focus on the Democrats thus far, run the risk of making themselves the issue. 

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