Boycotting the event, as some have recommended, would rightly be seen as a sign of cowardice. Although there's no reason why the GOP has to play to the White House's script. Republicans should be respectful and serious, but they should also designate one or two representatives to speak for them. That's what Democrats did when they designated then-Senator Obama as their sole voice in the White House meeting on the financial crisis in September 2008. Sen. John McCain had conceived that meeting as a grand showcase for his statesmanlike leadership. That didn't work out too well for McCain, and there's no reason to expect that Obama's plan is any more foolproof.
That's the great irony in this whole stunt. Since he took office, Obama has been trying to use Republicans as one kind of foil or another. He started by castigating them as mindless drones of Rush Limbaugh. When Republican leaders opposed Obama's hyper-partisan stimulus, the president chastised them. "You can't just listen to Rush Limbaugh and get things done," he told them.
Then the White House and its supporters started casting the GOP -- and the burgeoning tea party movement -- as a Hieronymus Bosch scene of racists and gun nuts. Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid compared opponents of ObamaCare to opponents of civil rights legislation. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi flatly questioned the patriotism of anyone who objected to Obama's policies. And so on.
At every turn, Obama's agenda became less popular, his support among independents cratered, his promises to change the tone in Washington looked ever more transparent, and his magic spell over the press weakened. Gallup now has Obama in a statistical dead heat against a generic Republican opponent, and the Democratic party is in near total freefall, despite the fact it still has almost total dominion over Washington.
Now the president has another brilliant plan. Once again he has Republicans exactly where he wants them. Only someone who thinks Obama is one explanation away from total victory should think the GOP has reason to worry.