Make no mistake: If President Barack Obama actually wanted to be the post-partisan agent of Washington change, his health-care summit would have looked a whole lot different than the meeting he recently held across the street from the White House. Every Republican, from House Minority Leader John Boehner to maverick John McCain (the latter facing primary challenger from the right, by the way) walked into the meeting imploring the White House to start over, to begin again, to hit the reset button. If the president wanted to work with them in any way, he would have done just that.
Instead the president continues to argue -- aided by media folks from near everyone on MSNBC to even Bill O'Reilly on the supposedly all-right Fox News Channel -- that the American people just don't understand what his health-care plan is all about. In one sense, I agree with him. Given the fact that even the Congressional Budget Office said it didn't have enough details to do a proper examination of the latest version of the legislation in time for the official summit, the man has a point. But it's not voters' slowness that's the problem; it's the White House with the issues.
If the president were serious about being a different kind of leader, he would have invited governors at the White House summit on health care, as Republican politicians requested.
Instead of dismissing criticisms as he has been doing for the better part of a year now in this and other debates, President Obama should have considered what Republicans had to say. One of the best lines of the summit was: "If you're waiting for Mitch McConnell to roll in here a wheelbarrow full of a 2,700-page comprehensive health-care bill, that's not going to happen," delivered by Republican Sen. Lamar Alexander. He continued, "We've watched the comprehensive, economy-wide, cap and trade. We've watched the comprehensive immigration bill ... we've watched the comprehensive health-care bill. And they fall of their own weight."
That's a message that Washington can afford to hear. That's a message that gets back to constitutional principles of federalism. And, frankly, that's a manageable message.