What is the President likely to say in his big speech to Congress on health care and how should Republicans respond to him?
First, its easy to anticipate the theme and tone of President Obamas remarks. He will call for a new spirit of unity and bipartisanship (just as he did in the campaign) and lament the bitterness and divisions roiling the nation when all agree on general goals for health care reform: insuring the uninsured, while making insurance more secure and affordable for those who already have it. He will stigmatize the enemies of reform as political hacks or special interests, and call upon the people to rise above the fear-mongers and demagogues and to embrace reform with hope and confidence. Hell certainly invoke the memory of his fallen friend, the Lion of the Senate, Ted Kennedy, and call for all Americans to go forward in his spirit. Senator Kennedy combined visionary idealism with practical ability to work across the aisle and to make deals in the public interest. The President might even paraphrase the late Senators brother, President Kennedy, suggesting that we should never compromise out of fear, but we should never fear to compromise. In any event, for those with the stomach to watch it, the speech will surely spend lots of time talking about bridging gaps and joining hands and singing kum-ba-ya, even while the President knows theres no chance Republicans will feel swayed by his words. Thats not the point of his address, of course. The point is to make those Republicans look bad when they refuse to bridge gaps and join hands and sing kum-ba-ya.
So what should the GOP say to counteract this line of attack?
With the President reportedly prepared to lay out his non-negotiables on health care reform, the Republicans should enumerate non-negotiable positions of their ownand make it clear that everything else can be discussed and finessed. The key red-lines for conservatives should include:
1) First, and most importantly, health care reform must add nothing not one penny to the already crushing and disastrous federal deficit. With more than nine-trillion dollars in additional debt already projected over the next ten years, responsible public servants should concentrate all their efforts on ways to save money and to cut the budget. They must not under any circumstances enact reforms that would cost money and bloat the budget.