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Susan Estrich
8 Oct 2014
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Playing Nice

Comment

A funny thing didn't happen today. People were not plugged in to their televisions, computers or radios. Someone did stop me at lunch to ask what I was having (the chicken salad), but no one solicited the latest on what was going on in Washington. There was no buzz. Can we be frank? Nobody is watching.

The president said he found it productive, but maybe you just had to be there. Exciting television it isn't. Boring.

"It" is the much-touted summit on health care, the opportunity for the president and congressional Republicans to actually read their talking points directly to each other. Which they've been doing with great vigor.

The Democrats want to get the job done, or so they tell me in periodic updates from the summit. The Republicans, they claim, only want gridlock. Of course, this is not what the Republicans say. The Republican missives, like the speeches inside the room, are all about how the country doesn't want the Democratic plan, whatever it is, and how Republicans want to start again. Actually, they want to start again and not go very far; whereas, Democrats don't want to start again at all. As best as I can tell, all that's been agreed on today is to face the cameras when you speak.

The health care debate could be many things in this country, but boring is one of the few things it should never be. That today's summit is nothing if not boring is a reflection not on the inherent interestingness of the health care issue, but on the empty state of most politics. What do politicians do when they come together? Give boring speeches. Read talking points aloud. Ignore what the last person said and just read your own speech.

It almost makes sense of the Democrats' backroom style.

Sadly, it is too late for anyone — even the people in the room, much less those of us not watching — to pretend that there is any real dialogue going on. We're not listening to each other. We're not acting in good faith. Democrats only want Republicans if they're willing to sign on to the bill (that they aren't willing to sign on to). Republicans only want Democrats if they're willing to give up on the bill (that they aren't willing to give up on). The public, wisely assessing the situation, isn't bothering to listen to either side. Why should they?

The Republicans don't want to hand Obama a victory — especially a more modest one that they would have no choice but to support. How do you run against an administration and Congress that are, by your lights, actually doing the right thing? Talk about giving up your best issue.

The Democrats don't want to hand the Republicans in Congress a victory, either — not as a party, anyway. Do they want to pass a Republican health care bill after all they've been through to try to get a Democratic one? I don't think so.

So if Democrats don't really want to pass a health care bill that more than one or two (if that) Republicans could support, and if Republicans don't really want to pass a health care bill that looks anything like the "Democratic version," why have a summit?

Why, indeed. The answer is simply that both parties want to look reasonable and forthcoming, when in truth, neither is. So they stretch out the olive branch — and then cut it off in the same speech.

Maybe you just have to be there, as the president suggests. But I think I speak for most Americans when I say I'm just as glad I'm not.

To find out more about Susan Estrich and read features by other Creators Syndicate writers and cartoonists, visit the Creators Syndicate website at www.creators.com.

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Comments

6 Comments | Post Comment
As I see it the Republicans were shut out of the formation of the massive bills created by the Democrats. Is this the intent of our Constitution, to have one party, one person define and write our laws? What exists is very much like the government of Cuba.
Professor Obama did a good job, President Obama was missing!
I don't like it! Can I have my country back?
Comment: #1
Posted by: Early
Fri Feb 26, 2010 7:33 AM
Susan. I LOVE you. Always. I agree with what you say here. But I would love to hear you comment on what the American people are saying about this health care initiative.
Just released CNN poll shows only 25% of Americans want the currently proposed "plan" to go forward. 50% say to start over. Me and everyone I talk to are opposed - not because of the "vision" but because of the awful way they tried to make this happen. The politicians are not listening and it is infuriating that they think (like with bad tasting medicine) we should just swallow it.
The way this has been handled is repulsive - by BOTH parties.
Comment: #2
Posted by: Andy
Fri Feb 26, 2010 6:27 PM
Susan,

I usually agree with much of what you say but it's apparent from this column that you did not watch the summit. You did not make a reference to anyone or anything that was said. Your comments are general and could be said about any CSPAN airing of a random day in congress. I watched the entire summit and I was riveted. It is obvious you are not an Obama fan. But you could have at least made a substantive critique. You owe it to your readers.
Comment: #3
Posted by: Talin
Sat Feb 27, 2010 5:34 PM
Susan,
I am a born again republican....meaning I was a democrat for the first half of my life and a republican when Reagan showed us the way...or sort of....Frankly, since the 80's I have been searching for a democrat to talk straight and sensible (not that my team does either) because all I hear are the same old worn out "we gotta do something about the disadvantaged [fill in the blank with your favorite group]. Thankfully, I think you come close to fitting the bill. You at the very least have a sense to highlight when the democrats have been losing ground and explain why (pssst..the WH is not listening). Though we may not agree much on the priorities and direction we should take, I think I can at least say I have found a democrat who can talk straight. Thanks for the column...I am signing up as a regular.
Comment: #4
Posted by: Tom Donahue
Sun Feb 28, 2010 4:23 PM
Susan, I watched a lot of the health care debate and I thought it was interesting. I thought the republicans did a great job getting their point across and the President did not. They are on an agenda and they thought the republican's would make a full of themselves and they did not. They spoke for the people. There are other issues more important since the majority of Americans are happy with their coverage. How about keeping us safe, the economy and high unemployment etc. I know the President owes the unions their due for getting him elected and no one cares about the citizens. This administration's only concern is destroying this country to socialism and does not care what the American people want.
Comment: #5
Posted by: Kathaleen
Sun Feb 28, 2010 8:01 PM
We are watching....and we are paying attention. Bottom line is this process has been a JOKE. pelosi, reid and obama have never dealt in an honest way. Not wth fellw members of both houses and certainly not with the American people. This bill has been crafted a million way from Sunday and 99% of it behind closed doors and with deal making that certainly will not pass Constitutional muster. This bill is currently 2400 pages of legislation that has NOT one word about tort reform. Not one word about portability. Not one word about competition across state lines. The Democratic party will take a hammering come Nov and deservedly so. Just the items I have mentioned would easily drop prices by at least 25% if not more and would take far, far less than 2400 pages.
Comment: #6
Posted by: Adam
Mon Mar 1, 2010 12:41 PM
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