It was obvious how things would go as soon as the first Republican speaker, Senator Lamar Alexander, delivered his remarks. He was presumably chosen because he’s folksy and likable and could make his party’s position sound reasonable. But right off the bat he delivered a whopper, asserting that under the Democratic plan, “for millions of Americans, premiums will go up.”[….]
What really struck me about the meeting, however, was the inability of Republicans to explain how they propose dealing with the issue that, rightly, is at the emotional center of much health care debate: the plight of Americans who suffer from pre-existing medical conditions. In other advanced countries, everyone gets essential care whatever their medical history. But in America, a bout of cancer, an inherited genetic disorder, or even, in some states, having been a victim of domestic violence can make you uninsurable, and thus make adequate health care unaffordable.
So what did we learn from the summit? What I took away was the arrogance that the success of things like the death-panel smear has obviously engendered in Republican politicians. At this point they obviously believe that they can blandly make utterly misleading assertions, saying things that can be easily refuted, and pay no price. And they may well be right.
The Republican leaders, Mitch McConnell and John Boehner, were smart enough to stand back and let Senator Lamar Alexander lead the way, which he did genially and intelligently. While Alexander was speaking, Reid and Pelosi wouldn’t even deign to look at him.
Once you got to the other members, about two-thirds of the statements were smart and well-informed. This was not a repeat of the Baltimore summit, in which Obama dominated the room. This time, Obama was very good, but so were many others, like Mike Enzi, Jim Cooper, George Miller and Tom Coburn. If you thought Republicans were a bunch of naysayers who don’t know or care about health care, then this was not the event for you. They more than held their own.
I have yet to meet an academic over 50 who doesn’t think that Bobo Brooks is a thoughtful, reasonable conservative with lots of sensible ideas. My parents both feel this way, though they will no longer admit it to me.
History will not judge this era kindly.