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Will Paul Ryan’s statement (that government doesn’t have the answers) come to define the boring health care summit?

Perhaps it was when I turned on FoxNews to watch the health care summit that I turned away from it so quickly.  One of the few Democrats all but certain to keep his seat in the Senate this fall–and one our federal legislature can most do without–Charles Schumer was droning on about the common ground shared between Republicans and Democrats.  He didn’t seem defensive or as aggressively partisan as he normally does.  

Instead, he seemed pathetic almost, eager to be liked, desperate to the be one whom everyone holds up as a master of decorum.  In short, not the hyperpartisan politician he normally plays on the Senate floor and in the presence of TV cameras.

Then, his Arizona colleague Jon Kyl chimed in.  While he did do something his colleague from the Empire State did not do (bring in some facts), he was even less interesting than Mr. Schumer.  And Mr Schumer was only interesting because he was not playing to type.

And maybe since I have not really had time to gather my thoughts until tonight (about 11 PM PST as I start to write), having read a number of pieces about the president’s professorial manner, I remember the brief snippets I saw of him as being professional, like an erudite instructor leading a classroom discussion, only an instructor more akin to an Amherst professor than one at Williams (at least the good ones).  He was a “moderator” with a point of view.  And he did not hesitate to interject it into the conversation.

I was bored.  I turned it off.  Now, it may be that I had better things to do, so maybe this observation doesn’t hold much weight, but it should hold at least some, given that most Americans did indeed have something to do yesterday.  They had jobs to go to, or to look for, or children to raise, papers to write or people to assist.  But, if a guy like me who follows politics was bored by this exercise, what does that say about the average American concerned about his health care, yet not interested in politics?

No wonder news channels quickly lost interest in the summit.  The American people likely tuned out before they did.  Wonks, pundits and other pontificators who watched the whole thing can call this or that person the winner and this or that politician the loser, but what really matters is whether or not it’s going to change what the American people think about the Democrats’ proposed health care overhaul–and whether it shifts popular momentum in favor of passage.

And I doubt it’s going to do that.  From all the coverage I’ve read, nothing really stands out save one line from Representative Paul Ryan (R-WI):  “We don’t think all the answers lie in Washington.”*  Not only is it a succinct expression of modern conservatism (though some might tweak it to read, “We don’t think most of the answers lie in Washington”), it reflects the growing consensus of the American people, increasingly upset at Washington, believing that government is doing too much.

That one line, spoken by a House Republican leader, could help tie the GOP to the ideals of the Tea Parties and to the mainstream of popular thought.


*It was the only statement, the only idea, from the summit that showed up as a headline on Memeorandum.

UPDATE:  Maybe if I had seen this clip when I flipped on my TV, I might have watched a bit longer:

I think I caught an amusing tongue when he said the answer is not the solution or some such. Quote to remember: “Hiding spending doesn’t reduce spending.” Seems Ryan gets in a second soundbyte to remember.



  1. Ryan was awesome. (And is a cutie.)

    Comment by ILoveCapitalism — February 26, 2010 @ 3:36 am - February 26, 2010

  2. Why does anybody listen to Chucky Schmucky Schumer?

    Comment by ThatGayConservative — February 26, 2010 @ 5:16 am - February 26, 2010

  3. I saw the meandering summation by Obama, but not anything else. It was, to my ears, a callow attempt to warn the Republicans that they have a month to six weeks to get on board. But if there was any heavy air of doom hanging over the heads of the Republicans, I failed to note it.

    I kept wondering if there was any real respect in the room. Did the Democrats beam with pride for their Dear Leader? Did the Republicans feel they were being organized by one of the great community organizers? Or, did they all spend hours doing television time and trying to avoid the sound-bite gaff?

    In short, the elephant in the room was the November elections and even Obama was sanguine about the Fall.

    Comment by heliotrope — February 26, 2010 @ 7:43 am - February 26, 2010

  4. I picked up on two tactics early on. After every Republican speaker concluded his remarks, Obama would rebut the argument before allowing the next speaker to speak. He would declare whether the points made were legimate or not, as if he were the final judge. When Obama has the final word and the ability to declare whether the argument made was legitimate, he gave himself the opportunity to weaken every single argument they made.

    The second thing I picked up on fairly early was a tendency by some Democrats to open their remarks with a comment like “we’re really not that far apart”. Harkin, Baucus, and Schumer all employed that tactic. It was bizarre because the Republicans almost to a person said to start over. So where is the common ground? I think the goal was to give the appearance to the public that Republicns really support much of the substance of the bills, and they are only opposing them for political purposes. That fits right in with their narrative that Republicans are the Party of No, Obstructionist, and all that nonsense. If they can persuade the pubic Republicans really agree with the bills, but they are opposing them for poitical purposes, then it might be easier to sell the public on the use of reconciliation to pass.

    Comment by Scott — February 26, 2010 @ 8:57 am - February 26, 2010

  5. as if he were the final judge

    Well, “he won”. (Or is that “He is the One”?) Ha. Hahaha. Because one day, and perhaps soon, fiscal conservatives will be throwing “we won” in his face.

    a tendency by some Democrats to open their remarks with a comment like “we’re really not that far apart”.

    Looters always do.

    Comment by ILoveCapitalism — February 26, 2010 @ 10:24 am - February 26, 2010

  6. Thank you, Mr. Ryan. You said it well!!! Let’s hope people were actually listening because we know the government fixer uppers weren’t.

    Comment by Jeff Fenner — February 26, 2010 @ 10:43 am - February 26, 2010

  7. Paul Ryan was the smartest person in the room… easily.

    Comment by Mike — February 26, 2010 @ 10:45 am - February 26, 2010

  8. no, the defining moment was the great President Obama schooling the gop-also-ran, John McCain. Sadly, a great American hero, John McCain, has been reduced to a pathetic little snark. I hope he loses his primary fight; he deserves retirement.

    Comment by buckeyenutlover — February 26, 2010 @ 3:11 pm - February 26, 2010

  9. buckeye nut, you mean the president saying that now that the campaign is over, his campaign promises have become meaningless?

    Comment by B. Daniel Blatt — February 26, 2010 @ 3:36 pm - February 26, 2010

  10. #9: I’m sure you’re well aware that the answer to that question is inconsequential to a lunatic that uses the expression “the great President Obama.” Ew. Just…ew.

    Comment by Sean A — February 26, 2010 @ 8:32 pm - February 26, 2010

  11. The one thing Obama will never be is a great president. Great blunder, yes. Great mistake, absolutely. Great incompetent, definitely. But he wont even be a mediocre president, let alone a good or great one. His is already a failed presidency that has devastated the country and his policies promise things will only get worse. The ONLY chance he had to make a success of his presidency was to show he was willing to change direction. He isnt. He is a failed president and he is already vying with Jimmy Carter for the title of worst president ever.

    Comment by American Elephant — February 26, 2010 @ 9:58 pm - February 26, 2010

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