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.