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EDITORIAL: Obama’s deceptive health summit

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Don't buy into President Obama's rhetoric about bipartisanship. He invited congressional Republicans to a summit tomorrow but continues to castigate them for being unwilling to meet him halfway. Some argue that reaching out to the opposition is wise politics aimed at the November elections, but the fix is in. Mr. Obama has no intention of making any deal with Republicans, and Republicans understand it's a bad idea to meet the president halfway on his political death spiral. So what's the point of the charade?

After the Massachusetts earthquake, Democrats have a difficult public relations problem. Voters in one of the most liberal states in the country decisively rejected Mr. Obama's health care plans. Sen. Scott Brown won the late Teddy Kennedy's seat based primarily on one issue: promising to deliver the necessary vote to kill the government takeover of health care. If Democrats ignore public opinion and force through government care anyway, an already tough election season will turn into a rout. Democrat solution: Pretend they are open to compromise.

Mr. Obama's plan is clearly to make Republicans look like obstructionists. No matter what he says, the reality is it's the Democrats who can't get their act together. For six months, Democrats had total and complete control of Congress with an 80-seat majority in the House and filibuster-proof control of the Senate. Even after the loss of Kennedy's seat, Democrats enjoy the largest majorities in the House and Senate by either party in more than 30 years.

If Mr. Obama is transparent about anything, it's that his interest in bipartisanship is purely political theater. Before the summit even occurs, Democratic leaders have agreed to a plan to pass the health care takeover whereby the House will pass the Senate bill and thus avoid the difficult conference process. "The trick in all of this is that the president would have to sign the Senate bill first, then the reconciliation bill second, and the reconciliation bill would trump the Senate bill," said Wendell Primus, a top aide to House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, at an AcademyHealth and Health Affairs conference, according to Congress Daily.

Republicans pretty much had to agree at least to meet to pretend to discuss options for a health care compromise, but that doesn't mean there is any real pretense to work together on either side of the aisle. Mr. Obama announced the summit on national TV, not in private consultations with Republicans, and he instructed them as to where, what time and under what rules the summit would occur. And the entire charade will take place after Democrats have agreed to a policy and how to ram it through Congress. Despite Mr. Obama's promise to have all negotiations on C-SPAN, none of the internal negotiations between Mr. Obama and the Democratic House and Senate leaders was televised. This is brazen humbug even by cynical Washington standards.

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