Friday, February 26, 2010

Thoughts on the Summit


I'm late getting to this, but, well, you know, the Olympics.

Our women's hockey team shut out the U.S. for a third straight gold, our men's and women's curlers both won their semifinal matches, and Joannie Rochette, a lovely and courageous young woman, skated to the bronze in women's figure skating, with all of Canada behind her, just days after her mother's death.

Yesterday was a pretty good day.

The Vancouver Games have done a lot to unite this country, to allow us to think about what it means to be Canadian, and the pride I feel as a Canadian is immense. (We'll see how I feel after tonight's hockey game against Slovakia, though.)

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The Beltway media, as usual, are all about winners and losers, but I thought it was, overall, a fairly impressive and thoughtful discussion of one of the leading issues of the day -- a rarity in Washington.

But while I will admit that the Republicans did fairly well, mainly because they kept their far-right proclivities to a minimum, successfully hiding them from public view, and that it's still not clear what the Democrats are doing, I think it was President Obama who came out on top, if I may put it simply, hearing out Republicans respectfully and yet putting them in their place when that was called for, which was often. And I think Greg Sargent is right:

Obama listened politely for six hours, with occasional flashes of temper, but in the end, the message was clear: It's over. We're moving forward without Republicans.

Whether Obama and Dems will succeed in passing reform on their own is anything but assured, to put it mildly. But there's virtually no doubt anymore that they are going to try -- starting as early as [today].

That was the subtle but unmistakable message of Obama's closing argument. After hours of hearing Republicans repeat again and again that only an incremental approach to reform is acceptable to them, Obama rejected that out of hand.

And he continues:

To clarify, this was a call to Dems, perhaps more than anyone else, that the time has come for them to stiffen their spines and move forward with reconciliation, which Republicans, and even some nonpartisan observers, have repeatedly characterized as akin to marching off a cliff.

Also: This summit was always about laying the groundwork for Dems to go forward alone, barring a major capitulation from Republicans. As noted here repeatedly, Dems will find themselves in exactly the same position tomorrow as they did yesterday: Confronting the enormously difficult task of passing ambitious reform on their own.

For a long while now, Republicans have shown us what they're made of, and where they stand, which is against genuine reform, and against dealing with the very real crisis that afflicts the country's health-care system and that makes life miserable, and even unbearable, for tens of millions of Americans.

It's now time for Democrats to stand up and be counted.

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