Speculation was rampant that today's health care summit could be a trap for Republicans. In fact, Republicans performed as well as they could have, given the hostile circumstances. The best part: the national media was compelled to cover it all.
The concern for the GOP going in was that President Obama, with his supreme oratory skills, would back the GOP into a corner and get them to agree to legislation out of sheer political necessity. The national news media would, of course, be lying in wait, cameras rolling, anticipating a slip up to fill the evening broadcasts.
But none came; at least on the Republican side. Rep. Paul Ryan, R-Wis., one of the GOP's fastest-rising stars, laid out the free market health care argument for the nation to see. He told the president and the American people (video embedded below the fold with partial transcript),
The difference is this. We don’t think all the answers lie in Washington regulating all of this. So the problem with the approach we're seeing that you're offering, which I do believe, Senator, is very different from what we're saying, is we don't want to sit in Washington mandating all of these things.
What you're doing is you're defining exactly what kind of health insurance people can have, you're mandating them to buy this kind of health insurance, and so we simply say, look if the National Restaurants Association or the National Federation of Independent Business on behalf of their members, wants to set up an association health plan, we think they'll probably do a good job on behalf of their members. Let them decide to do that instead of restricting insurance competition.
By federalizing the regulation of insurance, and by mandating exactly how it’ll work, you make it more expensive and you reduce the competition among insurers for people's business. We want to decentralize the system, give more power to small businesses, more power to individuals, and make insurance compete more. But if you federalize it, you standardize it and mandate it, you do not achieve that. And that’s the big difference we have.
Ryan's brief but apt summary of the Republican position on DemCare generally was at once calm and hard-hitting.
As Ed Morrissey notes, far from being backed into a rhetorical corner during the summit, the GOP was able to draw a very effective contrast between the domineering policies proposed in the current legislation and the more federalist policies favored by Republicans.
What will resonate more strongly with Americans — the idea that the federal government should narrow our choices to a couple of key mandates, or the idea that grown-ups can make their own choices and that government should just ensure that fraud doesn’t occur? Democrats have just set themselves up to get a loud and clear answer to that question.
Of course this is not the first time Republicans have issued the charges Ryan did today. But it is the first time they have been able to do so in an organized setting with virtually every national media outlet present.
Who knows, maybe this will get the nation's lefty pundits to stop calling Republicans do-nothing obstructionists and actually discuss some of their ideas. Well, maybe that's getting a bit hasty.