All Eyes Are on the White House as Health Care Summit Kicks Off

BY Jason M. Breslow  February 25, 2010 at 9:25 AM EDT

A reasoned discussion, a boxing bout, a pro wrestling match, reality TV. Thursday’s bipartisan health care reform talks are being called all of these things. Call it what you want, but one thing is for sure: The stakes are high for leaders from both political parties.

The eagerly awaited health care summit hosted by President Barack Obama kicks off at 10 a.m. at Blair House with an opening statement, followed by remarks from one Republican and one Democrat. President Obama and his fellow Democrats plan to use the daylong event to push for a sweeping overhaul, while Republicans are expected to argue for a handful of incremental measures.

Emotions will be high beneath the surface, but as Politico’s Craig Gordan told the NewsHour’s Hari Sreenivasan, expect both parties to try and “out-reasonable each other.”

While the meeting will be covered “as though it’s a boxing match between two heavyweight titans, the truth is that it’s closer to a pro wrestling match,” says the Washington Post’s Chris Cillizza. The storylines will be heavily scripted so as to avoid “any alarms or surprises,” he writes, “…But, like pro wrestling, just because the events are pre-scripted doesn’t mean they are devoid of real drama.”

Indeed, while the event is being touted as an unscripted discussion, in truth the event is closer to reality TV. “From the seating arrangements to the camera position and buffet lunch – not to mention the talking points – the meeting has been carefully orchestrated,” according to the New York Times. “The tussle over the staging of Thursday’s meeting suggests the extent to which each side is trying to use it to make overtures not to each other, but to the viewing public,” says the Times.

“The reality is, both sides have been responding to the overwhelming incentives to play to the home team, and to tailor their positions to seek partisan advantage and political gain,” according to Politico. “So in the end, the health care summit seems most likely to clarify what has been an obvious reality lurking just below the surface at almost every turn in this episode, which is that neither side is really on the level when they say they were committed to bipartisanship.”

You can watch the White House’s summit on our homepage, and we’ll be live blogging the summit all day here on the Rundown. We’ll also post a video timeline of the health care debate up until now, followed by additional analysis on Thursday’s NewsHour. Stay tuned.

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Elsewhere in the world, India and Pakistan have begun their first attempt at peace talks since the 2008 Mumbai terror attack, and the Afghan government formally took control of Marjah in southern Afghanistan, installing an administrator in the Taliban stronghold.