At the intermission, the president may be wondering why he decided to host this summit. Sitting around a table, almost as an equal (albeit a particularly chatty one) with members of Congress, does not afford him the same advantages he enjoyed when giving the State of the Union address or even when standing behind the podium at the House Republican conference.
This was evident right away, when Sen. Mitch McConnell handed the floor over to Sen. Lamar Alexander for opening Republican remarks — apparently without the president’s prior knowledge or permission — and Alexander, a former governor and presidential candidate, proceeded to look the president directly in the eye, at eye-level, and politely and genially tell him how wrong he is on health-care reform before a national television audience. It’s hard to imagine Washington, Lincoln, Kennedy, or Reagan having put themselves in that position (with or without the national television part).
The president has held his own and made his points, but he seems a bit irritable (while still mostly friendly and respectful) about having been brought down to everyone else’s level, while simultaneously seeming too inclined to lecture, in what many viewers may regard as an arrogant or professorial manner.
Meanwhile, the GOP members have had the chance to make their points, rebut the president’s assertions (which it was particularly good to see them do in response to his false or partial claims about costs) and express the view, held by the vast majority of Americans, that Obamacare must go. And so far they’ve done a pretty good job of it.