President Obama’s willingness to reach out “across the aisle” has been a recurring theme throughout the first year of his presidency and shows no signs of stopping. With efforts to reform health care coverage at risk of falling apart completely, he is returning to this bread and butter tactic, taking his message to Republicans and to the American people at the same time.
In an effort to push for more transparency in the process, the White House is hammering the message home that Republicans need to develop their own plans for health care reforms, not just complain about the Democratic ones in existence–in other words, be a part of the solution.
In January the President had an unscripted “conversation” with Republicans during their annual retreat. At that event, Republicans handed him a stack of their policy proposals. Of that event, the Los Angeles Times wrote:
“The event was notable for its departure from the norms of the American political process, resembling more the British tradition of a leader taking fire from members of the opposition party — and for the fact that it was broadcast nationally. Like the audience on a daytime talk show, the GOP members held microphones and questioned Obama. The president answered from behind a podium, his image displayed on large TV screens. The exchange went for 90 minutes — longer than scheduled.”
Obama specializes in these kinds of public forums, no matter who the immediate audience in the room is. He won the presidency in large part because he was able to speak directly to the public and motivate them into action, and when the bureaucracy of Congressional negotiations puts the brakes on his initiatives, Obama will return to those tactics in an effort to get things moving again.
Later this week the President will host yet another summit with Republicans on health care reform. The event will also be broadcast live on C-SPAN to give the public an opportunity to tune in and understand the debate for themselves. Time will only tell if this method moves the needle for the Democrats, or if the President will have to find a new tactic to reach his political goals.