Not with Iran, mind you, but with Republicans in Congress regarding health care.
The basic premise of a bipartisan, televised meeting between President Obama and the GOP to discuss health care is good — a step toward fulfilling the transparency on health-care negotiations, something Obama was for before he was against it. It might amount to nothing more than political theater, but there would be at least the chance of having a substantive discussion.
That can’t be the case, however, if the discussion is to start from the current House and Senate health-care bills.
This idea doesn’t make sense on any basis. It’s become quite clear since the Massachusetts special election that there’s no appetite among Democrats for forging ahead with the current bills. (Not to dance on his grave, but the death yesterday of Rep. John Murtha only makes the House Democrats’ numbers game harder.) The only reasons for trying to get Republicans involved in fixing the current bills are:
a) the false premise that, with a tweak here and a new wrinkle there — tweaks and wrinkles that until now have been rejected out of hand by Democrats — these 2,000-page documents can be modified to the liking of Republicans and (most important to Obama) independent voters; but these bills are far too complex, with too many interlinked and moving parts, for a sprinkling of concessions by the left to have any appreciable effect;
b) the political calculation that holding such a meeting, or even just offering to do so, will allow Democrats to flip field position and put Republicans on their heels for a change.
A more genuine offer by Obama would have been to sit down with Republicans, in a televised setting, and hear their ideas. The president would of course be free to make his own arguments — no preconditions from the other side, either — but what’s the problem with a mere discussion that starts from scratch?