If the ostensible point of today's health-care summit was to negotiate some kind of bi-partisan consensus on health-care reform, and the actual purpose was for both sides to try to make themselves look good before the American people, it has failed so far on both counts. On the first, because very little negotiating is actually taking place. Instead, politicians are taking turns performing lengthy soliloquies consisting of prepared partisan talking points. And on the second, because we can't imagine many people are even watching this for any extended period of time, not when there are more entertaining things to do, like work on a spreadsheet or stare at a wall. President Obama will probably benefit just for making an effort to bring everyone to the enormous square table; that message, at least, will inevitably come through in the news coverage of the summit. There has been one great moment so far, however, when the Obama-McCain rivalry flared up just like old times.
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"We're not using Las Vegas as a bargaining chip," he said. "This is real."