Will Obama's Health Care Summit Be Political Theater or Substantive Dialogue?

What happens when you put President Obama, members of Congress and three cameras in one room -- bipartisan compromise on contentious health care legislation or pandering for the television audience?

The White House has made it clear what it hopes to achieve in today's six-hour, televised health care summit with a bipartisan group of lawmakers.

Obama said last week he wanted Republicans and Democrats to sit down and talk about health care "in a spirit of good faith."

VIDEO: Obamas Health Care Summit

"I don't want to see this meeting turn into political theater, with each side simply reciting talking points and trying to score political points," he said in his weekly address. "Instead, I ask members of both parties to seek common ground in an effort to solve a problem that's been with us for generations."

Given the differences between the two sides, and the clock ticking to get something done, is there any chance of actual progress at today's summit?

VIDEO: Tapper on Obamas Health Care Summit

Dee Dee Myers, a Democratic consultant and former Clinton White House press secretary, called the summit "a high wire act" for both Democrats and Republicans.

"The White House has a lot at stake and the Republicans are genuinely irritated," she said.

Republican strategist and former Bush White House spokesman Tony Fratto said the Democrats don't have a great spokesman other than Obama, which puts the president in a "weird position" going into the health care summit, serving as both advocate and arbitrator.

"He's got his own bill, he's the leader of the party, he supports the Democrat proposals that came out of Congress -- but yet the way they've structured the meeting, he is theoretically an arbitrator," Fratto said. "The president isn't sitting down as an impartial actor here. He's got a very clear position that he's been advocating for some time."

"This is a time for him to be the president of the United States and not the leader of the Democratic Party," Democratic strategist Steve McMahon said of Obama.

The Strategy for Both Democrats and Republicans? Show Willingness to Compromise

Republican strategist and former Bush White House Press secretary Dana Perino called the summit "preposterous."

"We all know what this is really for: [The Democrats] basically said this was to try and show the Republicans to be the 'party of no,'" Perino said. "I think they've been the party of 'no bad policy,' the 'Party of K-N-O-W' -- know what's in this bill."

The summit could play out like a high-stakes chess match with each side carefully pondering its next move and statement in order to maximize positions and negotiating power.

McMahon said Obama has "nothing to lose" by sitting down and reaching out to Republicans, even if it means risking friction within his own party.

"He's already all in," the Democratic strategist said of the president. "This is something that he's going to wear for the rest of his presidency whether it goes well or doesn't go well."

Myers said Obama wins "if he looks reasonable and smart" -- so the Republicans have to try and "force an error."

But how do the Republicans shake Obama off his game given his reputation as Mr. Cool-as-a-Cucumber?

"They want to show him as uncompromising, not really interested in bipartisanship and determined to go ahead with a bad bill," Myers said of the Republicans. "They want to make [going forward] politically unpalatable and impossible for Democrats."

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