‘Top Line’ — How Should Republicans Handle Health Care Summit?

By Matt Loffman

Feb 22, 2010 3:17pm

ABC News’ Rick Klein reports: Thursday's health care summit has been framed by the White House as a challenge to Republicans — a chance for them to demonstrate that they’re more than the "party of no." But — now that it’s clear that Republican members of Congress are very likely to attend the all-day session — how should they handle it? Should the GOP coalesce around its own proposal, to be pro-active about offering ideas? Agree to at least something Democrats are talking about? Turn to a high-profile spokesman or two to lead the discussions, to help even the playing field with the president? Or use the forum to explain to the public why Republicans in Congress are almost unanimously opposed to the Democratic health care plans? We put that question out at our “Top Line” question of the day today on Twitter.  Wrote @Thetonylee: ”offer up one issue (a tort reform aspect, anti-waste/fraud commission) and insist on POTUS adopting one issue.” Responded @Iheal: “Consensus is to show up, armed with free-market solutions. From there, opinions diverge.” We chatted with Matt Lewis, a conservative reporters and commentator for Politics Daily, on ABC’s “Top Line” today. Lewis said he thinks the president made a mistake by putting out his plan in advance of the summit: It “allows Republicans to go into this debate saying he’s not serious about real bipartisan negotiations,” he said. “So I think that was a tactical error.” As for how Republicans handle the Thursday forum, he’s recommending a streamlined approach: “First of all it’s questionable as to whether or not they should even do this because you know, Sun Tzu in the “Art of War” said most battles are won before they’re fought, and he who picks the terrain wins the battle. Going to Blair House, that’s President Obama’s milieu — he’s going to control it, he’s very charismatic,” Lewis said. “This is an away game for Republicans.”  Since Republicans have decided to attend, he said: “It would be a mistake to go in there overly aggressive and sort of yell, ‘You lie!’ … But by the same token body language is going to matter. I would recommend putting forward really three leaders. [GOP Representatives] Paul Ryan from Wisconsin, Mike Pence [of Indiana] and maybe Eric Cantor [of Virginia]. I think those are young, bright, articulate spokesmen, and let them sort of be the ones who talk. I think — you know, you don’t want Republican back-benchers to get in there and muddy the waters.” Watch the “Top Line” segment with Matt Lewis HERE.

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