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Health summit a 'stunt' and 'spectacle,' analysts say

By Ed Hornick, CNN
  • Democrats and Republicans hold health care summit on Thursday
  • Analysts say it's political theater and a public relations move
  • Parties "aren't going to find it in a few hours in front of cameras," Senate watcher says

Washington (CNN) -- Heated partisan exchanges and in-depth policy discussions at the bipartisan health care summit on Thursday are unlikely to sway both parties in finding common ground, analysts said as the summit was going on.

One said the summit makes an argument against televising hearings. Another said it will reinforce doubts about whether Washington can resolve the health care impasse.

"I think it's reasonable to expect that an exchange like this is not going to change the public's skepticism about the way Washington works," said Michael Murakami, a visiting professor of government at Georgetown University.

Murakami added that the summit is a "big PR stunt" where "nothing is going to be decided."

"This is just the two sides putting their view in front of the media so they can try and rally their support as the legislative battle begins."

Presidential historian Douglas Brinkley said the summit "wasn't much more than a TV spectacle."

"Only the infirm or unemployed could have possibly sat home and watched it all," said Brinkley, a professor of history at Rice University. "Instead, what everybody will see tonight on news broadcasts are the sparks of tension between [President] Obama and [Sen. John] McCain. It's like the 2008 election never ended."

Video: Bipartisan compromise?
Video: 'Change direction' on costs
Video: McCain, Obama exchange words
Video: Summit antics

At one point during the meeting at Blair House in Washington, McCain, R-Arizona, slammed special deals inserted in the Senate health care bill, saying those should be removed so the American people will know "that geography does not dictate what kind of health care they will receive."

Obama shot back, "Let me just make this point, John, because we're not campaigning anymore. The election is over." McCain responded: "I'm reminded of that every day."

During another exchange, Obama called out House Minority Whip Eric Cantor for bringing "props" to the summit. Cantor had a large stack of papers and legislation in front of him.

Murakami said he'd be very surprised if any real compromise on key sticking points came out of the summit.

"If President Obama or Republicans make some kind of concession as the result of this, I think observers would be surprised."

Dan Friedman, who covers the Senate for National Journal's CongressDaily, noted that if Democrats and Republicans couldn't find compromise in months of debate, "they aren't going to find it in a few hours in front of cameras."

Friedman said that while some minor compromises could come out of the summit, significant sticking points -- such as costs -- are unlikely to be fixed. But he said it is too soon to tell what will come of the talks.

The talks, Friedman added, are mostly political theater, but "that itself is not a bad thing."

"Senate floor action is political theater. Political theater happens because it affects politics."

Recent polls, meanwhile, suggest Americans are angry at the partisan fights in Congress and the lack of compromise.

Two-thirds of those polled think the Republicans in Congress are not doing enough to cooperate with Obama, according to a CNN/Opinion Research Corp. survey released Wednesday.

The majority of those polled said the Democrats should take the first step toward bipartisan cooperation and they want the Democrats to give up more than the GOP to reach consensus.

Read more on the poll

The poll's sampling error is plus or minus 3 percentage points.

According to a CNN/Opinion Research Corp. poll released Sunday, 86 percent felt that government is broken, with 14 percent saying it isn't. Of that 86 percent, 81 percent say the government can be fixed, with 5 percent saying it's beyond repair.

Sunday's poll had a sampling error of plus or minus 3 percentage points for the overall survey.

In terms of changing the broken government perception through the summit?

"People looking for 'business as usual' will see it as that probably. For those paying attention [to the summit], it's a great illustration about why closed door meetings are necessary," Friedman said.