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Tuesday, January 5, 2010

CSPAN Lays Down the Guantlet

I'll admit it. I'm a sucker for anything that smells of political theater.

The head of C-SPAN has implored Congress to open up the last leg of health care reform negotiations to the public, as top Democrats lay plans to hash out the final product among themselves.

C-SPAN CEO Brian Lamb wrote to leaders in the House and Senate Dec. 30 urging them to open "all important negotiations, including any conference committee meetings," to televised coverage on his network.

"The C-SPAN networks will commit the necessary resources to covering all of the sessions LIVE and in their entirety," he wrote.

There's that word again, political optics. The president promised exactly this in the campaign. Now, CSPAN is taking him up on the offer. This is a win win for CSPAN. If he actually agrees, their ratings go up exponentially. If he doesn't agree, their name is out there being mentioned by everyone, me included. Either way, they're on the forefront of being the stewards of openness and transparency.

As for the president, this is a lose/lose. This is becoming a relatively important story. As important as a story like this can be. So, if he doesn't take CSPAN up on its offer, he publicly rejects his own promise. If he does, you can kiss health care reform good bye.

Meanwhile, the AP is reporting that this bill won't be in the form of a traditional conference. How could it be? Traditional conferences include members of both parties. Since there are no Republicans that voted for this, they won't be a part of the discussions. Instead, the Democratic House and Senate leadership will meet with the White House and they will hammer out the deal. It will all be done behind closed doors. There's that word again, optics.

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