It is the classic paradox: What happens when an irresistible force meets an immovable object? Today President Barack Obama hopes to be that irresistible force when he meets with Republicans in a unique and politically charged health care summit.
Good luck, Mr. President.
So far his efforts and those of fellow Democrats have been resisted by the immovable force of united Republican opposition. Sadly, the chance of anything changing today seems remote.
In advance of today's televised meeting, the White House put out a revised health care plan that was meant to answer some of the objections made by Republicans and others. The new Obama plan still has no public option, but it does allow the federal government to regulate the health insurance industry in the manner of utilities. It also eliminates the odious Medicaid deal for Nebraska that made passage possible for the Senate bill, the template for the revised effort.
The immediate reaction to the new plan gave a strong indication of what we are likely to see today. House Republican Leader John Boehner of Ohio said that "the president has crippled the credibility of this week's summit by proposing the same massive government takeover of health care based on a partisan bill the American people have already rejected."
Actually, the American people have rejected nothing. A little over a year ago Mr. Obama won a huge election victory in which health care reform was a big part. The only thing that has happened since is the Democrats lost their filibuster-proof majority in the Senate. Poll results on health care reform have been mixed, but they do show public support for doing something.
Failure is not an option. If nothing is done, millions of Americans will remain without insurance and some will die for lack of it, the cost of coverage with bottom line-focused insurers will continue its steady rise and businesses large and small will stagger under the weight of health care costs.
Today's summit will feature political posturing on both sides, but that might be clarifying. Republicans are in a tricky position. They are not for compromise -- how could they be when they have so demonized the issue? -- but in dropping the pretense of compromise they free Democrats to press ahead in their own way.