There are many reasons to be curious about what happens at the HCR summit Thursday at Blair House. Speculation about who wins, who loses and ways to score the event like a sports event flood the zone. Some of this speculation might be correct–most will be wrong.
What is new here is the dynamic of the long meeting. This kind of thing is almost never televised and when it is, it is almost never interesting. I expect the meeting on Thursday will be a surprise.
I work at a nonprofit. I’ve been in lots and lots of very long meeting over the years on contentious issues involving a number of stakeholders. These events can fail or succeed and often the key is who runs the meeting and how they do it. A good meeting facilitator can move attendees at a meeting in directions that they did not think of (or would even endorse) before the start of the event. A good facilitator knows where he or she wants to go and how to bring along the group–even if the group is at each other’s throats.
From all the reports I’ve read, President Obama is a master meeting facilitator. This is, after all, the most important skill of a community organizer. The reports of his meetings leading up to his decisions about his Af-Pac strategy underscored this skill.
Regardless of the goals of Republicans and Democrats coming into the meeting, I think we will see something different. We’ll see a well run meeting where issues are explored, voices are heard, assumptions are challenged, consensus made where possible and a way forward at the end. It will be a way forward that not everybody will agree with, but it will be clear how that became the chosen way forward from the majority of those at the meeting.
I think this has the potential to be a very unusual event much as the Q&A time with the House Republicans was an unusual and refreshing event. I do not think that most of the folks in the room or the media covering it are used to or have the attention span to deal with a six hour (or more) meeting. They will get bored quickly. They will seek a fast way to the nearest soundbite, but they will have to wait. I think this meeting will be more than political theatre. I think it is a way to put a spotlight on how grown-ups should work out their differences. Too bad that a quick scan of the list of attendees shows that mostly toddlers will be attending and covering the event.
It should be interesting to watch.
and yes, this is an open thread