In international diplomacy, there are two kinds of summit meetings: those that are for show, in situations when it's considered an accomplishment just to have leaders of opposing sides sitting in the same room, and those that seal meaningful agreements negotiated in advance of the actual meeting.

In international diplomacy, there are two kinds of summit meetings: those that are for show, in situations when it's considered an accomplishment just to have leaders of opposing sides sitting in the same room, and those that seal meaningful agreements negotiated in advance of the actual meeting.


From all indications, today's health care summit between Republicans and Democrats in Washington falls into the former category. We've seen no serious negotiations in advance of the summit, no movement toward reconciling differences or moving in the debate in more positive directions.


Instead, we've seen posturing on both sides, a sure sign that today's meeting is dedicated to political spin, not problem-solving.


The Republicans' demand that President Obama and Congress start all over on health care reform would be disingenuous if it weren't so calculated. For the past year, Congress has held meetings, hearings, debates and votes. Just because Republicans came out on the losing side of most of those votes is no reason to nullify them.


Equally disingenuous is the allegation that "the American people" are against health reform, a point that doesn't get more true with repetition. In the first place, there's been so much disinformation spread about this legislation that we doubt many voters know what's really in it. Indeed, when pollsters ask about its specific provisions, most respondents say they are in favor. Second, when a politician cites a poll to support his side of an argument, the best response is, "so what?" If the polls showed 58 percent in favor of Obama's bill instead of 58 percent opposed, would Republicans cast aside their objections and vote for it? Of course not, nor should they. Officials were elected to lead, not blindly follow dubious polls.


We can imagine a productive, bipartisan approach to health care. Several Republicans have proposed reforms to the fee-for-services system and other cost containment measures we wish were stronger in the current bills. We'd be happy to see malpractice reform and some expansion of health insurance competition across state lines.


But Republican leaders have made it clear they'll oppose health reform, no matter what concessions Democrats make. So let's cut to the chase. The bill the president has proposed is moderate and sound. It is an excellent first step toward a more efficient, more fair health care system.


For all the partisan complaints about "backroom deals," this legislation has been debated longer and more publicly than any bill in memory. A year ago, Obama invited leaders of both parties to a televised health care forum at the White House. Now he's done it again, mostly for show. That should be enough.


We've had enough health care talk. Using whatever parliamentary maneuvers are required, Democrats should use their majority to get health care reform enacted. They'll find that it's easier to defend this law, whatever its imperfections, than it would be to defend a failure to address this long-festering problem.


The MetroWest Daily News