Half-time

After three hours of testy exchanges, it’s time for bickering Republicans and Democrats to take a lunch break. Your correspondent’s efforts to find out what would be on the lunch buffet led to nothing – apparently that’s classified – but we can probably assume there won’t be any high fructose corn syrup of transfats. Although the lawmakers do have the insurance to deal with it.Anyone who has been watching this morning, and who still clung to a glimmer of hope that there would be progress, must surely be feeling dejected now. The “gaps” that the president referred to at the outset have become chasms, and the chief characteristic of the discussion has been disagreement. First Lamar Alexander of Tennessee, then Eric Cantor of Virginia, became embroiled in back-and-forths with the president that only served to show how elusive agreement remains.

Mr Obama at one stage, looking rather peeved, even reminded John McCain, his Republican rival for the presidency, that “the campaign is over.”

They even squabbled about how much time each speaker had been given, with Republicans putting out a press statement saying that Democrats had taken up twice as much airtime as the GOP.

Mr Obama campaigned on a promise of transparency and came under fire in the last few months for not sticking to his campaign promise that healthcare negotiations would be broadcast live on C-Span. Republicans, for their part, had been attacking the “backroom deals” and urged for televised coverage too.Both sides must be rethinking that strategy today. If the American public was already turned off by the sausage-factory nature of making healthcare legislation, they must surely be unimpressed today that their elected officials remained so wedded to their talking points on Thursday.

Clive Crook’s blog

This blog is no longer updated but it remains open as an archive.

I have been the FT's Washington columnist since April 2007. I moved from Britain to the US in 2005 to write for the Atlantic Monthly and the National Journal after 20 years working at the Economist, most recently as deputy editor. I write mainly about the intersection of politics and economics.

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