Summit quickly descends into “you’re wrong!” “No you are!”

The first session, on cost containment, showed the challenges that lie ahead in the healthcare summit. Senator Lamar Alexander claimed that the Congressional Budget Office reports that the Democratic healthcare plan will lead to an increase in insurance premiums, a point that Mr Obama took issue with. This led to a testy to-and-fro between the two, as Mr Alexander interrupted the president to quote the CBO’s findings and Mr Obama suggested the Tennessee senator had read the report wrong and that the CBO had instead said that more people would be able to buy better (and therefore dearer) insurance.

“No, no, no, no. This is an example of where we’ve got to get our facts straight. Let me respond to what you just said. Because it’s not factually accurate,” Mr Obama said as the summit moved into its second hour.

The two then embarked on a “you’re wrong”, “no you’re wrong” type exchange. Maybe someone should have taken up the advice of Robert Gibbs, the White House spokesman, who suggested before the summit that elementary school desks-with-chairs might be in order.

“Maybe we’ll just. you know, [get] those little desks they give you in like elementary school that would otherwise be uncomfortable and hard to fit into might be the best way forward,” Mr Gibbs told reporters this week. “[Maybe] just sitting on the floor and figuring it all out.”

Meanwhile, the war of words turned into a battle of the technologies online. The White House wasted no time in posting a Washington Post story on the CBO on its website, as the Republican leadership posted a “factcheck” on the claim on Twitter.

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This blog is no longer updated but it remains open as an archive.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