Last week’s summit on health care proved to be considerably more show than substance.

And that’s to be expected. The name of the game in Washington is angling for advantage. The notion of hammering out differences in order to benefit the American people is so quaint that it’s laughable.

Sadly, Washington has devolved into perpetual campaign mode.

The broadcast summit, created and led by President Obama, was little more than a blip on the path. Participants were obliged to be on their best behavior, knowing there was an audience more diverse and more serious than the ones Republicans and Democrats typically pander to.

The White House is expected to unveil new health care proposals today that are officially designed to address some GOP concerns. They won’t. And they won’t because most members of Congress have no interest in compromise.

The Republican line is that the party is all for some reform of the health care system, albeit as a sort of nibbling around the edges — far more modest than the proposals put forth by Democrats. The GOP complains about the high cost of the Democratic plan, while making the argument that it represents socialized medicine.

Then these same Republican politicians sound the alarm over what they see as Democratic attacks on the government-run Medicare program. Go figure.

Meanwhile, now that Democrats no longer have a filibuster-proof majority in the Senate, the party is threatening to maneuver health care reform through Congress via a majority vote in the two chambers.

But it’s not clear at this point if that tactic — even if it could work — would produce results. Democrats remain divided over specifics. And with public opinion polls showing substantial skepticism (and confusion) regarding health care reform, many lawmakers in the party are worried that any action will be used against them in the fall.

And that brings up a key shortcoming in Washington — a distinct lack of courage. We don’t mean the courage to push a mindlessly ideological agenda. Rather, we mean the courage to work to hammer out agreements in bipartisan fashion, even though such acts anger the special interests on both sides.

With most Republicans and Democrats beholden to special interests — as opposed to the general interest — there is a great demand for powerful and moderate voices in Washington. But the dwindling population of centrists shows no more courage than other Beltway politicians.

Discussing the details of health care reform at this stage strikes us as pointless. Nothing much will happen on an issue this significant without bipartisan efforts. There’s no danger of that happening.

And because of the way things are now geared in Washington, it never will.

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