In 1949 Ezio Pinza, one of the world's most famous basso Italian opera singers, joined Mary Martin on a Broadway stage to make theater history when they opened South Pacific. Based on a book by James Michener, "Tales of the South Pacific," it dealt with love and racial discrimination in a way that had not been portrayed publicly before. A revival is playing in Lincoln Center right now. I went as a young kid to see the original in the early 1950's and I have always thought nobody could sing "Some Enchanted Evening" better than Ezio Pinza. But the version at Lincoln Center is superb. The show has lost none of its magic. Mary Martin was a superstar of stage and later film, but is perhaps better known as the mother of Larry Hagman of the TV show "Dallas."
Some more theater is being cooked up for this Thursday when President Obama doubles his bet on health care with a televised summit between reluctant Democrats and obstructionist Republicans. The Democrats are reluctant since there have been significant election defeats in New Jersey, Virginia, and Massachusetts, and a number of possible candidates for office have dropped out — Bayh of Indiana, Biden in Delaware.
For the first time the President has laid out his own health plan, and although it looks like the Senate version, he has taken ownership of it.
He also is throwing down the gauntlet of the prospect of using an aggressive parliamentary move called reconciliation.
Essentially it is a process that will allow debate on only budgetary items (no mandates, for example) and needs only a simple majority to pass. A number of centrist Democrats are worried they will face voter wrath with this bill.
The New York Times opined Monday that the Republicans will be forced to put a counterproposal on the table and not just say no to the President's plan. If a plan is offered, it can be compared and contrasted to the President's. With no plan, the Republicans will appear, says the Times, "as obstructionist and not serious about addressing an issue of great concern to the voters." Therein lies the drama, the theater, and the bet that, says the Financial Times of London, "All but stakes the future of Mr. Obama's presidency." I take no sides in the contest but ask the question — Is this a concern of the voters? The recent elections would tell us no and the voters are concerned with jobs, jobs, jobs, and the deficit.
The GOP is convinced the plan is a loser in the heart of the electorate, too expensive, and they are sure they can make the plan appear to be a government takeover of health care. "This is a very high stakes game of poker" says Henry Aaron (no, not that Henry Aaron) of the Brookings Institute. He feels if Mr. Obama can pass what is a "pretty good bill, then he will reboot his presidency. If he fails, then his presidency may never recover." One man's opinion, but dramatic.
This all assumes the votes are still there in the House. The original House version passed by a very slim 220-215. Since then Speaker Pelosi has lost three votes publicly, including the only Republican to have voted aye, Ahn "Joseph" Cao from New Orleans. He is the first Vietnamese-American to be elected to the House and a former Jesuit missionary- interesting guy. Is this really a good bet for the President to make?
The show is Thursday. Matinées are only on Wednesdays. Too bad. I could have gone to see South Pacific again, but now I will feel forced to watch the political circus. Maybe I'll put the soundtrack on and listen to Ezio.
Vincent Farrell, Jr. is chief investment officer at Soleil Securities Group and a regular contributor to CNBC.