Basketball Court Babel

Sixty-four lucky contestants vie for the health-care task force's ear

THIRTEEN HOURS. SIXTY-FOUR INVITEES. THREE-minute time limits. The gathering at a college basketball court in the capital was billed as the first formal meeting of the President's normally secretive health-care task force. A cynic might have dubbed it a grudging charade by an Administration that likes its participatory democracy in tiny slices. But none of the participants was cynic enough to turn down the access. Each spoke for three minutes and joined one of 12 panel chats with task-force members. (Hillary Rodham Clinton, their chief, was attending her father, who had suffered a stroke.)

When the babel died down, some observers...

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