Heritage Foundation vice president for domestic and economic policy studies Stuart Butler attended President Barack Obama’s “Fiscal Responsibility” Summit today. He reports:

The President said he wanted the sessions to be the first step in a national conversation about how to deal with the long-term fiscal problem. If he truly intends that, this could be a good first step. Lawmakers from both parties shared their views in a respectful and courteous way, as did everyone else, and that’s progress.

He can and should build on this by undertaking what I described as an Obama Fiscal Wake-Up Tour, modeled on the bipartisan Fiscal Tour Heritage, Brookings and the Concord Coalition have conducted over the last two years.

If the President, with Democratic and Republican leaders, commits to doing this, and engages the American people in a real conversation about the options to fix the problem, this summit will have been the critical first step. If he doesn’t, it will have been a photo-op that merely adds to political cynicism.