Many of the things that were done well in Sunday’s U.S.. Senate debate were done poorly tonight at the Jorgensen auditorium. The outcome was not terribly different. Chris Murphy appeared able to to think on his feet — maybe not quite adroitly as he did on Sunday but still pretty good. Linda McMahon again seemed mainly to be reciting carefully memorized answers, rather than demonstrating intellectual firepower.
McMahon seemed to come alive when the questioning turned to the subject of personal attacks, which were thrust into the debate most unbecomingly by the panel. Please. We’re all tired of this crap. We’ve heard it. We’ve seen it processed. There’s nothing new to say about it. To waste that much of a precious hour in a state of cerebral reflux is a terrible shame.
While I’m on the subject, let me make another suggestion to Tribune (whose blogging platform this is): When you get a debate, try being a little more collegial. Tonight’s moderator and panel consisted of three Trib employees and a college professor, followed by a statement from the CEO. WFSB by contrast was somehow able to involve people from three other news organizations. A debate should be a public service, not a Valentine to your own corporate vertical integration. It would also be kind of nice if the debate weren’t repeatedly interrupted by negative ads from the very candidates onstage.
A final thought. Watching these debates I often feel as though everybody is in an odd state of denial about what Senators — especially rookie Senators — do. They don’t get to enact six-point plans. It’s only marginally interesting that they have six-point plans. Who cares? Those plans will be of no interest to leadership. Rookie senators get to worry away at one or two pet projects. They get to participate in caucuses. They get to decide whether to vote with their party or break from it on principle. With that in mind, Linda McMahon’s best moment tonight came when she insisted she would not vote with her party on all issues. Of course, that’s an easy thing to say. Harder to do with McConnell and a few other guys grinding you.
A final final thought. It is intellectually dishonest for anybody — Romney, McMahon, anybody — to say they want to repeal the Affordable Care Act and get rid of the mandate but continue to address preexisting conditions. It can’t be done. The people who told us it can’t be done are not named Obama nor are they part of some Socialist cabal. The people who say it can’t be done are the big insurance companies, the Market, Private Enterprise. That’s why the individual mandate arose not from Socialists but from Republicans and conservative think tanks. Ezra Klein:
The mandate made its political début in a 1989 Heritage Foundation brief titled “Assuring Affordable Health Care for All Americans,” as a counterpoint to the single-payer system and the employer mandate, which were favored in Democratic circles. In the brief, Stuart Butler, the foundation’s health-care expert, argued, “Many states now require passengers in automobiles to wear seat-belts for their own protection. Many others require anybody driving a car to have liability insurance. But neither the federal government nor any state requires all households to protect themselves from the potentially catastrophic costs of a serious accident or illness. Under the Heritage plan, there would be such a requirement.” The mandate made its first legislative appearance in 1993, in the Health Equity and Access Reform Today Act—the Republicans’ alternative to President Clinton’s health-reform bill—which was sponsored by John Chafee, of Rhode Island, and co-sponsored by eighteen Republicans, including Bob Dole, who was then the Senate Minority Leader.
The companies, since then, have essentially said: You can’t ask us to cover sick people if we don’t have a lot of healthy rate payers too. Which is reasonable! A lot of this is code for young men. Young women suck, because they get pregnant (expensive!). Older people suck, because we have a lot of prescriptions and doctor visits. Young men are the loamy bottom land of health insurance farming.
But don’t say you’re going to get rid of the mandate and still insure people with preexisting conditions. To do that, you would have to enact — wait for it — socialism.