Scan through my posts throughout the special US Senate election and you’ll see that I was never a big fan of US Senator Scott Brown. Didn’t like his superficial campaign, didn’t buy into his sound bites, didn’t think he had a game plan…so yeah, not my favorite guy.
Posts Tagged ‘health care debate’
Wednesday, March 24th, 2010
Tuesday, October 27th, 2009
If you missed Monday night’s debate among the four Democratic candidates for US Senate, go here to check it out, then come on back.
I know they called it a debate, but the candidates, you may have noticed, never really engaged one another, except to toss the occasional mild jab — which brings me to my major observation: no one went after Martha Coakley.
Every poll I’ve seen to date has Coakley well in the lead among the four Dems, and many pundits expected the three guys to gang up on the theoretical front-runner to A) take her down a peg or two and B) build some much-needed cred for themselves, yet she escaped unscathed. I wonder if the men were hesitant to attack en masse the sole female on the roster and look like bullies — a very real concern, sadly; gender-based double standards make politics an even trickier minefield than it already is. For the guys in this situation, it was something of a lose-lose scenario: attack Coakley and risk looking like jerks, or avoid her and hope she hangs herself with her own rope.
…which she didn’t; Coakley presented herself very well in general. She was businesslike, perhaps to a fault (she was a titch wooden), mostly stayed on-topic and answered the questions as they were asked, if not necessarily directly (a fault shared by all), and parlayed her work as AG into a viable foundation for a Senate stint.
Alan Khazei often looked and sounded like he was reading off a teleprompter, or reciting carefully memorized campaign position papers. And he did not do well on his feet, as evidenced by his response to the question about how he’d respond to the possibility of military base closures (something the late Ted Kennedy successfully fought off, as evidenced by the MMR’s continued operations here on the Cape). Khazei partially answered the question, then went off on a lengthy tangent about economic and job policy.
Khazei also had a problem with speaking efficiently. He tended to over-talk his points, a sign that he had little to say, so he filled the space by repeating, with increasing emphasis, what little he did have. And we all know how well that worked out for Sarah Palin…
His most telling moment was at the end of the debate, when he challenged his opponents to weekly televised gab sessions. This is a secret code, you know. Translated, it means: “You guys are kicking my can all over the place because you’re all getting more exposure. Since I don’t have the deep pockets you guys have, let me veil my attempt to increase my face time on TV behind a seemingly noble intent to educate the voters.”
Good hustle, Alan, but I have yet to see anyone bite at that one.
Congressman Mike Capuano pushed his Congressional experience hard, which was wise because that is his greatest strength; he knows the system far better than his rivals, he has the connections that are crucial if you want to get stuff done, and he could hit the ground running. Yet that is also perhaps his greatest weakness: he’s part of a system that has been in low gear for many, many months…why should anyone believe he can affect more positive results as a Senator than as a Congressman?
On an aside: Capuano should stop throwing out that “working class joe” angle. For any established politician, especially at the federal level, to claim he’s just like one of us is disingenuous at best, insulting at worst. Read about his financial status here and tell me if he’s really “like us.” Just because you live in Somerville (official city motto: “Wickid Pissah!”), it doesn’t automatically make you Joe Six-Pack, bubbi.
Steve Pagliuca played the outsider card to mixed effect. Considering how lackluster Congress has been as of late, some fresh blood is definitely desirable and attractive to an increasingly frustrated voting public. However, Pagliuca showed his naivete (not optimism: naivete) by expecting he would somehow be able to enter the US Senate and magically turn things around. I would love to see a Mr. Smith Goes To Washington thing, but reality can be a cruel, cold splash of unwelcome reality, can’t it?
Both Khazei and Pagliuca also fell back on one of the hoary old cliches of fresh-faced “outsider” candidates: the ardent refusal to accept special interest money. Right, like anyone will admit to that? Guys, EVERYONE accepts some form of special interest money sooner or later. You would too. Don’t fool yourselves and don’t try fooling us.
I was gratified to see none of the four went bonkers painting themselves as the Second Coming of Ted. Capuano was by default the worst offender here, invoking the Kennedy name several times over the night, but never to what I would call excessively. So: no egregious grave-robbing here (although all four readily admitted that they didn’t wait for Kennedy’s seat to get cold before deciding to run).
I’m not about to opine about the candidates’ respective stances on the various issues because, to be honest, I’m still learning their positions myself, but I have to say that only once during the night did I go, “Aha! Candidate Johnson is right!” and that’s when Capuano remarked, on the topic of whether it’s better to save certain jobs (police, fire, teachers) or create new ones, that a saved job is just as vital to overall economic health as a new job.
There was little difference in their opinions on how to tackle issues such as economic stimulus, foreign affairs, and immigration reform, and in typical politician fashion they all showed a knack for delivering non-answers that sounded like answers to the untrained ear (in such cases, it’s what they’re not saying that tells the tale more than what they are saying).
Khazei distinguished himself a little by being the only one to address (and oppose) the prospect of expanded casino gaming in Massachusetts — was this really a pressing issue in the Senate race? — and Capuano broke out of the pack on the health care reform/public option issue. He carried the Kennedy torch on that one and, somewhat contemptuously, said Republican support was unnecessary to carry a health care reform bill (way to reach across the aisle Kennedy-style, dude). He disagreed with US Senator Harry Reid’s idea of giving states the choice to opt out of a government-run public option, Reid’s concession (one among many) to leverage greater support in Congress for health care reform.
So, who “won” this non-debate? According to the Coakley, Capuano, and Pagliuca camps, their respective candidates did. Each of them sent me e-mails touting their alleged wins: Capuano’s people said he proved that he was “by far the most qualified and best prepared” of the candidates; Coakley’s team said she was “the clear winner”; and Pagliuca’s mouthpieces, writing as Pags (I’m pretty sure he didn’t actually write it himself), said he was the only one who had a definite game plan for turning the economy around.
Me? I think Coakley and Capuano were the de facto winners, but more by dint of the fact the other guys were rather weak than because of their own dazzling oratories and muscular stances on the hot issues. The true test of all four candidates would have been a true debate, a head-to-head-to-head-to-head discussion amongst themselves instead of them standing at lecterns and reciting their carefully prepared rhetoric to the cameras.
We still have more than a month with the Fab Four before the December primary, so here’s to hoping that their next get-together will be more than, as WHDH-TV’s Andy Hiller so astutely put it, four simultaneous hour-long press conferences.
Thursday, September 10th, 2009
Earlier this week I read an article entitled 50 Things That Are Being Killed By The Internet. Number one on the list: the art of polite disagreement. It said:
While the inane spats of YouTube commenters may not be representative, the internet has certainly sharpened the tone of debate. The most raucous sections of the blogworld seem incapable of accepting sincerely held differences of opinion; all opponents must have “agendas”.
It seems this entry was tailor-made for the current atmosphere in which we discuss health care reform…or, as it’s more commonly known, Screaming Sound Bites At Elected Officials Without Ever Asking A Question Or Presenting Facts Or Letting The Guy Respond BECAUSE HE’S A SOCIALIST!
Yes, recent town hall-style meetings have been a real low point in the history of intelligent discourse, but as ridiculous as some of those forums got, even with the Hitler-mustachioed Obama pics, I think on some level we must have not only penetrated the bottom of the barrel, we started digging to China when Congressman Joe Wilson of South Carolina last night shouted out “You lie!” at Barack Obama during his address to Congress.
(Dunno about you, o readers, but I thought Nancy Pelosi was going to unleash the full fury of her heat vision on the dude.)
I’m already hearing the argument: he was exercising his right to free speech. True enough, but as I like to say, having the right to say whatever you want does not mean you have to say it…and it certainly doesn’t obligate you to act like a total arse when speaking.
I’m very relieved that instead of following his lead or trying to defend Wilson (as I’m sure some of the more whackadoo conservative commentators will — Glenn Beck, lookin’ at you), the GOP has roundly decried his behavior as unacceptable.
Wilson has since apologized and is now saying emotions got the better of him, and that he really wants to have a civilized conversation about this thorny matter. Oh, NOW he wants to be civilized…
I truly hopes this marks the official end of our modern Age Of Belligerence, but I’m somehow skeptical.
Y’know, I think I had a better point to make in this post, but I’m functioning on about two hours of sleep so I’ll just count myself lucky that this diatribe even vaguely resembles a coherent thought.
Saturday, September 5th, 2009
As I’ve heard and become involved in debates over health care (see my previous post) I’ve noticed that some opponents take an interesting tack in stating their opposition to any kind of government-run health care program.
You mention the public option and their take is that the government will royally screw up such a system. America already has the greatest health care system in the world, they’ll say, so why fix it if it ain’t broke?
Well, first of all, if there are people in this country who cannot receive basic health care because they cannot afford to pay for it, it’s not the greatest. And if the private companies are refusing to provide coverage to those who can afford it (even with the assistance of their employer) because of a pre-existing condition, it’s not the greatest. And if the companies refuse to pay for a procedure because it’s “unnecessary” despite the recommendation of a doctor — the person who is ostensibly the best judge of such things — it’s not the greatest. I could go on, but you get the point.
But to my main beef. Many reform foes will neatly contradict themselves in their arguments, claiming America is already A-number-one in the health care department and doesn’t need a government-run program. Yet you point out that we already have such programs in the form of Medicaid and Medicare, and that the health care program for American military personnel is government run, those programs suddenly become exceptions to the rule. Those things? Aw, they suck and are proof positive that Uncle Sam would make a poor Dr. Sam.
Yet, did not Bill Kristol of The Weekly Standard recent say that Medicare and the military health care systems were in fact top-of-the-line? He did, in a discussion with Jon Stewart on The Daily Show. Yet he could not reconcile that statement with his belief that a government-run system for the general public would be a mess.
And I might remind the GOP opposition in particular, our own former governor Mitt Romney wholeheartedly approved of a state government-administered health care system in Commonwealth Care? And so far Mitt has yet to completely reverse his stance there (so far, but give him time).
What I’m saying, health care opponents: let’s have a little consistency.
Thursday, September 3rd, 2009
I recently became embroiled in a war of words with a guy on Facebook. I know, I feel a little dumb too.
It came about because a friend of mine (a real one, not a “Facebook friend”) posted something about the health care reform debate. A friend of hers (a “Facebook friend,” which means she in fact barely knows the person to whom he’s responding) responded in what I would describe as an unnecessarily belligerent manner. He wasn’t out to start a lively but civil debate or offer a contrasting opinion. He was just out to be a jerk.
You know the kind of kid who, in school, responds to everything other students say with mockery or derision because he cannot differentiate between “good” attention and “bad” attention? You know the kind of person who goes to a concert for a band he knows he doesn’t like for the express purpose of heckling them? You know the kind of person who yells “FIRE!” in a crowded building for the sole purpose of creating chaos then excuses his behavior by claiming he has the Constitutional right to free speech? That’s the kind of person this guy is.
The “discussion” degenerated quickly. He threw out patronizing cracks and accusations of socialism (which has become the modern-day equivalent of “Commie”). When I didn’t back down he apparently went and checked out my profile so he could make some more personal (yet still quite superficial) attacks. He resorted to ad hominem strategies (wherein one of the parties attempts to devalue his opponent’s information by claiming fault with the speaker or source of information; the information itself is not directly challenged or disputed). Y’know: the usual.
Then he hit rock bottom: he whipped out a Nazi reference (Josef Mengele, specifically).
Did I mention my friend is Jewish? Kind of important to the story, really.
Which brings me to my point. During this debate, a lot of people have alluded to Hitler and the Nazi regime. Let us recall that woman who showed up to a hearing with Barney Frank (a Jew) with a poster of a Hitlerized Obama. The allusions have been flying pretty freely, I’d say far too freely.
Unless the individual on the receiving end of such an accusation is directly or indirectly complicit in the murder of six million human beings, resorting to a Nazi comparison means you automatically lose the debate. It shows that you have exhausted all rational fact-based avenues of argument (if you had any to begin with) and are now so desperate you have to reach out to push one of the hottest of hot buttons to provoke a visceral emotional response and demonize your opponent/garner cheap sympathy for your point of view.
Saturday, August 29th, 2009
I went on a drug bust Tuesday. I got ride along with local police as they stormed a suspected drug house and executed a search warrant. It was pretty cool, and the neighbors were digging it. It meant a lot to those residents who lived near the house and wanted it gone, and that the police were cracking down aggressively on this sort of activity I think is a positive message to send.
I was the only reporter there. Another media outlet, who shall go unnamed, was also invited, but they couldn’t spare anyone. Why? Because so many of their people were on the Vineyard covering Obama’s vacation.
This is why community newspapers (especially those not owned by a corporation) are holding their own while large papers and the corporate products are suffering: community newspapers aren’t wasting their resources on stories that, to state it bluntly, don’t matter. Honestly, what would you rather read about: an effort to clean up a suspected drug house — that, for all you know may be the house right next door — or what Obama is reading and who he’s playing golf with?
As we say farewell to US Senator Ted Kennedy, let’s have a very brief second of mourning for all those people who will no longer be able to argue against anything the man said or did by dredging up the memories of Chappaquiddick.
KENNEDY: I want to reform the health care system.
PUTZ: You know who would have liked health care? Mary Jo Kopechne!
KENNEDY: I want to bridge the gap between the rich and the poor.
PUTZ: You haven’t had very good luck with bridges in your life, Ted!
KENNEDY: I support Barack Obama for President.
PUTZ: How about you, um, support…uh…err…CHAPPAQUIDDICK!
So pity these poor wags who will no longer be able to efficiently and completely devalue someone’s thoughts, feelings, and achievements by invoking a person’s worst mistake. They may have to put some actual thought into their rebuttals from now on.
On another Kennedy-related note: I’m still not convinced that we need to grant the governor the authority to appoint an interim senator until we can hold a special election in January. Kennedy said Massachusetts needed a continuity of representation (particularly since a vote on health care reform could come up before January), but we’ve had two recent periods when we were effectively absent one Senator: during the past six months or so, when Kennedy missed almost all the Senate votes because of his health issues; and during US Senator John Kerry’s Presidential campaign.
We changed the rules on how to fill a Senate vacancy once before — during Kerry’s Presidential run — to accommodate the situation at hand. Now our Legislature is asking us to do it again. It needs to stop. Kennedy himself once said that you don’t change the rules halfway through the game.
Speaking of health care: one of the most well-stated (in somewhat over-simplified) arguments for single-payer health care I’ve ever heard is right here.
By the way, everyone who is railing against the health care proposal currently being so violently opposed by some voters: go to Factcheck.org to see how many of those claims are complete crap (hint: 10 out of 26 claims come up as at least partly true, and all that stuff about “death panels”? Complete lies. What a shock).
Saturday, August 22nd, 2009
Next week I’ll be giving our local legislators a call to get their thoughts on US Senator Ted Kennedy’s request to the Legislature regarding the possible need to fill his seat should, God forbid, it become vacant due to his ongoing health problems.
In July he sent a letter to Governor Deval Patrick, Senate President Therese Murray, and House Speaker Robert DeLeo asking them to amend state law to allow Patrick to appoint an “interim senator” until a special election could be held to fill the seat semi-permanently (until the next time Kennedy’s seat was up for grabs, which is 2012). Kennedy noted that there is a lot happening in Congress right now — most notably work on health care reform, a topic near and dear to the Senator for many reasons — and Massachusetts needed to maintain a continuity of representation.
Seems reasonable enough, but when you consider that the law was already changed once in the recent past, for reasons one could argue were transparently political, it takes on a whiff of B.S.
In 2004, when US Senator John Kerry was running for President, the Democrat-dominated Legislature pushed through a change to state law that stripped the governor (Mitt Romney at the time) of the authority to appoint a full replacement. They feared that, should Kerry leave the Senate, Romney would appoint a Republican successor. He certainly would have, so the Legislature blocked Romney’s ability to indulge party loyalty by amending the law. They avoided, at least on the surface, the perception that they were also playing at party politics by calling for special elections. That put the choice in the voters’ hands.
Now, Kennedy wants to partially reinstate the governor’s former authority over the matter, and again, the pitch is made in such a way as to present the illusion that it’s all in the name of fairness. By giving the (not so coincidentally Democratic) governor the power to appoint a temporary successor, that leaves the core of the law intact; voters still get to choose who would take over for Kennedy, but in the interim have full representation in Congress. Win-win, yes?
Except that whoever is appointed to that vacancy would ostensibly be someone who wants to hold the seat permanently, and in grabbing the post on an interim basis, that person gains an instant boost to their special election campaign — especially if they are lucky enough to participate in a crucial vote that reaps major benefits for Massachusetts voters.
(EDIT: This is, of course assuming that the governor honors Kennedy’s request to get from the appointee a commitment not to run as a candidate in the special election — a request that is Constitutionally dicey, I must add.)
If the Legislature adopts Kennedy’s requested change, it would be the second time in five years state lawmakers subtly stacked the deck in favor of maintaining a Democratic monopoly in our Congressional delegation.
Enough, people. You gave voters total control over who represents us at the federal level, so leave it there.
Wednesday, August 19th, 2009
I’m not really the biggest Barney Frank fan in the world, but the Congressman scored a lot of points with me at last night’s town hall meeting in Dartmouth to discuss health care.
The debates to date have not exactly been heady intellectual fare, but it hit what I’d consider a low point when Rachel Brown took to the microphone — clutching a picture of President Obama onto which she had drawn a Hitler mustache — and asked Frank how he could support a “Nazi” policy — perhaps referring to the greatest lie about health care reform: that it advocates “death panels” to decide whether to yank an elderly American’s health insurance and start talking about planned suicide.
Frank’s — dare I say it? — frank response: “On what planet do you spend most of your time?” Followed by: “Ma’am, trying to have a conversation with you would be like trying to argue with a dining room table. I have no interest in doing it.”
He added, for good measure: “This notion that something in this bill would require people who are elderly or sick to be denied medical care or be killed is the single stupidest argument I have ever heard.”
It’s often been said that the first one to invoke the Nazis or Hitler in a debate automatically loses, and rightfully so. Unless someone can draw a very firm parallel between providing all American citizens with health insurance to the actions of a cowardly paranoiac rounding up “undesirables” for mass extermination, kindly shut the hell up.
Monday, August 10th, 2009
So, you want to get involved in the debate over government-run health care. Good for you! This country needs more citizens like you who will stand up and speak out!
But what is this best way to do this? you might ask. Well, we here at Snark-Infested Waters have carefully studied the techniques used at recent town hall-style meetings and have collated the results into this handy guide.
Don’t do your research
Research is hard and takes a lot of time, so don’t spend too much energy on it. Above all, don’t attempt to actually read the bill itself; it’s hundreds of pages long and uses lots of big words, so you’d just give up after the index anyway. Besides, annoying things like facts get in the way of your right to speak your mind, even if you have no idea what you’re talking about.
Warm up your voice
There are several useful theater exercizes you can do to warm up your voice for a long night of yelling. These exercizes will not only keep you from shouting yourself hoarse, they will aid your projection so that you can be heard over anyone who tries to shout you down.
Prepare your sound bite in advance
What’s more embarrassing than yelling “The government wants to institute euthanasia programs!” at a Congressman? Tripping over your tongue on-camera and looking like an inarticulate doofus. Pick the points you want to hammer on (you can get ideas from watching footage of other meetings on the six o’clock news or by watching any given Fox News pundit) and come up with a series of short, punchy phrases that deliver your point. Try to keep it under 10 words. You know: high-concept.
Remember the key buzzwords
Certain words, peppered throughout your rant, will catch people’s attention and drive home just how bad you think the health care plan is. “Socialism,” “fascism,” and “liberal” are the most potent options. Avoid using passe terms like “commie” and “pinko,” because then you’ll just look foolish.
Don’t listen to contrary opinions or facts
Town hall meetings are not about conducting civilized, articulate, and informed dialogues; they’re about scaring the bejesus out of everyone, so it’s important to immediately rebut conflicting remarks with any of your prepared sound bites. It is also appropriate to say things like, “You don’t know what you’re talking about!”, “That kind of liberal crap is ruining the country!”, and, “You’re just one of Obama’s mindless puppets!”
Don’t mention Mitt Romney
Seriously, if you try to throw a choice Republican name out, avoid Mitt. Remember, he’s the guy who championed a law that forced Massachusetts residents to get health insurance and provide taxpayer-funded, state-subsidized care to anyone who couldn’t afford it, and that’s kind of socialist/fascist, which is what you’re trying to fight, remember?
Don’t lose your resolve
If you ever find yourself thinking, “Say, that’s a reasonable point he makes,” stop and take a breath. Then tell yourself that the health care plan is just an attempt to turn us into a dictatorship. Seriously, think about it: the health care plan advocates euthanasia for the elderly. Who are the country’s most active voters? The elderly. Get rid of them and what do you have left? Young people who don’t vote. If no one votes, Obama stays in office forever to enact his Muslim-based socialist/fascist agenda unchecked and, in time, turn us into the United States of the Arab Emirates. And you don’t want that, do you? Of course not.
Best of luck to you, and always remember: The best way to get people to listen to you is to be the loudest guy in the room.