I was agog watching the first half hour of the Presidential debate Wednesday night. Side by side, arguing wonkishly over taxes, Mitt Romney appeared greater in stature than Barack Obama, the actual President of the United States. Romney was confident, take-charge, jovially steamrolling over the marshmallow moderator Jim Lehrer, even as the bullet points shooting out of his mouth were one lie after another. And Obama, ever the cool customer, literally gritted his teeth and let opportunity after opportunity to call Romney on his flip flops and unabashed dissembling slip by.
By the time the debate topic shifted to healthcare and pre-existing conditions, I was furious. Remember, on the day that the Affordable Care Act – ObamaCare – was passed, then-House Speaker Nancy Pelosi said: “After this bill passes, being a women will no longer be a pre-existing medical condition!” But, as Rachel Maddow points out consistently, the Republican Congress, Republican governors and Republican-dominated state legislatures are systematically legislating government intrusion into the private lives of women, stripping or limiting a woman’s fundamental right to access reproductive healthcare – hence making being a woman in several states once again a “pre-existing condition.”
But pre-existing conditions are extremely important to many in the LGBT community – not only because of HIV/AIDS and the higher rates of breast cancer and heart disease among lesbians – but because in so many states, LGBT people still have no jobs with benefits that protect them and their families. And without a comprehensive Employment Non-Discrimination Act (ENDA), LGBT people are also at greater risk of losing their job or not getting one – which interrupts the current requirement that insurance be continuous in order to have coverage with a pre-existing condition. This is just blatantly unfair.
The pre-existing condition exchange started after Romney said one of the reasons he opposed ObamaCare was because it requires “a board of people at the government, an unelected board, appointed board, who are going to decide what kind of treatment you ought to have.” As Obama has been saying for years, there is no such government board. But what neither pointed out is that such a board – or individual – already is making those decisions at the insurance company that decides what medical procedure a customer can get by determining how much the insurance will cover. An example: thankfully, I have insurance through Frontiers, the media company for which I am the news editor. But I just forked over two paychecks – out of my own pocket – for an unexpected root canal to deal with an infection because our dental insurance actually pays less than what the dentist says their own plan says they are expected to pay.
Romney wants the private, for-profit market place to determine insurance rates, believing that competition would drive prices lower, assuming they would accept someone with a pre-existing condition and not argue that being forced to accept damaged goods is governmental interference.
But I think that whole competition thing is a myth. I live in West Hollywood – between Hollywood and Beverly Hills. People drive a lot here and we have to constantly deal with gas prices that go up and down for often inexplicable reasons. And when a few stations raise their prices, most follow suit- there is very rarely competition to Lower rates to grab more customers. They are BUSINESSES and they all want to make as much money as they can, period. Private insurance companies are the same way: obligation to stockholders supersedes responsibility to customers, period.
Here’s that exchange, followed by a transcript of the segment:
OBAMA: Let me just point out first of all this board that we’re talking about can’t make decisions about what treatments are given. That’s explicitly prohibited in the law. But let’s go back to what Governor Romney indicated, that under his plan, he would be able to cover people with preexisting conditions.
Well, actually Governor, that isn’t what your plan does. What your plan does is to duplicate what’s already the law, which says if you are out of health insurance for three months, then you can end up getting continuous coverage and an insurance company can’t deny you if you’ve — if it’s been under 90 days.
But that’s already the law and that doesn’t help the millions of people out there with preexisting conditions. There’s a reason why Governor Romney set up the plan that he did in Massachusetts. It wasn’t a government takeover of health care. It was the largest expansion of private insurance. But what it does say is that “insurers, you’ve got to take everybody.”
Now, that also means that you’ve got more customers. But when — when Governor Romney says that he’ll replace it with something, but can’t detail how it will be in fact replaced and the reason he set up the system he did in Massachusetts was because there isn’t a better way of dealing with the preexisting conditions problem.
It just reminds me of, you know, he says that he’s going to close deductions and loopholes for his tax plan. That’s how it’s going to be paid for, but we don’t know the details. He says that he’s going to replace Dodd-Frank, Wall Street reform, but we don’t know exactly which ones. He won’t tell us. He now says he’s going to replace Obamacare and ensure that all the good things that are in it are going to be in there and you don’t have to worry.
And at some point, I think the American people have to ask themselves, is the reason that Governor Romney is keeping all these plans to replace secret because they’re too good? Is it — is it because that somehow middle-class families are going to benefit too much from them?
No. The reason is, is because, when we reform Wall Street, when we tackle the problem of pre-existing conditions, then, you know, these are tough problems and we’ve got to make choices. And the choices we’ve made have been ones that ultimately are benefiting middle-class families all across the country.
LEHRER: We’re going to move to…
ROMNEY: No. I — I have to respond to that.
Which is — which is my experience as a governor is if I come in and — and lay down a piece of legislation and say, “It’s my way or the highway,” I don’t get a lot done. What I do is the same way that Tip O’Neill and Ronald Reagan worked together some years ago. When Ronald Reagan ran for office, he laid out the principles that he was going to foster. He said he was going to lower tax rates. He said he was going to broaden the base. You’ve said the same thing, you’re going to simplify the tax code, broaden the base.
Those are my principles. I want to bring down the tax burden on middle-income families. And I’m going to work together with Congress to say, OK, what — what are the various ways we could bring down deductions, for instance? One way, for instance, would be to have a single number. Make up a number, $25,000, $50,000. Anybody can have deductions up to that amount. And then that number disappears for high-income people. That’s one way one could do it. One could follow Bowles-Simpson as a model and take deduction by deduction and make differences that way. There are alternatives to accomplish the objective I have, which is to bring down rates, broaden the base, simplify the code, and create incentives for growth. And with regards to health care, you had remarkable details with regards to my pre-existing condition plan. You obviously studied up on — on my plan. In fact, I do have a plan that deals with people with pre-existing conditions. That’s part of my health care plan. And what we did in Massachusetts is a model for the nation state by state. And I said that at that time.
The federal government taking over health care for the entire nation and whisking aside the 10th Amendment, which gives states the rights for these kinds of things, is not the course for America to have a stronger, more vibrant economy.
States rights. Historically, states rights have been associated with Jim Crow laws, the Republican’s Southern Strategy to win elections and Southern states denying African Americans the right to vote. Oh, wait. Republicans are still trying to deny or suppress the black vote – which Romney said he supported during the primaries, “I like voter ID laws, by the way … more of them.” And, perhaps as a preview of his remarks about how the 47% of American moochers wouldn’t support him – Romney snickered about his appearance before the NAACP convention during which he was booed for saying he’d repeal ObamaCare. From Joan Walsh: “according to a pool report , telling supporters about his NAACP critics: ‘Remind them of this, if they want more stuff from government tell them to go vote for the other guy -more free stuff. But don’t forget nothing is really free.’”
During the debate, Obama never once mentioned or asked Romney for an explanation of these remarks, taped at a secret high-end fundraiser:
“There are 47 percent of the people who will vote for the president no matter what. All right, there are 47 percent who are with him, who are dependent upon government, who believe that they are victims, who believe the government has a responsibility to care for them, who believe that they are entitled to health care, to food, to housing, to you-name-it. That that’s an entitlement. And the government should give it to them. And they will vote for this president no matter what…These are people who pay no income tax….[M]y job is not to worry about those people. I’ll never convince them they should take personal responsibility and care for their lives. What I have to do is convince the 5-10% of people who are independents, that are thoughtful, that look at voting one way or the other depending upon, in some cases, emotion, whether they like the guy or not.”
UPDATE OCT. 5 – Last night Romney told Fox News he was “completely wrong” in making these remarks about the 47%. AmericaBlog’s John Aravosis deconstructs the new message and determines that Romney “lied” to his top donors.
I was not the only person stunned that President Obama didn’t show more backbone against Romney. MSNBC’s Ed Shultz, who is all about the workers, was downright angry, saying how can we expect the Obama in that debate to stand up for Social Security if he can’t stand up to Romney.
Obama strategist David Axelrod called a “serial liar,” and an “artful dodger” on an Obama for America conference call Thursday morning to respond to Obama’s debate performance critics. Alexrod said: “Not surprisingly, what we learned is he’ll say anything, That makes him effective in the short term but vulnerable in the long term….He may win the Oscar for his performance last night but he’s not going to win the presidency.”
Axelrod found lots of ways to call Romney a liar – saying Romney’s comments were “devoid of honesty,” “rooted in deception,” “untethered to the truth” and “well delivered but fraudulent.”
The fact-checkers were out in force – but even as the debate was going on, journalists such as Variety’s Ted Johnson were noting inconsistencies as he was live-blogging:
6:51 p.m.: “Regulation is essential.” I can’t imagine Romney saying this during the primaries.
6:52 p.m.: Romney said that he would “repeal and replace” Dodd-Frank, which is a contrast to what he said as recently at the GOP convention, when it was just to replace it.
6:56 p.m.: Obama: “In the past, he has said he just wants to repeal Dodd Frank, roll it back.”
6:57 p.m.: Now Romney says that the big problem in Dodd Frank was that it designated five banks “too big to fail.” “Sometimes they didn’t come out with a clear regulation.”….
7:24 p.m.: Just when I thought there were no zingers. Romney: “You are entitled to your own airplane [Air Force One], and your own house [White House], but you are not entitled to your own facts.”
This from Romney who fact checkers raked over the coals post-debate (SEE TONS OF LINKS BELOW). AND who apparently has paid a lobbyist since 2008 to convince La Jolla city council members to grant him a permit to tear down a beach side property so he can build a mega-mansion with an elevator to accommodate four cars.
At a campaign stop in Denver Thursday morning, Obama started that repair. This is from the New York Times:
President Obama and his team woke up here on Thursday morning confronted by the realization that he lost his first debate by passively letting Mitt Romney control the conversation. Then the president and his advisers resolved to do what he himself did not the night before.
Under fire from fellow Democrats, Mr. Obama came out swinging, accusing Mr. Romney of lying to the American people about his plans for the nation. “I met this very spirited fellow who claimed to be Mitt Romney,” Mr. Obama told 12,000 supporters during a lakeside rally. “But it couldn’t be Mitt Romney, because the real Mitt Romney has been running around the country for the last year promising $5 trillion in tax cuts that favor the wealthy. The fellow onstage last night said he didn’t know anything about that.”
He said the Mr. Romney of the debate wanted to put more teachers in classrooms and claimed not to know companies get tax breaks for outsourcing jobs. “The man onstage last night, he does not want to be held accountable for the real Mitt Romney’s decisions and what he’s been saying for the last year,” the president said. “And that’s because he knows full well that we don’t want what he’s been selling for the last year.”
The vigorous assault on Mr. Romney suggested just how worried Mr. Obama’s campaign has become. The president’s advisers concluded that he had lost his first debate by not pressing Mr. Romney enough. After a series of late-night and early-morning consultations, the Obama team decided to try to correct that Thursday with a more aggressive stance, including the rally rhetoric, a new television ad and a conference call questioning Mr. Romney’s truthfulness.
Versus what the Republicans put out this morning, mocking Obama’s “smirk”:
First impressions matter a lot and a lot of voters were tuning into the race for the first time. Both campaigns had been lowering expectations considerably pre-debate – but few really expected to do so well with such bold mendacity. And while some noted Obama had never been a great debater and had become used to presidential deference – most folks expected to see Obama-the-passionate-campaigner when some bored, put-upon professor dude showed up. Obama’s characteristic “auhhh” repeatedly punctuating each sentence went from endearing to as annoying as Al Gore’s exasperated sighs during this debate with George W. Bush. But, as Joe.My.God noted, most people were talking about Romney’s plan to defund PBS and hence kill Big Bird – even though Sesame Street is the nation’s largest classroom.
Obama did reference the repeal of Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell as an issue handled in a bipartisan fashion – but otherwise LGBT people, people with HIV/AIDS, women, Latinos and other minorities were left out of the debate. We’ll see just how much when the post-debate polls of undecided voters come out over the next few days. Appearing on MSNBC, my old boss and friend Dan Rather noted that: Obama “got his clock cleaned….If Barack Obama loses, people may look back on this debate and say this is the night things turned.”
Is this the end? No. But the race has really tightened up and President Obama can no longer just phone it in or worry about losing his “nice guy” image. For those of us LGBT people, women and other minorities with so much at stake and so much to lose – especially with a Religious Right-based Republican Congress, Presidency and possibly, US Supreme Court – MUST BE as strong in the debates as he is on the campaign trail and proudly talk about all he’s accomplished to advance fairness and equality in America – which, in turn, benefits the economy.
This is from the Obama for America campaign:
Facts Matter and Mitt Romney Didn’t Deliver Them
CHICAGO – While Mitt Romney’s rhetoric may have sounded polished tonight, it just wasn’t true. On issue after issue, Romney avoided giving specifics and, in several instances, told flat-out falsehoods.
It’s no surprise why – the more Americans learn about Mitt Romney’s plans to raise taxes on the middle class to pay for tax cuts for millionaires and billionaires, to eliminate Wall Street reforms that protect middle class families from the abuses that caused the recession, and to repeal Obamacare with no plans to help individuals with pre-existing conditions, the less likely they are to support him.
Facts matter and Mitt Romney is unwilling to give them to the American people.
What People Are Saying:
CNN’s David Gergen: “Romney was just sort of flat out lying.”
Los Angeles Times: “The Romney campaign has refused to say which loopholes it would close, and Romney did not clear up the question Wednesday.”
Bloomberg News: “Romney’s tax plan can’t add up.”
CNBC Fact Check: “Romney again tonight did not say specifically how he would pay for his proposed across the board tax cut.”
The Washington Post: “Mitt Romney needs to spend a little more time with his budget reports.”
Los Angeles Times: “Fact check: Romney repeats erroneous claims on healthcare”:
Chicago Sun-Times: “If, however, you score Wednesday’s debate on substance — accurate facts and honest arithmetic — Obama more than held his own.”
Fact Check@factcheckdotorg Romney says he will pay for $5T tax cut without raising deficit or raising taxes on middle class. Experts say that’s not possible….
Matt Yglesias @mattyglesias Romney’s tax plan is basically 2+2=5.
Michael Crowley @CrowleyTIME Romney closes with pretty dishonest warning about defense cuts
Jonathan Cohn @CitizenCohn Sigh. Romney not telling the truth here. Pre-existing conditions NOT covered under his plan http://www.tnr.com/blog/plank/107049/romney-pre-existing-condition-obamacare-repeal-gregory-meet-the-press …
Ezra Klein @ezraklein Around 89 million Americans would likely be left out of Romney’s “preexisting conditions plan,” such as it is. http://www.washingtonpost.com/blogs/ezra-klein/wp/2012/09/10/who-would-be-left-out-of-romneys-preexisting-conditions-plan-about-89-million-americans/ …
Chicago Sun-Times Editorial: Editorial: Romney wins on style, Obama on facts
Los Angeles Times: Fact Check: Romney’s tax claims challenged by non-partisan report
Washington Post: Romney off on deficits
Los Angeles Times: Fact check: Romney repeats erroneous claims on healthcare
Talking Points Memo: Romney Backs Away From Own Tax Plan