CNN Debate Observations

 

Prez debate

I’m of the mind that most TV “debate” shows are a joke. They’re not really debates, they’re joint press conferences, and the stars are always the debate moderators.  So why TV news personalities are debate moderators is a puzzle.  They don’t know how to moderate or control the flow of questions, and being TV people, they always want to make it about themselves, as Megyn Kelly and Candy Crowley demonstrated when they had their turn at bat.

So when I heard Jake Tapper’s pre debate explanation of how the debate was going to run; they were going to ask questions of candidates about what the other (read Trump) candidates said, I thought that for CNN, this was only about trying to start fights for ratings, and certainly the CNN radio ads I heard promoting the debate sounded nothing if not like Wrestling Promos.  And it apparently worked.  The debate was the highest rated event in CNN history, garnering 20 million viewers.

The format worked on the viewer level too.  It was one of the more freewheeling political debates I’ve seen.  The candidates actually engaged with each other, rather than simply answering the moderator’s questions. That being said, I had a few observations about the debate:

No real losers to the debate, but Jeb once again failed to live up to donor expectations.  On a scale from one to ten, he went from a two to a four.  That’s due to taking Trump’s advice and start displaying more energy.

I rarely agree with the conventional wisdom, but this time I agree that best performance was by Carly Fiorina.  One good performance could be a fluke, but two in a row look like a trend.

Chris Christie also did well.  When he gets airtime, he can put on a good show. Under this debate he got enough airtime, 13 minutes, to make a good impression.

Ignore whatever the media says about who won.  For the last debate, they declared Kasich the winner based solely on preferring his positions on immigration and gay marriage.

Carson and Huckabee are vying for the slot of evangelical candidate, and Carson is running far ahead.  Huckabee is trying to go over the top in supporting Kentucky County Clerk Kim Davis, who is trying to cloak herself in religion to keep her from doing her job.  How invested evangelicals are in Davis may be what makes a difference for Huckabee.

There were of course the others, who made little impression (at least on me).

And then there’s Trump… (sung to the tune of the Maude theme song)

Jake Tapper tried to slip the noose of the anti vax truther aroundTrump, a situation he was able to slip out of rather easily.  But he didn’t out and out deny the autism-vaccination link, a weakness which allowed Salon and Slate to declare Trump as still harping the anti vaccination line.  Of course your average Slate or Salon reader will be predisposed to hate Trump anyway.  But journalists read Slate and Salon, so expect further anti-vax questions in the future.

Trump was also weak on policy, specifically foreign policy. I expected him to change tactics this debate to “keep’em guessing”, and he did; he cooled the slapstick and insults and tried to be agreeable, but I expected he would bring some foreign policy zingers to the table to show gravitas for the talking heads. He didn’t do that.

Trump can’t wait until he’s President to bone up on these issues or he’s never going to be President. He needs to bone up now and start demonstrating how much detail he knows about our various foreign policy issues.  It can be done.  Marco Rubio, as a first term senator, already has shown a command of foreign policy issues and has been able to stay ahead of journalists trying to trip him up.

This is not the end of Trump, but if doesn’t start showing that he can discuss policy particulars, rather than just say this will be great, this could be the beginning of the end of Trump.

 

President Obama isn’t Charlie

“The Future must not belong to those who slander the prophet of Islam.”

President Obama 2012

Hey, is someone missing in that picture?

The President took a lot of heat this week for not showing up for the Paris March last Sunday.  And by heat I don’t mean talk radio, I’m talking about the President’s own Praetorian Guard, the main stream media.  When you lose both Jake Tapper (CNN) and Andrea Mitchell (MSNBC) you’ve goofed big time. But in retrospect, I think it was probably the right move not to show up.  After a few days introspection, I think that March was dishonest and there wasn’t a clear message that the President wanted to get behind.  Sure, I think it could be safely said that Obama opposes massacres of journalists, but he really doesn’t like satire against Muslims in general and Charlie Hebdo in particular.

In response to the publication of anti Islamic cartoons in 2012 by Charlie Hebdo, this was the White House response:

“We have questions about the judgment of publishing something like this,” White House spokesman Jay Carney said, while adding “it is not in any way justification for violence.”

“We don’t question the right of something like this to be published, we just question the judgment behind the decision to publish it,” Carney said.

This is pretty much in line with the standard American left view of this, although as I’ve documented previously, the left and the First Amendment parted ways many years ago, and in Europe, it was never much more than a talking point anyway.  It would be hard to explain marching in support of Charlie Hebdo after the President’s histrionics about the YouTube video that the administration claimed caused the Benghazi attack. In that case, the administration tried to pressure YouTube to take down the video.

So much for standing up for free speech.  But let’s face it.  Obama is no more on board with the free expression than the rest of the left.

If President Obama marched in Paris, how would he answer a French Muslim that he’s marching to support free speech to insult his religion while at the same time, it’s a crime to question the Holocaust in France, as well as many other countries in Europe?  That’s why free expression is a take-it-or-leave-it proposition.  Once you start creating carve outs to protect some group’s feelings, when do you stop?

Answer:  You don’t.  You only have free speech as long as it’s convenient to the government.  Of course that means that with the changing demographics of France, eventually Blasphemy against Islam will probably be criminalized.

And the French will still think they have freedom of expression.

 

 

 

Public Option? -> Only Option

It’s difficult to figure out amidst all of the swirling mess that makes up “health care reform” just what exactly is getting reformed.  President Obama learned the lesson of the Hillarycare debacle and has been pretty cagey on specifics, even when he is expecting to sign a bill on it by the end of the summer.  Of course, Hillarycare was a full blown plan that could be analyzed and picked apart.  Obama is not interested in having the same result so the few real details that have been leaked have been rather limited.  Of course, with this Congress, who needs details?  They’re more than willing to vote for a bill unread and fresh off the presses.  After all, as Congressperson Malibu Stacy might say, “Thinking too much gives you wrinkles.”

But one thing is clear, if it’s going to be reform in any way that Obama and the far left of the Democratic Party care about, it’s got to have the “Public Option.”  Right now the administration is having it both ways.  On the one hand it’s saying that it has no intention of driving private insurers out of business, but on the other hand, reassuring Congressional Democrats that the President is still committed to having a public option as part of his vision of health care reform.

Why the Public Option?  The formal answer was included in Obama’s letter to Senators Kennedy and Baucus:

“I strongly believe that Americans should have the choice of a public health insurance option operating alongside private plans. This will give them a better range of choices, make the health care market more competitive, and keep insurance companies honest.”

Competition?  There are approximately 1300 health insurance providers in the US.  Really, will 1301 really make the difference and suddenly lead to “a better range of choices, make the health care market more competitive, and keep insurance companies honest?”  That’s all it would take, just one more provider?  The idea is so ridiculous that you would have to be a White House journalist to buy it.

What makes the public option the crown jewel of any health care reform plan?  It’s the camel’s nose under the tent for single payer government healthcare.  No, this isn’t just Republican scare-mongering.  I can hardly imagine any other conclusion for the insistence on a government healthcare plan.  And it’s easy to see how it would happen.  The logic is this:  One of the keys of health care reform is an individual mandate, but you can’t very well have one if people cannot afford to buy health insurance, so you have to provide an option for people too poor to pay.  Enter the public option.  An analysis of several public option scenarios shows that premiums could be 30 to 40 percent less than comparable private plans.  That of course hinges on the government paying reimbursement rates comparable to Medicare, which are 70-80 percent of what private insurers pay.

So one of the ways the Obama plan controls costs is just by paying the doctors and hospitals less.  I’m sure that will make a great incentive for people to go into the medical field.  And who wouldn’t want to be taxed to subsidize their competitor?

But that’s not the fiscal time bomb.  First, the same analysis shows that depending on the premium rate for the public option, 119 million people could lose their private health insurance.  Some of course, would voluntarily flee.  If the public plan has lower premiums, what do they care what rate their doctor gets paid at?  Others would find themselves dumped.  Why would companies want the expense of maintaining their own health insurance coverage when a public plan can offer lower premiums?  Private plans of course have to have doctors and facilities join their networks voluntarily. Not an issue for the government.

Another issue is that the Obama administration, in order to help finance their reform schemes, wants to make it more difficult for employers and employees to pay for health care benefits.  One plan is to tax the employee health care benefits by capping the employee health care exclusion.  That excludes company health care benefits from an employee’s taxable income.  Another actually violates one of Obama’s campaign promises, not to tax health care benefits.  Obama criticized John McCain’s plan to tax employer health care benefits during the campaign, but at least McCain was going to transfer the tax benefit to individuals to enable them to purchase health insurance with a tax credit.  Obama is just keeping the money for the federal trough.

Driving Private health insurance out of the market has happened before.  TennCare was supposed to be Tennessee’s version of “the public option.”  The goal was to reduce health care costs by covering a larger group of lower income people than were normally covered by Medicaid guidelines.  Many features of TennCare mirrored some of the Obama health reform proposals.  The few remaining insurance companies have dumped their most expensive members onto the public plan, and the cost has far exceeded projections.  Closed hospitals, doctors fleeing the state, uncontrolled spiraling cost… that’s our future.

It’s fairly easy to see how this will play out if we get the public option.  First it will cover a few of the lower middle class, and then the taxes on both employers and employees will push some companies that are in marginal fiscal health (a rather large number since we are in a recession) to drop their plans.  Eventually, it will make no sense to provide a health insurance benefit when it no longer provides any tax benefit to the company or to the employee.  As the companies in Tennessee discovered, it was easier and less hassle to pay the extra penalty tax for not providing health insurance to it’s employees.  Eventually, a health insurance benefit will be as uncommon for the average American worker as a defined benefit pension plan now is.  The government will end up with the healthcare costs of most of the American workforce.

At that point, the rationing will begin, but that’s another story.

What I can’t figure out, is why the government would want to take up an open ended financial liability that it does not currently have, to provide a service that is currently being provided by the free market, and in doing so destroy large segments of the economy that is now providing that service?  Anyone?   Bueller?  If there is a better reason than just runaway statism that wants to make dependent charges of its citizens, I would love to hear it.

Now does President Obama know what he’s doing, or does he sincerely not see how his plans would destroy the private insurance market?  He gave a little clue during his June press conference on health care.  When asked by ABC’s Jake Tapper how he could guarantee that cheaper public plans wouldn’t drive out employer funded private care.

“When I say if you have your plan and you like it,…or you have a doctor and you like your doctor, that you don’t have to change plans, what I’m saying is the government is not going to make you change plans under health reform…”

That’s a change from earlier comments on the same issue:

“If you like your doctor, you will be able to keep your doctor, period. If you like your health care plan, you’ll be able to keep your health care plan, period. No one will take it away, no matter what.”

OK now I guess you can lose your health plan.  Period.

At that point, I wouldn’t have been surprised if President Obama had turned to the camera and winked.

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