Inventing moon people in an age of American decline (but still mandating health insurance)

I spent some time last night thinking seriously on something I’m still undecided on: Is it better or worse listening to these debates instead of watching them? On the one hand, I do find myself concentrating much more easily on what’s being said (boy is that ripe for a joke). On the other hand, the politically-curious part of me misses the opportunity to gauge the reactions of non-speaking participants to what’s being said. I really could go either way on this subject.

What I do feel more certain about, though consciously still leaving room open for a surprise, is that when the next debate is held on February 22 my dilemma may not matter. Last night Mitt Romney moped the floor with Newt’s moon-eyed face, and it doesn’t even matter than Rick Santorum made the best argument yet against Romney as the nominee. After New Hampshire the greatest obstacle to Romney’s ascendence to the nomination has been Newt Gingrich – but not just any aspect of Newt. In particular, it has been the Newt that is so intellectually and verbally  that the prospect of him debating a caricature of Obama in the general election was tempting enough bait for South Carolinian’s to bite. Now voters in Florida and those in the upcoming month’s slate of primaries and caucuses, who might have also been tempted enough, must ask themselves a very relevant question: “If Newt Gingrich can’t win a debate against Mitt Romney, what chance does he have against Barack Obama?” This aspect of Newt’s candidacy was always a fantasy, for many reasons, but when even the fantasy of the fantasy falls apart what is left of Gingrich’s electoral appeal isn’t all that pretty.

On to the quick hits –

Mitt Romney – He aimed for the moon and didn’t miss (hahaha…whew), at least in the first half hour. In the later portions he stumbled, and I’m not sure how his response to Santorum’s withering Romneycare assault – “It’s not worth getting angry about” – will play with conservative voters, but his mistake-free verbal boxing with Newt gave him enough of a grace period for it not to matter.

Rick Santorum –  Short of going the Huckabee ’08 route, I don’t see Santorum showing up to the next debate. He is a social-conservative candidate trying to earn the GOP nomination for a general election about the economy. This is in spite of his spirited and probably accurate criticism of both Gingrich and Romney’s chances against Obama.

Newt Gingrich – He earned my undying gratitude for the plethora of witty moon tweets this week by proposing a lunar colony by his second presidential term. Interestingly, this concept isn’t a new one for Gingrich, which makes accusations of pandering kind of unfair. Nevertheless, he couldn’t stand toe-to-toe with Romney last night and failed to make the kind of populist waves that propelled him last week.

Ron Paul – As I noted on Twitter, I’m not sure how it isn’t painfully obvious he’s running a “cause” candidacy. Paul propounds important views that are not accepted by even a plurality of Republicans – therefore no Republican nomination. He takes the debate for the free publicity (not that the others don’t, mind you) but today he’ll be in straw poll Maine, not closed primary Florida.

Palestinian-American Republican questioner – Bravo. You do exist! Why are you a Republican?

The most cogent, persuasive case for the individual mandate in health care (emphasis added):

Romney – For the 8 percent of people who didn’t have insurance, we said to them, if you can afford insurance, buy it yourself, any one of the plans out there, you can choose any plan. There’s no government plan.

And if you don’t want to buy insurance, then you have to help pay for the cost of the state picking up your bill, because under federal law if someone doesn’t have insurance, then we have to care for them in the hospitals, give them free care. So we said, no more, no more free riders. We are insisting on personal responsibility.

Either get the insurance or help pay for your care. And that was the conclusion that we reached…. Everyone has a requirement to either buy it or pay the state for the cost of providing them free care. Because the idea of people getting something for free when they could afford to care for themselves is something that we decided in our state was not a good idea.

The talking point debunk I’ve been waiting for, courtesy of Ron Paul:

I want to make a quick comment, because Newt’s mentioned this quite a few times about balancing the budget for four times. I went back and looked at the record. 

The budget was — the national debt during those four years actually went up about a trillion dollars. What he’s talking about is, he doesn’t count the money he takes out of Social Security. 

So, Reagan nor you had a truly balanced budget because the national debt goes up, and that’s what we pay the interest on. So I think you’ve stretched that a little bit more than you should have. 

And it was two years of technical budgetary balance, one of which Newt wasn’t even in office.

Most asinine analysis of health care in this country:

Well, it’s a tragedy because this is a consequence of the government being involved in medicine since 1965. 

When I was growing up, we didn’t have a whole lot, but my dad had a small insurance, but medical care costs weren’t that much. And you should have an opportunity — medical care insurance should be given to you as an individual, so if you’re employed or not employed, you have — you just take care of that and you keep it up. When you lose a job, sometimes you lose your insurance. 

But the cost is so high. When you pump money into something, like housing, cost — prices go up. If you pump money into education, the cost of education goes up. When the government gets involved in medicine, you don’t get better care; you get — cost goes up and it distorts the economy and leads to a crisis. 

This assessment strikes me as the type of simplification and whitewashing of history that can only come with old age sentimentality and the ideological incentive to ignore reality:

In a 1963 survey, patients from the general population were given a list of symptoms and asked whether they had been able to see a physician about them. Among those who reported “pains in the heart,” 25 percent said they did not see a physician; for “unexpected bleeding” it was 34 percent; for “shortness of breath,” it was 35 percent; for “abdominal pains,” it was 31 percent; for “repeated vomiting,” it was 40 percent; for “diarrhea for four or five days,” it was 38 percent. 

For a lot people then, you didn’t go to the hospital or see a doctor. You just died. Sure sounds like roses and chocolates to me.

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