by E.C. Fish on October 15, 2012

ISSUE OF THE WEEK — ONCE UPON A TIME, AT THE VICE PRESIDENTIAL DEBATES…: The news this week was dominated, in roughly equal proportions, by the aftermath of last week’s presidential debate and the anticipation, event of, and reaction to this week’s vice presidential debate. This made for one of those slow, ruminative, and nearly information-free news weeks that is so wearing on the nerves of us empirical types. For all the attention paid to them and all the political history attached to them, campaign debates are mostly exercises in political Kabuki theater, judged largely on a gestural level and with the accompanying inevitable subjectivism. Who looked presidential? Who seemed more confident? Would you like to have a beer with that person (if, you know, he was a person who actually drank beer)? The debates are so fully entrenched in the tar pits of media-driven postmodern politics that the most obviously cynical and biased bits of subjectivity are on tap immediately after the debate, in what are recognized and referred to as “spin rooms.” A less vulgar country might have “best-impression suites.”

Debates are mostly useful for providing fodder for the great Beltway-conventional-wisdom campaign narrative, and thus are treated largely as exercises in storytelling. And so it came to pass that once upon a Thursday last, the gaffe-prone loose cannon who kind of reminds you of your uncle at Thanksgiving dinner and the earnest young budget wonk who works out to the point of buffness and whose math is too complicated to explain to us mere mortals faced off to respectively make up for and expand upon their ticket mates’ performances of last week.

To me, the one detail most telling about the results of that debate is this: most of the criticism of Vice President Biden’s performance consisted of horrified exclamations that, gosh darn it, he just wasn’t nice. Fox News morning show host and former Miss Minnesota Gretchen Carlson went so far as to ascribe Wisconsinite Paul Ryan’s comparatively tentative performance to “midwestern sensibilities and midwestern politeness.” Fox also pushed the insta-rumor that Biden was drunk during the debate, showing equal ignorance of the fact that Biden does not drink (“There are enough alcoholics in my family,” he said in a 2008 New York Times interview) and the Latin phrase “in vino veritas.”

It was, of course, all what the vice president might refer to as “malarkey” — an attempt to discredit the messenger because they couldn’t discredit the message. Spot polls largely gave the debate to Biden (with the exception of CNN, whose updated “Home Of The Outlier” logo is no doubt in development). To my lights, showing respect for someone who is actively engaged in disrespecting the American people shows a greater tolerance for damn foolishness than I personally like to see in my country’s leaders, and Gretchen Carlson’s observations on “midwestern politeness” only show that she hasn’t taken a 10 bus northbound from downtown Minneapolis lately.

ROMNEY DOUBLES DOWN ON DUMB POLICY: Disrespectful debate performance certainly didn’t harm Ryan’s ticket leader Mitt Romney at all this week. Romney’s poll numbers — aided greatly by a debate performance that, while arrogant and dishonest, managed to exceed the rock-bottom expectations established by a summer of truly inept campaigning — returned to the “close but no cigar” levels they’d been at for most of the year. Thus energized, Romney returned to his two-pronged campaign strategy of lying and issuing statements his campaign needed to retract later.

He also spent some time reiterating the fact that he is dangerously ignorant of the basics of health care policy and almost entirely without any basic human concern for the uninsured. Repeating to the Columbus Dispatch an assertion he had previously made on 60 Minutes a few weeks back, Romney cited the federal law that requires hospitals to treat the uninsured as a reason not to worry too much about uninsured people: “No, you go to the hospital, you get treated, you get care, and it’s paid for, either by charity, the government, or by the hospital. We don’t have people that become ill, who die in their apartment because they don’t have insurance.”

This statement is so remarkably stupid as to completely disqualify Romney on the subject of health care policy. For starters, of course we have people who become ill and die because they don’t have health insurance, something it really doesn’t even take a detailed study to prove. Common sense does the job quite nicely: Romney’s program of relying on emergency room care completely precludes any sort of preventative care, and just about guarantees that illnesses that might have been detected in the course of a routine check-up will only be caught once they’ve become acute and threatening.

Furthermore, the entire point of health care reform under the dreaded Affordable Care Act is to address sharply rising health care costs, something Romney’s suggested continuance of the status quo regimen — treating late-stage illnesses in emergency rooms with the costs passed on to charity (rare), government (meaning taxpayers) and hospitals (meaning those patients who can afford the gross mark-ups required to compensate for otherwise uncompensated care) — would continue to exacerbate. It should also be noted that charities, governments, and hospitals kick in only after stripping the patient of what few assets he or she might have.

In short, as presented here, Romney’s “repeal-and-replace” plan for “Obamacare” is breathtakingly wrong scientifically, morally, and economically, and thus is entirely in keeping with the rest of his plans for the nation.

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E. C. Fish is the editor and publisher of The Spleen.

{ 2 comments… read them below or add one }

Idstrom October 18, 2012 at 4:23 pm

Isn’t Gretchen Carlson from, like, Anoka? That would be Bachmann Country, eh?


Tom October 24, 2012 at 12:43 pm

We live in a stupid country full of stupid people. It’s no wonder that Romney can spew stupidity all the day long and the stupid people among us lap it up like cake frosting off the side of a stupid paper plate.

If Romney should win, I hope the Republicans do manage to gut medicare and social security. It’ll be worth it just to see the stupid looks on the faces of the teabaggers as they wonder what the hell just happened.

Gretchen Carlson’s violin teacher was my college advisor at Metro State. I know for a fact that at one point in her life Gretchen was exposed to someone who wasn’t stupid. Obviously didn’t make much of an impression on her.


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