From TALKING POINTS MEMO:
In a heated and sometimes vitriolic debate Monday night, Rep. Anthony Weiner (D-NY) repeatedly called out former Lt. Gov. Betsy McCaughey for lying about health care reform. He said debating her was like “debating a pyromaniac in a straw man factory,” prompting intense and immediate reaction from the audience.
“Debate like a man!” hollered one bespectacled, middle-aged man. Another quieted the ensuing shouts with, “This is his speaking time, not yours!”
Weiner and McCaughey arguably represent the furthest ends of the health care reform spectrum. Weiner is a progressive Congressman who wants a single-payer, government run health care system. McCaughey, who recently posited that reform may lead to government-mandated euthanasia, helped kill the Clintons’ health care plan in the 90s.
The “Lincoln-Douglas-style debate,” hosted by Democratic Leadership for the 21st Century and held at the NYU Medical Center, lasted nearly two hours. For much of that, the pair seemed engaged in two entirely different debates.
Weiner argued that the only way to truly fix American health care, both slowing the growth of health care spending and increasing coverage, is to institute a single-payer, government-run plan.
McCaughey said slowing the growth of health care spending is itself a wrong-headed, dangerous goal that will end in lower quality care and unemployed doctors.
And besides, who needs it?
“Americans spend more on health care because they can afford more,” she said.
After the two gave their opening statements, the moderator, Politico’s Ben Smith, asked questions, including one near-grilling of McCaughey on whether there’s any place to save money in health care.
“Government controls are a blunt instrument,” she began.
“But is there another way to do it?” Smith cut in.
“Let me finish,” she said. After more dodging, an audience member shouted, “Answer the question!”
“We can encourage people to lead healthier lifestyles,” she said.
But that libertarianism doesn’t extend to her pet cause. McCaughey is the founder of the Committee to Reduce Infection Deaths, and Smith asked if she would support government controls there, in the form of incentives for hospitals that follow guidelines for preventing infection, and penalties for those who don’t.
Her committee “fully supports” that sort of government intervention, she said. “I’m in favor of rewarding hospitals” for following the rules. And penalties for not doing so? The punishment will be “forcing them to treat infections without being reimbursed.”
Weiner was incredulous. That’s what we’re trying to do, he said.
Weiner had opened by trying to discredit McCaughey before she even got started.
Elements of the health care debate “have just been bad,” Weiner said in his opening remarks. “Unfortunately, the woman I’m debating tonight is part of that.”
“She points out page numbers from a House bill, he said, but “the page numbers have nothing to do with what she talks about.”
True to form, McCaughey did often cite page numbers, ignoring Weiner’s protests she was reading the wrong bill. (Her giant binder, he said, had an old version of the bill. The Energy and Commerce Committee voted on a different text, the chairman’s mark.)
McCaughey accused her opponent of not working for the people of New York, of trying to “snatch away the purses from little old ladies.” At one point she snatched away his microphone, demanding that he answer a question.
Weiner said the underlying problem in the health care debate, the million dollar question, is, “How do we contain the cost spiral we’re on now? … It’s unsustainable.”
McCaughey argued that American health care is expensive because it’s the best in the world. “We earn more, and we can afford more,” she said.
“Is this sustainable?” she asked. “Yes.” If we try to lower spending, she said, it “would be a body blow to New York’s health care workers, hospitals and patients.”
McCaughey thinks the current bills go too far and that Congress should slow down, taking maybe all four years of Obama’s presidency to pass reform. Weiner, on the other hand, doesn’t believe the public option is strong enough — and has no respect for the Senate Finance Committee bill.
(Watch the whole debate at the TPM link above)
From Jason Linkins at THE HUFFINGTON POST:
[Betsy McCaughey] ended up on Dylan Ratigan’s Morning Meeting with Representative Anthony Weiner (D-N.Y.). There was a brief, mad moment where I thought that this might end well, but it didn’t.
I’m getting used to the tactics McCaughey deploys in situations like this: heavy-duty pretense that she supports health care reform, the Palin-esque answer-a-question-with-an-answer-to-a-question-of-her-liking technique, the ability to quickly provide information and opinion that’s completely beside the point, et cetera. Unfortunately, Ratigan wanted to have a discussion on health care competition and cost containment, and that didn’t dovetail too well with what McCaughey prefers to do in such a debate: set aside all substantive issues so that she can fearmonger about seniors being killed by the government.
McCaughey did her best, though, defaulting to the secondary position of insisting that there wasn’t enough tort reform in the bill. Ratigan was quick to point out that as a cost-containment measure, tort reform would be a spectacularly insignificant one: “Why would you start with tort reform when you have an aniti-trust exemption for insurance companies?” Weiner attempted to inject actual facts, noting that the CBO determined that eliminating 30 percent of all tort claims would yield marginal savings of .04 percent, because most of the states already cap tort claims.
And so, McCaughey just unleashed her SENIOR CITIZEN HEALTH CARE APOCALYPSE nonsense, accusing Weiner of being ignorant and telling Ratigan that he wasn’t a “fair moderator,” to which Ratigan replied, “Well, you’re not a fair answerer.” Ratigan gamely attempted to get McCaughey to reconcile how she’d continue to provide the current level of unsustainable funding to Medicare without updating the system to address its inefficiencies, to no avail.
(Watch poor Betsy Bubblegum being “victimized” at the HuffPo link above. It’s hilarious!)