High Deductible And HSA’s: Republicans Got Their Wish on Health Care–Why Aren’t They Happy?

I was doing insurance shopping on line last night. It looks like I will wind up with a higher deductible plan along with a health savings account.

Isn’t this exactly what conservatives have been pushing for the last several years? Shouldn’t they be happy? Then why are they still talking about voting on repeal?

Plus, how come when people like Paul Ryan talk about a “government takeover” of health  care, we aren’t hearing the L word over and over? That is a far bigger lie than Obama’s statements about keeping your own insurance (which were sort of true if you add the qualifications that some really bad plans couldn’t be continued, that you might wind up with a different plan from the same company, there could be no guarantee that insurance companies would continue plans, even if they could be grandfathered, and that the alternative would often be more comprehensive coverage at a lower cost).

Support For Obamacare Increases Despite Problems With Exchanges

Conservatives just can’t catch a break in polls since the shutdown. One might expect that at very least the numbers supporting Obamacare might have dropped considering how terrible the initial opening of the exchanges has gone. No, instead approval has increased in several recent polls, including Gallup.

Despite the highly publicized technical issues that have plagued the government’s health insurance exchange website that went live on Oct. 1, Americans’ views of the Affordable Care Act are slightly more positive now than they were in August. Forty-five percent now approve of the law, while 50% disapprove, for a net approval score of -5. In June and August, net approval was slightly lower, at -8.

Keep in mind that any poll regarding approval of the Affordable Care Act can falsely show decreased support because many of those who oppose the law do so because they believe it should do more, or want a single payer plan. There is also considerable misunderstanding of the law, with many people supporting the components of Obamacare when polled while also saying they oppose Obamacare when asked separately.

There are a couple of reasons why support might be going upwards despite the computer problems. This could be part of the overall backlash against Republicans and everything they stand for seen in recent polls. I wonder if coverage of what the exchanges are intended to do is leading to more support for the Affordable Care Act, which is more meaningful than probable temporary computer glitches. The administration has had excellent success with computers when used to revolutionize politics. I think that at times they are also overly optimistic about what computers can do, from handling the complexity of the insurance exchanges to their views on electronic medical records. We have lived with computers long enough to know that glitches are common with a new product, but this does not mean that we don’t adopt the new technology over time. Plus, in this situation, the use of computer exchanges to purchase health coverage says nothing about the quality and affordability of care once insurance coverage is purchased. The most important outcome so far is that insurance costs do appear to be lower than expected due to the exchanges.

We also must keep in mind that the Affordable Care Act is far from perfect, and the final law is not exactly what most people wanted. The question is not whether Obamacare is perfect, but whether it is a major improvement over what was in place in the past. Greg Sargent also reminds us that Obamacare passes another important comparison despite the initial problems: “We can keep two ideas in our heads at the same time. The first: Obamacare’s rollout is awful and demands accountability. The second: GOP criticism of the rollout is deeply incoherent and indicative of a larger refusal — one that has gone on for years — to participate seriously in the basic governing necessary to solve this pressing national problem.”

Most conservatives cannot keep these two ideas in their head (and few can even manage one). They see the problems with the roll out as indicative of problems in the overall concept. Others such as Ross Douthat realize that the failure of the conservative aspects of the plan could lead to an even more liberal alternative. Mike Konczal has argued that the exchange problems stem from more conservative or neoliberal ideas included in the Affordable Care Act (which was essentially the conservative Heritage Foundation’s alternative to Hillarycare). He looked at the politics and argued that a true government-run plan “while conceptually more work for the government, can eliminate a lot of unnecessary administrative problems.”

Some of the more cartoony conservatives argue that this is a failure of liberalism because it is a failure of government planning, evidently confusing the concept of economic “central planning” with “the government makes a plan to do something.”

However, the smarter conservatives who are thinking several moves ahead (e.g. Ross Douthat) understand that this failed rollout is a significant problem for conservatives. Because if all the problems are driven by means-testing, state-level decisions and privatization of social insurance, the fact that the core conservative plan for social insurance is focused like a laser beam on means-testing, block-granting and privatization is a rather large problem. As Ezra Klein notes, “Paul Ryan’s health-care plan — and his Medicare plan — would also require the government to run online insurance marketplaces.” Additionally, the Medicaid expansion is working well where it is being implemented, and the ACA is perhaps even bending the cost curve of Medicare, the two paths forward that conservatives don’t want to take.

The old status quo in which insurance companies profited by finding ways to deny coverage to those with expensive medical problems and affordable insurance was becoming increasingly difficult to obtain was not a viable option. The choices were either continuation of private insurance with increased government involvement, as with the Affordable Care Act, or a single-payer plan. Conservatives should be happy about the outcome if they are willing to back away from the extremism of opposing everything which Obama supports. If the exchanges turn out to be too complicated, especially with Republicans attempting to prevent their success (or as Ed Kilgore put it, have unclean hands) as opposed to participating in the process, the choice then become a more simple single-payer plan, not turning to the incoherent alternatives being proposed by Republicans.

Speculation On Ways Out Of The Government Shutdown

There is a lot of speculation as to how Congress will get out of the Republican-created crisis leading to the shutdown of the government, as well as the upcoming need to increase the debt ceiling. There has been some talk of a grand bargain, and more realistic speculation that they will need a smaller deal. I’m not certain to what degree to trust Robert Costa’s inside sources, but his report in The National Review on Republican strategy does sound realistic:

It hasn’t been announced, and you won’t hear about it today, but the final volley of the fiscal impasse, at least for House Republicans, is already being brokered. And according to my top sources — both members and senior aides — it won’t end with a clean CR, or with a sprawling, 2011-style budget agreement. It’ll end with an offer — a relatively modest mid-October offer that concurrently connects a debt-limit extension, government funding, and a small, but strategically designed menu of conservative demands.

At least that was the word late Thursday, when the leadership and groups of Republicans huddled. There is a growing acceptance, especially among the leading players, that the debt-limit talks will soon blend into the shutdown talks and force Republicans to negotiate a delicate peace that can win the support of a majority of the conference (or close to it), as well as a smattering of Democrats. To that end, recent quiet, freewheeling discussions — some hosted by the leadership, others by Paul Ryan — aren’t so much about whipping toward such a deal, but about deciding how to frame it.

So far, it has been an uneasy process, but not futile. Many of the GOP’s more centrist members are asking Boehner and Ryan to not put too much on the table, or else risk turning off Democrats and extending the shutdown. On Wednesday afternoon, during a series of meetings in Boehner’s office, they pressed the speaker to avert a default on the nation’s debt. But Boehner, though with them in spirit on averting default, told his colleagues to hang tight for the moment and swallow hard as the shutdown continues. One Boehner ally tells me the speaker first has to balance his various conservative blocs before he can even privately articulate a final pitch.

But details are floating to the surface as the leadership reaches out to internal power brokers about what’s within the realm of the possible. What I’m hearing: There will be a “mechanism” for revenue-neutral tax reform, ushered by Ryan and Michigan’s Dave Camp, that will encourage deeper congressional talks in the coming year. There will be entitlement-reform proposals, most likely chained CPI and means testing Medicare; there will also be some health-care provisions, such as a repeal of the medical-device tax, which has bipartisan support in both chambers. Boehner, sources say, is expected to go as far as he can with his offer. Anything too small will earn conservative ire; anything too big will turn off Democrats.

It will probably be necessary to give something to the Republicans so they can save face and agree to a deal, unless public pressure becomes so great that they have no choice except to give in. Revenue-neutral tax reform is something which both sides could agree to, and even might be beneficial. That assumes that Republican tax reform doesn’t simply consist of lowering taxes on the wealthy and increasing taxes on the middle class as they have generally favored. Repeal of the medical-device tax, assuming it appears to be part of a bigger bargain and not simply capitulation by Democrats to a Republican demand, is feasible. This is a part of the Affordable Care Act which assists with financing the plan, but which is not a part of the law which supporters would consider to be important. Entitlement reforms would need to be viewed cautiously to avoid giving in unnecessarily on cuts to Social Security or Medicare.

Democrats have the upper hand and might be willing to give Republicans something so they can feasibly give in, but the Democrats have other options. Bargaining might become unnecessary if the Democrats are able to use a discharge petition to bring a clean bill to the House floor which could pass with the support of most Democrats and a small number of moderate Republicans. Greg Sargent explained how this might work in a post today, with more at Roll Call. Republicans might also be forced to give in due to demands from big business, with further evidence of business being unhappy with the Republicans in addition to what I discussed earlier in the week.

Paul Ryan’s Plan To Destroy The Healthcare System

Paul Ryan might have to change his name to Paul W. Ryan after making this surprisingly honest comment on how his budget would affect health care:

This is something we will not give up on because we are not going to give up on destroying the healthcare system for the American people.

Ryan’s gaffe, or Freudian slip, is reminiscent of this classic from George W. Bush:

Our enemies are innovative and resourceful, and so are we. They never stop thinking about new ways to harm our country and our people, and neither do we.

Among the many other faults in the plan, Ryans budget slashes Medicare spending and turns it into a voucher system. Ezra Klein reviewed the plan, estimating that this would cause about 35 million to lose their health care coverage based upon estimates from the nonpartisan Kaiser Family Foundation.

 

Republicans As The Stupid Party and Villains

There is a Civil War going on in the GOP as Republicans fight over whether to be the Stupid Party or Crazy Party. (Most likely they will remain both). Speaking before the Republican National Committee, Bobby Jindal said they “must stop being the stupid party.” The problem is that Republicans such as Jindal are so out of touch with reality that they only recognize some of the stupid things said by Republicans as being stupid. Think Progress gave a list of Five Reasons Bobby Jindal Is Responsible For Transforming The GOP Into ‘The Stupid Party’:

  1. He permits Louisiana schools to teach creationism.
  2. He allows state employees to be fired for being gay.
  3. He has signed bills to intimidate women seeking abortions
  4. He seeks to dramatically cut taxes for the wealthy, increase taxes for everyone else.
  5. He refuses to provide health care for Louisiana’s poorest.

Paul Ryan urges Republicans not to play the villain:

“The president will bait us. He’ll portray us as cruel and unyielding,” Ryan said. “Just the other day, he said Republicans had ‘suspicions’ about Social Security. He said we had ‘suspicions’ about feeding hungry children. He said we had ‘suspicions’ about caring for the elderly. Look, it’s the same trick he plays every time: Fight a straw man. Avoid honest debate. Win the argument by default.”

“We can’t get rattled,” he continued. “We won’t play the villain in his morality plays. We have to stay united. We have to show that—if given the chance—we can govern. We have better ideas.”

Just looking at Ryan’s budget ideas, such as destroying Medicare as we know it, is enough to view Ryan and his colleagues as the villains.

They certainly do not “have better ideas.” Republicans have become so radicalized that they are limited to “ideas” which ignore facts, ignore reality, and ignore the desires of most Americans. Republicans commonly  project their failings onto others, such as claiming that Obama is fighting a straw man. The reality is that Republicans regularly use straw man arguments and refuse to respond to actual liberal ideas which are supported by a majority of voters, and often even by large numbers of Republican voters.  This is why the strategy which Republicans have come up with is not to sell voters on their ideas but to try to rig the electoral college so that Republicans can win without the support of a majority of voters. Stealing elections is yet another way in which Republicans play the villain.

Republicans Lost On Both The Culture War And On Reagonomics

If the Romney/Ryan Team to Repeal The 20th Century had won last week, there is no doubt they would have continued to call  this an election over ideas, with their ideas winning. After losing they have other excuses. Romney blames the loss on “big policy ‘gifts’ that the president had bestowed on loyal Democratic constituencies, including young voters, African-Americans and Hispanics.” He doesn’t understand the concept of government taking legitimate action for the good of the country, accepting the Republican philosophy of denying legitimacy to government. Romney is wrong if he thinks Democratic constituencies receive more than their fair share of government money. It is actually the red states which voted against Obama and for Romney that receives a greater share.

Paul Ryan blamed the loss on the urban vote, ignoring the questions of why Republicans cannot win in the cities and why they are now also losing in the suburbs.

There is a wide range of opinion as to why they lost among conservatives. Conservative culture warrior Bill Bennett is wrong in his ideas, but he gets it right when admitting that Republicans lost the culture war.

I doubt many conservatives will agree with Michael Tomasky that Mitt Romney killed Reagonomics, but he gets it right:

Here’s something that happened in this election that has been largely overlooked but I think is a very big deal indeed. Trickle-down economics died last Tuesday. The post-election chatter has been dominated by demographics, Latinos, women, and the culture war. But economics played a strong and even pivotal role in this election too, and Reaganomics came out a huge loser, while the Democrats have started to wrap their arms around a simple, winning alternative: the idea that government must invest in the middle class and not the rich. It’s middle-out economics instead of trickle-down, and it won last week and will keep on winning…

Supply side was rejected. And in its place, voters went for an economic vision that says: don’t invest in the wealthy in the hope that they’ll decide to spread the wealth around; invest in the middle class, because it’s demand from a prosperous middle class that ultimately creates more jobs, and because doing that makes for a healthier society all the way around. Obama embraced this message late last year in his speech in Kansas, and even though I wouldn’t say he pressed it consistently for a whole year, he certainly emphasized it in the second debate and spoke regularly about it toward the end. “I believe you grow the economy from the middle out,” he said in a key October ad.

 

Hurricane Sandy Shows Dangers Of Republican Policies

The most important consideration regarding Hurricane Sandy is the safety of those in its path and recovering from damage. There is the danger that discussing the political implications might seem distasteful, however very recently the Republicans began to play politics with the death of Americans in Libya with total disregard for waiting for the facts to come in. There is no reason not to look at the political implications of a tragedy where the facts are clearly on our side. Policies have consequences and Sandy shows the consequences of the Republican beliefs being wrong in two areas–disaster management and climate change.

Mitt Romney would return us to the disaster management policies of George Bush just like he would return us the economic policies of George Bush.  Over the last couple of days numerous sites have linked to multiple statements from Mitt Romney talking of cutting FEMA.  He has argued this should be handled by the states, but he also vetoed money for flood prevention while governor. Cutting funding for FEMA is also the position of the Republican Party:

Over the last two years, Congressional Republicans have forced a 43 percent reduction in the primary FEMA grants that pay for disaster preparedness. Representatives Paul Ryan, Eric Cantor and other House Republicans have repeatedly tried to refuse FEMA’s budget requests when disasters are more expensive than predicted, or have demanded that other valuable programs be cut to pay for them. The Ryan budget, which Mr. Romney praised as “an excellent piece of work,” would result in severe cutbacks to the agency, as would the Republican-instigated sequester, which would cut disaster relief by 8.2 percent on top of earlier reductions.

Now Romney either avoids answering questions about FEMA or claims he will not cut it. Campaigning for cuts to big government programs in the abstract is popular. It is a different matter to identify individual programs. Romney claims he will cut federal spending to less than 20 percent of GDP by 2016  but refuses to say what he will cut. It would be folly to vote for someone who refuses to answer this question.

Mitt Romney made fun of Barack Obama, saying he “promised to begin to slow the rise of the oceans and to heal the planet” at the Republican convention. That doesn’t sound like such a bad idea now. Bill Clinton mocked  Romney for a similar attack on Obama at the first debate (where sadly Obama failed to defend himself):

I was actually listening closely to what the candidates said in these debates. In the first debate, the triumph of the moderate Mitt Romney. You remember what he did? He ridiculed the president. Ridiculed the president for his efforts to fight global warming in economically beneficial ways. He said, ‘Oh, you’re going to turn back the seas.’ In my part of America, we would like it if someone could’ve done that yesterday. All up and down the East Coast, there are mayors, many of them Republicans, who are being told, ‘You’ve got to move these houses back away from the ocean. You’ve got to lift them up. Climate change is going to raise the water levels on a permanent basis. If you want your town insured, you have to do this.’ In the real world, Barack Obama’s policies work better.

Many Republicans deny science, claiming that global warming is a hoax despite all the evidence that the earth has warmed due to activities of mankind. Scientists, along with the insurance industry which must rely on facts, acknowledge that severe weather events are related to climate change. From Scientific American:

Hurricane Sandy has emboldened more scientists to directly link climate change and storms, without the hedge. On Monday, as Sandy came ashore in New Jersey, Jonathan Foley, director of the Institute on the Environment at the University of Minnesota, tweeted: “Would this kind of storm happen without climate change? Yes. Fueled by many factors. Is [the] storm stronger because of climate change? Yes.”

Raymond Bradley, director of the Climate Systems Research Center at the University of Massachusetts, was quoted in the Vancouver Sun saying: “When storms develop, when they do hit the coast, they are going to be bigger and I think that’s a fair statement that most people could sign onto.”

A recent, peer-reviewed study published by several authors in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Science concludes: “The largest cyclones are most affected by warmer conditions and we detect a statistically significant trend in the frequency of large surge events (roughly corresponding to tropical storm size) since 1923.”

Greg Laden, an anthropologist who blogs about culture and science, wrote this week in an online piece: “There is always going to be variation in temperature or some other weather related factor, but global warming raises the baseline. That’s true. But the corollary to that is NOT that you can’t link climate change to a given storm. All storms are weather, all weather is the immediate manifestation of climate, climate change is about climate.”

Now, as promised: If you still don’t believe scientists, then believe insurance giant Munich Re. In her October 29 post at the The New Yorker, writer Elizabeth Kolbert notes:

Munich Re, one of the world’s largest reinsurance firms, issued a study titled “Severe Weather in North America.” According to the press release that accompanied the report, “Nowhere in the world is the rising number of natural catastrophes more evident than in North America.” … While many factors have contributed to this trend, including an increase in the number of people living in flood-prone areas, the report identified global warming as one of the major culprits: “Climate change particularly affects formation of heat-waves, droughts, intense precipitation events, and in the long run most probably also tropical cyclone intensity.”

If Democrats can capitalized politically on Hurricane Sandy’s demonstration that Republicans are wrong in cutting government disaster funding and wrong about climate change they could do very well next week.

On the other hand, if they have not been able to benefit politically from running against a candidate who would destroy Social Security and Medicare, and if they still have not yet been able to sell all the benefits of Obamacare to the public, there is no reason to be confident that the Democrats will win this argument despite having the facts on their side. The Republican tsunami of misinformation,which covers up facts and presents a direct danger to liberty and democracy, is even more harmful to this nation than any single natural disaster.

Vice Presidential Debate Impressions

Joe Biden accomplished the goals I discussed in my pre-debate post. He accomplished the goal of debunking the arguments from Romney/Ryan and, perhaps more importantly, turned around the enthusiasm gap since last week’s debate.

There were far too many highlights from Biden for me to list in a quick post-event post such as this. Instead I’ll summarize the debate by recapping my Facebook and Twitter comments from during the debate (which could not keep up with everything);

Joe Biden has already done more to stand up to Romney/Ryan lies than Obama did during the entire first debate.

If people think Dick Cheney out-debated John Edwards, this VP debate is even more one-sided.

This debate looks like a guy with years of experience explaining things to an ignorant kid who has no idea what he is talking about.

Smart statesman versus ignorant warmonger.

“I may be mistaken, he changes his mind so often” –Joe Biden referring to Mitt Romney’s position.

Yes Joe, feel free to interrupt when Lyin’ Ryan whenever necessary.

Remember when there was talk of replacing Biden with Hillary Clinton? At the moment I am so happy Obama stuck with Joe.

“Just get out of the way.” –Joe Biden

I’ve never respected Bill Clinton more than on the day of his convention speech, and have never respected Joe Biden more than tonight.

Now the Medicare lie from Ryan.

Tie Ryan to Sarah Palin and death panels. Good move.

Facts vs. Bullshit.

Joe looks and sounds like a president. Ryan looks and sounds like a mutant combination of Richard Nixon and Eddie Munster.

If I was playing a drinking game in which I had a drink every time Joe called out a Ryan lie I’d be unconscious by now.

“Not mathematically possible…It has never been done before…Now you’re Jack Kennedy.”

I can’t keep up with all of Joe’s great points tonight on Facebook and Twitter. (Sadly I didn’t have that problem last week.)

Joe keeps repeating himself–which is exactly what he should be doing to make his point clear to viewers.

Good, another question in which Joe should be able to repeat how Obama got bin Laden. (And he did)

Debating a skilled liar who floods a debate with lie after lie is very difficult. Biden is showing how it is done. (Pay attention Barack)

Why is Eddie Munster so down on America?

“We will leave in 2014.”

I can’t wait to see how Fox spins this as a win for Ryan.

Is everyone having more fun tonight than last Wednesday? Let’s have more fun like this next week.

Less than a half hour to go. I wish this would never end–something I generally never say during a debate (except the first Kerry-Bush debate in 2004)

I bet Ryan wishes he knew actual facts like Joe does.

Biden–I refuse to impose my religion on others, unlike my friend here, the Congressman.

To Ryan freedom of religion means the freedom of the religious right to impose their views on others #abortion #americantaliban

What, no questions about Big Bird?

My favorite tweet of the night:
Oh well that’s perfectly clear now. #PaulRyan is anti-abortion because he once saw a bean. — Cynthia Boaz @cynthiaboaz

Ryan keeps whining about all the attacks upon his ticket (ignoring how dirty Romney’s campaign has been)

The ghost of Ayn Rand just joined Ryan up on the stage. She is very upset about the way he wants to impose his religious views on others and wants to continue the war in Iraq.

Before the debate I thought Biden would greatly beat the expectations most had of him. He then managed to greatly exceed those expectations.

There’s talk that Biden seemed like he was on stimulants. If so, give whatever he took to Obama before the next two debates.

I never took talk of Biden being the candidate in 2016 very seriously, until tonight.

After last week’s debate my dogs were terrified for their future. They feel much better tonight.

Later I’ll have to go thru the full transcript. There were a lot of lines worth fully quoting. Enthusiasm is up among Democrats. After this year, we will probably never hear again that the debates don’t matter.

 

Looking Back At Obama’s Debate And Forward At Biden’s

There have been many attempts to analyze Barack Obama after the first presidential debate. I believe Joe Klein has a fairly accurate description. First he debunked any arguments as to Obama’s ability to speak on the issues:

The President is no dummy; he’s as well versed in the nuances of policy as Bill Clinton, if decidedly less compelling. Watch him in any press conference. Go back and look at his question-and-answer session with House Republicans after the 2010 election. He knows his stuff. But there haven’t been many press conferences–or town meetings, for that matter. His kinder debate critics said he was rusty, which is true, but there’s more to it than that. Obama chooses to be rusty. This is also strange: he’s warm and informal in person. He enjoys a good policy discussion–and I mean discussion, in which he actually responds to things you say or ask rather than speechifying. In my experience, though, he hates small talk, especially flattery, and that gets us closer to the heart of his current troubles.

Klein gave more examples. Even read the transcript of the debate. Obama actually did have the answers to many of Romney’s erroneous statements. The problem is that the delivery was so bad that the message got totally lost. Klein got into why Obama wasn’t into this type of debate:

>When I asked several close Obama associates about the President’s reluctance to sell his policies, they admitted their frustration. They said he hates doing things that he considers transparently political. He hates the idea of inviting a bunch of pols over to the White House for a drink or a movie, because they’d see it as an obvious bribe. He’d have to fake small talk; they’d try to Holbrooke him. He hates press conferences because the gotcha questions are calibrated to generate heat rather than light. He hates the notion of launching precooked zingers in debates. He hates debates, period, with their false air of portent and stage-managed aggression. These are inconvenient prejudices if you want to be re-elected. Such ceremonies are the price of admission if you want to be a politician.

Tonight is Joe Biden’s turn. He might be better suited for this format than Obama is. Biden is far more likely to use simple slogans as opposed to wonkish, professorial explanations which don’t work in this format. “GM is alive and bin Laden is dead.”That is not Obama’s style, but that is what is needed in this type of debate.

Hopefully after the first debate, Biden could get in a few simple points. Debunk the distortion that Obama is cutting Medicare and point out how the Romney/Ryan plan harms Medicare. And yes, that includes many currently on Medicare. Point out how the math is simple when looking at Romney’s tax plan. Either the deficit gets much higher or the middle class pays more in taxes (and probably both). Point out how after Romney claimed his health care plan protects people with pre-existing conditions in the first debate his campaign admitted the following day that the plan did not guarantee such coverage.  Remind women of how Romney would allow the government to interfere in what should be the private decisions of the individual. Plus, for many women the loss of Planned Parenthood is an economic issue as well as a social issue. Remind viewers of how badly Romney messed up when talking with foreign leaders. Bring back the 47 percent and questions as to why Romney won’t release his tax returns.

Should Ryan try to play Romney’s game and deny the positions they have been running on, in addition to pointing this out Biden should also point out how government works. If Romney is president will he really veto extremist policies passed by the Republicans–who have already voted to end Medicare as we know it and increase government intrusion in the lives of individuals? Will Romney appoint Supreme Court justices who support reproductive rights? I doubt it.

Most important of all, a good showing by Biden would get the media to stop repeating the simplistic storyline that Obama lost the debate. The fact remains that, despite a poor presentation, Obama was right on the issues, and the candidate on stage who was most qualified to be president.

Winning the Post-Debate: Potentially The Best of Both Worlds For Obama

After last night’s debate, there is a lot of talk of a change in strategy for Obama.  There will certainly be changes in how Obama debates after he failed to adequately respond to Romney’s lies last night, and missed many opportunities to demonstrate the flaws in Romney’s policies. Debates of this type are not scored based upon how well the specific questions are answered. The debates are won in the media by using every moment a candidate has to speak to present their arguments and debunk the arguments of the opponent.

Some discussion of changes in overall campaign strategy misses the point. Buzzfeed writes that Obama has changed the strategy from criticizing Romney for being too conservative to being inconsistent. They are half right. Today Obama did highlight the inconsistency:

“When I got onto the stage I met this very spirited fellow who claimed to be Mitt Romney,” Obama told a crowd of some 12,000 the morning after the contest. “But it couldn’t have been Mitt Romney because the real Mitt Romney has been running around the country the last year promising 5 trillion in tax cuts that favor the wealthy. The fellow on stage said he didn’t know anything about that.”

Obama also accused Romney of “danc[ing]” around his positions; he hit him on taxes as well as outsourcing jobs; and claimed that Romney didn’t support teachers.

“The man on stage last night does not want to be held accountabilty for the real Mitt Romney’s decisions and what’s he been saying for the last year,” Obama said, suggesting Romney had switched his positions for political expedience. “And that’s because he knows full well that we don’t want what he’s been selling for the past year.”

The change is really not as drastic as Buzzfeed suggests. Earlier in the year Obama had a choice of criticizing the hard line conservative positions Romney adopted during the campaign or to attack him for flip-flopping by raising Romney’s past different, but more moderate, positions. Attacking Romney’s “severely conservative” positions was the more effective choice as it would not help Obama to raise the possibility that maybe Romney is more moderate than he now appears. However, once Romney made statements in the debate which were more moderate than the positions he has been campaigning on, it was consistent with their overall strategy to point out these differences. Obama will continue to tie Romney to the positions he has campaigned on for the past year, and prevent him from shaking the Etch-A-Sketch.

As long as Obama responds effectively (which is likely in the days beyond the first debate), this could be the best of both world for Obama. He can now justifiably attack Romney for both being too conservative and for being a dishonest politician who will say whatever he believes will help him politically, regardless of the truth. Plus Obama can be the candidate who defends Big Bird and Elmo.

The mainstream media crowned Romney the debate winner based upon the stylistic criteria usually used in these events, but some did realize the bigger trap which Romney has fallen into. First Read pointed out how Obama can win the post-debate:

Who wins the post-debate? If Romney won the instant reactions from last night’s debate, it is more than possible that the Obama camp can win the next 24 hours. Why? Because Romney said several things that could make life difficult for him today or in the next debate. First, Romney declared, “I will not reduce the taxes paid by high-income Americans.” But in addition to supporting the extension of the Bush tax cuts, which are skewed heavily to the wealthy, the non-partisan Tax Policy Center says that Romney’s tax plan would give the Top 0.1% an average tax cut of more than $246,000. Next, he stated that “there will be no tax cut that adds to the deficit.” While he has said his plan will be paid for, he’s yet to lay out any SPECIFICS on how he’ll pay for it. Romney also said, “I’m not going to cut education funding. I don’t have any plan to cut education funding.” But the Ryan budget plan, which Romney has said he’d sign into law, leads to long-term spending reductions in education. And Romney also didn’t disagree with the description that his Medicare plan would consist of “vouchers” for future retirees. Winning a “debate” is always a two-part deal — the night itself, and then the aftermath. This is now an opportunity for Team Obama and a challenge for Team Romney.

Jonathan Bernstein further described the hole Romney dug for himself:

… Romney’s policy positions are even more of a shambles now than they were previously. Romney’s position, over and over again, is to simply bluff it on policy. His tax plan continues to be the most obvious one, but it really happens across the board. Romney insisted tonight more than once that his tax plan will keep taxes the same for the wealthy, cut them for everyone else, and not add to the deficit. Forget about the Tax Policy Center; just that much is obviously incoherent and impossible. And, more to the point, it’s clear he’s going to keep on insisting that it adds up, no matter how clearly it doesn’t. But it’s not just that; on every policy, he’s just going to insist that the consequences of his plans that anyone might not like simply don’t exist, so that he’s for sweeping spending cuts but insists that no particular program that anyone brings up might lose any funding, or that he’s for repealing Obamacare but those with pre-existing conditions will magically be protected.

Any benefits Romney did receive by winning the debate were tempered by a day in which the news centered around how Romney was dishonest and his tax proposals did not add up. Jonathan Chait described Romney’s successful debate plan–lying:

Romney won the debate in no small part because he adopted a policy of simply lying about his policies. Probably the best way to understand Obama’s listless performance is that he was prepared to debate the claims Romney has been making for the entire campaign, and Romney switched up and started making different and utterly bogus ones. Obama, perhaps, was not prepared for that, and he certainly didn’t think quickly enough on his feet to adjust to it.

Tim Dickenson summarized Mitt Romney’s Five Biggest Lies. Unfortunately he left out Romney’s false claims regarding Medicare cuts, but plenty of others have responded to that. The Medicare cuts come from subsidies to insurance companies which cost more to treat patients than under the government plan and cuts to hospitals to reimburse for treating the uninsured as there will be far fewer uninsured people. Paul Ryan includes the same cuts (and more) in his plan. Obama’s cuts do not reduce benefits to either Medicare beneficiaries or to doctors. In reality, Obamacare provides additional benefits to Medicare patients and increases payment to primary care doctors to care for Medicare patients.

Think Progress didn’t attempt to narrow the list to five, pointing out that Romney Told 27 Myths In 38 Minutes. I wonder if this is part of Romney’s strategy. He tells so many lies that it is difficult to keep up and present the evidence on all off them.

I am confident that Obama will do a better job of holding Romney accountable in the next two debates, but regardless of how Obama handles the debates, we have further evidence as to the weakness of Romney’s arguments, and a clear example of how Romney will say anything, and contradict anything he has said in the very recent past, for political gain.

Related:
How Jed Bartlet Would Handle The Debates

Jon Stewart and Bill Maher on the Debate

Initial Thoughts On The First Debate