Having reached an age where the health care problem is likely to be one of the highest-priority deciding issues by the time I have to cast a vote next year, I was glad to hear that seven Democratic contenders met to debate the issue at UNLV yesterday. I was less pleased to discover that the only way I could hear about it was from the blog that Marc Cooper writes for The Nation. Apparently the United States desk at Reuters had better things to do. I was also disappointed that Cooper joined all seven contenders in ignoring the dead moose on the table, which was the colossal failure to reform health care during Bill Clinton's administration. I am one of those who believes strongly that we learn more from failure than from success; and, since Hillary was right there on the line of fire for this particular effort, I would have thought that this would have been an excellent opportunity for a serious "lessons learned" discussion.
Of course I should have known better. This was not an opportunity to wrestle with all the hard problems that stand between the present mess and a viable and equitable health care system. This was a media event; and the contenders were primarily distinguished by how they "played" the media (even if immediate media coverage was not as substantial as any of them would have wanted). Edwards did the most homework on details. He could get away with it without boring the media with a well-worded reminder that those details mattered in the context of his personal life. Hillary seems to have been there with the stirring rhetoric (again); but she ignored the question that she should have been best equipped to ask: "How do we get it right this time?" Obama also had little concrete to say, which did not serve his stature very well. Of the remaining candidates Kucinich was the most confrontational; but he, too, was ignoring the past. In his case, however, the past was more distant. He failed to see that raw confrontation with the role of corporate greed in managed health care is not that different from the efforts of the New York press to confront Boss Tweed and the corruption at Tammany Hall. Tweed had the same answer for any reporter who framed a confrontational question: "What are ya gonna do about it?" If Kucinich really wants to go after corporate greed, he better have a good answer to that question!