Pissed Off: VP Debate Edition
#1 thing that pissed me off:
Moderator Martha Raddatz, who otherwise did a great job–lots of pointed questions, trying to pin the candidates down to practical specifics, which of course they hate–asked one question towards the end that really, really pissed me off. Namely:
“I would like to ask you both to tell me what role your religion has played in your own personal views on abortion.”
Who in the fuck cares? You are asking this question of two MEN. Neither one has ever known or will ever know what it’s like to experience a pregnancy scare, or an unwanted pregnancy, or any kind of pregnancy. Their religion has fuck-all to do with my right to control my body, my right to decide if and/or when to bear children.
Anyway, Ryan gave a really insulting answer where he talked about Obamacare “assaulting the religious liberties of this country.” Oh, cry me a fucking river–my right to not be forced into a pregnancy I don’t want trumps your “religious liberty” to deny me medical care. What if there were hospitals run by the white-supremacist Christian Identity movement, and they refused to treat black people? Would that be okay? I’m guessing not. But women who have sex with men? That’s an acceptable target all right. Because they’re sluts, right? So their lives don’t matter–not as much as protecting the hurt feelings of a bunch of celibate male Catholic clergy, anyway.
Biden was better–said that as a Catholic, he’s personally anti-abortion, but policy-wise he’d get out of the way and let women make their own decisions. The way he phrased this was pretty obnoxious, though–“I refuse to impose [my beliefs] on equally devout Christians and Muslims and Jews”. Yeah, actually, some of us aren’t any of those but we still have rights as human beings. Again, acceptable targets.
#2 thing that pissed me off:
The day after, CNN did a report on some guy who used facial recognition software to analyze the facial expressions of the two VP candidates as they debated each other. CNN, you never fail to amaze me with the BS you think passes for news–oh wait, this “story” is also on the front page of Google results for “vp debate” and is credited to ABC News. Well then, fuck you too, ABC. How about fact-checking what they said? For instance, Ryan said that Biden “sympathized” with China’s one-child policy, and that federal stimulus money went to “electric cars in Finland” and windmills in China”. Biden said that House Republicans cut funding for embassy security by $300 million, and that Romney’s tax-cut plan would give $250,000 a year to millionaires and raise taxes on middle-income families by $2,000 a year. What’s the truth? (Go to factcheck.org and politifact.com for the real story–they’re both non-partisan fact-checking websites with some great, detailed analysis of what the soundbites really mean.)
As a mainstream news network, you could easily have your next-day coverage of the debate’s aftermath revolve around finding the truth–and don’t tell me it wouldn’t be entertaining, politifact.com has a “Truth-O-Meter” that rates each statement with red and green lights and you could easily have the same thing on your screen plus add some comical “boing!” noises for effect–but noooo. Instead you want to treat us to some armchair psychologist talking about whose “body language” made them more “electable”. For the record, I think their general tone made them both seem like petty assholes, but who cares? It’s their policies that are going to affect us.
#3 thing that pissed me off:
All of the talk from both candidates and the moderator was about the “wealthy” versus the “middle class”. Not once did anybody use the words “poor”, “lower income”, or any similar correlates. Nor did anybody bring up Medicaid, which Romney is planning to kill by turning it into a block-grant program, giving states a fixed amount of money and then leaving them to find creative ways to make people ineligible in order to bridge the gap between the program’s stated mission and inadequate federal funding. (Right now, whoever is eligible for Medicaid gets it, period.) In the national political conversation, people like me are being disappeared. Why? I can think of two reasons. First of all, poor people don’t have much (if any) disposable income, so TV advertisers are not trying to target them, which means they’re not the kind of audience TV stations want to attract in order to keep themselves in business. Second of all, poor people are the main targets of Republican-led voter suppression efforts. Why bother trying to attract someone’s vote if they’re just going to be turned away on election day?
#4 thing that pissed me off:
Ryan saying in the debate that his criteria for when to go to war in general would be “What is in the national interests of the American people.” I hear that phrase from a lot of different politicians, “national interests,” and it never fails to piss me off, because it’s so goddam vague. What is this “interests” crap? Whatever happened to going to war because somebody attacked us? For all I know, “interests” could have nothing to do with protecting my actual safety and everything to do with protecting the financial “interests” of a few American oil companies. Actually, a lot of the time, that’s exactly what it means.
Some other observations:
One major difference between the two candidates is on military spending. Basically, under Obama we’d keep it fairly flat at its current level, but under Romney we’d increase it by over a third in the next decade, to higher than it’s been even at the height of the Cold War. (Liberal talk-show host Rachel Maddow puts this proposed spending increase in historical context here.) Biden accused Ryan in the VP debate of pushing for a new war in the Middle East. Ryan said he wasn’t, he just wanted to talk tougher and impose sanctions unilaterally instead of waiting to come to an agreement with the U.N. first. But he wants to give the military money to spend on all these new toys–and, well, toys have to be used at some point, don’t they? I’m with Biden on this one. I don’t want another war. I don’t want money spent on the military that could be spent on things people actually need here at home–speaking of which, how can Ryan claim to be such a deficit hawk when him and Romney want to increase military spending by $2 TRILLION? Oh, that’s right, they’re going to pay for it by gutting Americans’ healthcare benefits. Which alone still won’t be enough, so they’ll also have to cut education funding and a whole bunch of other useful stuff they refuse to specify in any detail. This will surely help save the future for our grandchildren.
The Romney-Ryan Medicare proposal is what, in union negotiations, is called a “two-tier” benefits system. If you’re 55 or over, you get the same benefits as before. If you’re younger, you get less. It pits the young against the old, the current beneficiaries against the future ones. Unions fight tooth and nail against these kinds of plans because they divide the workforce into two unequal groups with conflicting interests, destroying the unity that makes collective bargaining possible. In a similar way, preserving Medicare for the current crop of old people while cutting it for the next ones tears apart America’s social fabric.
Things about the debate I actually really liked:
The big laugh line where Biden called Ryan’s claim that Obama dissed Israel’s president “a bunch of stuff.” Raddatz: “’a bunch of stuff’?” Biden: <must not say curse word on national TV>
Martha Raddatz. What a difference having a really sharp news reporter as a moderator makes. She played hardball, for real: pressed for specifics on budget math, brought her own foreign policy expertise as an experienced on-the-ground foreign correspondant to the table, tried to give the American public a good view of what the country would actually be like if either one wins, what would change and what wouldn’t change. “Be specific.” “No specifics, then?” “Can you get unemployment to under 6 percent and how long will it take?” “If your ticket is elected, who will pay more in taxes? Who will pay less?” “Can you guarantee this math will add up?” “I wanna know how you do the math.” I want Martha Raddatz to moderate everything.