MEGAN: Hey, so, did you go to or host some awesome debate-watching party as befits a DC denizen? I mostly cracked a bottle of wine, ordered in Thai food and blogged from my sofa bed with Anna on one side of me and her husband snorting on the other every time Palin failed to answer a question. KAY: Well, my work (the Center for American Progress) hosted a debate watching party for staff, but I opted for one filled with bloggers instead. MEGAN: So were things broken? Was there lots of shouting? I blog in near-silence, it's very monastic. But I know I'm weird like that. KAY: There was an abundance of sarcasm. Remember, this is the same group of people that will likely dress up as a combination of comic book characters and political puns for Halloween. MEGAN: Halloween-wise, I'm still stuck in adolescence when I wasn't allowed to dress as anything sexy and instead found this amazing/horrifying red velveteen Ren-Fairey queen-like bridesmaid's dress for $2.50 and went as Lady Macbeth for like 3 years in a row. The last time I went all out for a costume, I was Madonna, circa "Express Yourself." Anyway, so, the debates. Do you think people noticed when she didn't answer questions and kept talking about oil? KAY: Well, she also said that she wasn't going to answer the questions:
And I may not answer the questions that either the moderator or you want to hear, but I'm going to talk straight to the American people and let them know my track record also.MEGAN: I know! I can't even really raise my eyebrows, but they went up at that! I was like, can she do that? Can't Gwen Ifill be like, no, you have to answer the question? KAY: That was the closest thing I've ever seen to a candidate just say "fuck you" to the moderator. MEGAN: I mean, and if anyone was going to tell Gwen Ifill to go fuck herself, you would have thought it would be Cheney, after she told him to keep it to 30 seconds in 2004 against Edwards when he was trying to defend Halliburton. KAY: Right, if Cheney can restrain himself and Palin can't that really says something. MEGAN: But at least when she tells Pat Leahy to go fuck himself, she'll toss her hair, smile, wink at Arlen Specter over his shoulder and saunter off. And the press will think it's cute. She'll have an aide/hype man with her at all times so that when she does it, he can press play on the boom box and she'll walk off to the strains of "Barracuda." Because, otherwise, it would all be for naught. KAY: Right. But for all that prep work, it appears that Biden still blew her out of the water. I guess the point was that she just didn't look horribly unprepared, only minorly. MEGAN: Oh, true, although at a couple of points I, too, thought she was arranging her cue cards with talking points because that's the only way some of her answers made sense. I really got the sense that, short of reading talking points off of cue cards and an ability to arrange them in some kind of order, she wasn't able to effectively segue between thoughts/talking points for answers to questions that she didn't have prepared answers for. But even so, the CBS poll didn't show as stark a win for Biden as the CNN one. KAY: True, it's always hard to say how much stock to put in these assessment polls. It's always hard to say how "uncommitted" the voters they poll are. MEGAN: I know, I never feel like I'm uncommitted by the summer. I'm usually uncommitted in the primaries, just because I sort of like underdogs and don't have the energy to care that much, but generally speaking, I've done my research by now even when I'm not writing about it for work. KAY: I'm always astonished when you talk to people and they seem to say, "I don't really know that much about candidate X" as if they are powerless to do anything to solve this problem. It's called the Internet, people! Use it! MEGAN: I think, though, that some of this stuff is really hard to wade through. Like on health care or taxes, how many people do their own taxes or buy their own health insurance? So you can read a 1 page or a 3 page white paper on either one and it's full of pablum and platitudes and you come away having no idea how those plans will affect you personally. Like, that's why the war differences are a stark contrast. That's why, at least in this case, it's really easy to explain to people why John McCain's health care "plan" sucks. It was actually pretty cool last night to hear Biden shred it both effectively and more or less correctly inside of 45 seconds in a way I felt like real people could understand if they were listening. You very rarely get down to that level of making stuff understandable for real people in politics. KAY: Oh it's definitely valuable to have people listen to the debates. But there's also tons of analysis on each of the candidates' plans out there. McCain's health care "plan" is a good example. The campaign released it more than a year ago, and it was only until recently that people are starting to realize that he proposes taking insurance premiums out of post-tax dollars instead of pre-tax ones like they are now. And even if he gives you a tax credit on your premiums, because everyone's on the individual market costs would skyrocket within a few years so that the tax credit is virtually useless. This stuff is all out there. I know politics seems intimidating, but there are tons of great resources out there now to keep people informed about this stuff, even if they know nothing about it. MEGAN: I mean, I wrote about it months ago in order to contrast Hillary's plan with Obama's and then I stuck McCain's plan in there for good measure. And I can tell you, that tax credit thing is vintage Douglas Holtz-Eakin (i.e., from McCain's tax guy, NOT his health care guy) because most conservative economists think the problem with the health care system is the fact that your employers gives you health insurance and so it's not a perfect market-based system. And, in their mind, if you bought your own health care rather than being part of your employer's risk pool, you would be more frugal with your health care choices and the market would operate better. OF COURSE they forget that it means that lots of people would go without health insurance, be unable or unwilling to pay and foolishly avoid the doctor for too long, driving up health care costs (since preventative care and early treatment are less expensive than catastrophic care), but, after all, they're just economists. It works on paper, right? And that's what America needs right now, better economic models. KAY: It's so true. We should just forget about doctors and just send people to economists when they're sick. That'll fix the problem, right? MEGAN: Well, if we're all contagious, it'll probably solve the problem with economists, anyway.