Okay, after three very intense. hours (plus) onstage moderating this health care forum, I really needed a massage and a margarita. Not in that order. So here, belatedly, is my take from the moderators’s chair:
I suspected that my colleagues in the press filing center weren’t entirely thrilled at spending a Saturday in Las Vegas this way, and it was confirmed when this e-mail appeared on my Treo as I prepared to go onstage:
In the press file.
We have taken a vote.
We don’t want to write about health care.
Please adjust accordingly.
But that was my mandate, so I swallowed my butterflies, communed with my inner wonk and forged ahead. I was briefly panicked by the fact that as I headed to the stage, John Edwards, the first speaker, had not yet arrived. The managers told me to talk as long as I could in my intro, and to be prepared to go to Dennis Kucinich, who had arrived verrrry early. But Edwards made it just in the nick.
Still, I think we learned a lot. If you want to see the whole thing, C-SPAN will be running it on Monday.
Edwards, who is the only Democrat in the field with a detailed plan telling us how he would get to universal coverage, was also the one who made the news. He declared that, despite Elizabeth’s cancer setback this week, he’s in the race for the duration. (I knew this was the question on everyone’s mind, so I decided to get it out of the way first.)
The best question of the day came not from me, but from Morgan Miller, a young woman who asked Obama why she couldn’t find any actual information on the “Creating a Healthcare System that Works” section of his website. Her question as it had been submitted to me in advance read in part: “I didn’t see where you addressed how to help the more than 46 million uninsured Americans, the over 8 milion children who have no health care, or the millions of Americans facing rising drug costs.” Obama lamely suggested she try his Senate website, but the fact is, he doesn’t have an answer to that question, despite the fact that in January he pronounced health care a crisis, expressed his disdain for “plans that tinker and halfway measures” and vowed that affordable, universal coverage “must not be a question of whether, it must be a question of how.” He said that he will have a plan within the next couple of months. We at Swampland will hold him to that. In the post-game chatter in the ladies room (did I mention it lasted more than three hours?), there was a lot of complaining from people who had found his entire presentation vague and unsatisfying.
Hillary Clinton doesn’t have a plan either, but she by now has this issue in her bone marrow, so she sounded completely on top of it. She also refused to sit down in the chair onstage, which left me haplessly trying to ask questions to her back.
Bill Richardson would like to expand on the programs that are out there, and talked a lot about what he has done as a Governor. That’s a reminder that as Washington has dithered on health care, the states are moving forward. Chris Dodd pointed as bona fides to his record in the Senate, where he has been a leader in expanding health care for children. Dennis Kucinich made a forceful case for single payer. And Mike Gravel–well, I’m still trying to figure it out, but it involves vouchers.