All things considered (including the debate), it seems impossible to puzzle out why the presidential campaign remains a "tight race." The Romney campaign has been a train wreck, to include the 47 percent comments, while Mitt Romney's positions on substantive issues continue to be opaque, stunningly inconsistent, dishonest, or simply withheld — buttressed by the promise that all will be revealed after the election (with the exception of his tax returns).
If you check the daily tracking polls, it's downright nerve-wracking.
Plus there are the disconcerting shots of Romney's rallies, filled with flag waving supporters, all hoping for a Republican victory. What are these folks thinking when they hear their candidate declare, as he has repeatedly, that on day one he will repeal the Affordable Care Act? Do none of them have a pre-existing condition? Or a twenty-something son or daughter they'd like to keep on their health insurance policy? Perhaps a child or grandchild with a chronic condition for which there is a terrifying cap. Do they not get that what Romney and his ilk refer to as Obamacare, always with a passive-aggressive smirk, will be, once fully implemented, a big deal for millions of Americans?
The Affordable Health Care Act is not just another piece of legislation; it is existential for countless people and will fundamentally change the quality of their lives. This is what the Obama administration fought to pass, at great political cost, and this is what Romney is cavalierly insisting he will revoke at the earliest opportunity. His enthusiasm is stunning, a clear manifestation of his profound lack of understanding of what it means to have in place a dependable safety net.
And not to forget the recent, breathtaking moment on 60 Minutes when correspondent Scott Pelley asked Romney, "Does the government have a responsibility to provide health care for over 50 million Americans who don't have it today?"
Romney's response was startling in its equanimity, while offering his latest incarnation of his position regarding uninsured Americans: "We do provide care for people who don't have insurance. If someone has a heart attack, they don't sit in their apartment and die. We pick them up in an ambulance and take them to the hospital and give them care "… through the emergency room."
This statement is irresponsible in the extreme. Not to mention disingenuous. Romney knows that using the emergency room for the uninsured is ridiculously expensive and dysfunctional. He understands that no one can go to the emergency room to receive preventative care or screenings or boosters shots for children. You can't establish a primary care relationship with emergency doctors or nurses.
Is it possible that those clapping so enthusiastically at rallies, when Romney shouts out that he will revoke "Obamacare," have forgotten what he said in 2010, on MSNBC, when asked about universal health care: "Look, it doesn't make a lot of sense for us to have millions of people who have no health care and yet go to the emergency room and get entirely free care for which they have no responsibility "…" Does he possess no core values? Is he merely a weather vane? And doesn't this go to character?
At the same rally, in almost the same breath, he invokes morality when speaking about our national debt. "In my view, it's not just bad economics, it is immoral for us to pass on the burden of debt to coming generations." But does no one in that cheering crowd consider it immoral to say to 50 million uninsured Americans that when faced with a life-changing illness they may also face the possibility of being denied critical care or confront ruinous bankruptcy? Where on the continuum of morality does that reality reside?
I confess, as well, to being puzzled by women voters, those who sit in the photo-op bleachers behind Romney or gather at the rope lines to shake his hand. Have they not been listening to the Republicans recently?
This reconstructed GOP-tea party, the righteous party of small government, has used the power of big government to intrude into the lives of women with a heavy hand if not a mailed fist. It's been astonishing: mandatory, must-watch, invasive ultrasounds before an abortion; restrictions on birth control; and an ongoing attempt to overturn or undermine Roe v. Wade. Plus the much-anticipated and long-awaited opportunity: the Supreme Court.
Are women not aware that while promising to repeal the Affordable Health Care Act, Romney has also promised to eliminate Planned Parenthood, one of the most efficacious places for women, especially poor women, to go when seeking a spectrum of care?
Is it unrealistic to expect that women en masse would absent themselves not only from the rallies but from the GOP itself? We'll soon see. Or, as Yogi Berra said, "You can observe a lot by watching."
Chris Honoré lives in Ashland.