So, the first 2012 presidential campaign debate is done. Overall, I personally wasn’t impressed with either candidate. I am registered Independent (well, “un-enrolled”), so I was looking forward to seeing who would sway me one way or the other. I wasn’t overly impressed with Obama’s lack of eye contact with Romney, or his lack of excitement. Besides the constant interruptions, Romney definitely improved his public persona for this debate. However, I don’t vote based on how someone looks or how excited they seem. I vote based on where they stand on the issues. In this regard, Obama seems to be the winner in my book. Romney made some good points, and asked some good questions of the President, but Obama offered concrete answers for how he plans to handle the issues of healthcare, the economy, tax cuts, entitlements, and the role of government. The only concrete answer I remember Romney offering was that he was going to let Big Bird fly the coop.
Romney seemed entirely too secretive about his “plan.” I don’t want to elect someone who promises to help me but won’t tell me how that will be done. That is like me praying for money and then not being happy when someone close to me dies and leaves me money in his or her will. I want to know how I will be helped. Even if I, personally, am not helped, I still want to know about the plan. I don’t mind paying to help others, but I don’t want to be taken by surprise. I am in that $100k-250k middle class that Obama keeps saying will be footing the bill. I keep waiting for Romney to show me how he will accomplish his plan without proving President Obama right.
I guess the main reason I don’t trust Romney’s plan is that he keeps referring to all the good “he” did in Massachusetts. Let me state for the record, I am a Massachusetts resident and have been for most of my life, and all of my adult life. He was not the “Massachusetts Miracle.” We didn’t need a miracle. He didn’t “save” us. If anything, we saved ourselves. Let’s explore this further:
The Massachusetts education reform of which Romney claimed credit? That was Ted Kennedy. Working with both Republican and Democrat Senators and Administration officials, Senator Kennedy was largely responsible for shaping the current education policy of the United States. “Every major education law passed since the 1960s has borne Kennedy’s imprint, from Head Start to the Elementary and Secondary Education Act. He has proven himself, time and again, to be a fighter for children and educators,” said Reg Weaver, the immediate past President of the National Education Association. Head Start in Massachusetts now serves more than 15,000 children, providing comprehensive childhood development and social services to low-income preschool-age children to prepare them for school. Senator Kennedy was a leader in consistently reauthorizing the Elementary and Secondary Education Act of 1965, which he then later helped to rewrite in a bipartisan effort. It became the No Child Left Behind Act of 2002. According to tedkennedy.org, “In many ways, NCLB built upon the strong reforms already underway in Massachusetts. Since its passage, the number of Massachusetts students reaching proficiency in math and reading has increased for elementary, middle and high school students. Importantly, the achievement gap between African American and white students has narrowed in both reading and math for elementary and high school students. Further, 94% of Massachusetts school teachers… are now highly qualified as defined by NCLB.”
The Massachusetts healthcare reform of which Romney claimed credit? That was Ted Kennedy, too. Senator Kennedy worked for 40 years trying to institute universal health care. As he stated in the 2008 Democratic National Convention, it was the “cause of [his] life.” Senator Kennedy worked closely with officials from the administrations of Republican Governors William Weld and Paul Cellucci to convince the Clinton Administration to approve the necessary Medicaid waiver to allow Massachusetts to pass a major health access law in 1996 that expanded and reorganized the state’s Medicaid program into “MassHealth.” The law also expanded health insurance coverage for children, achieving near universal coverage for children in Massachusetts. In 2004, Senator Kennedy and Governor Mitt Romney teamed up to convince Bush Administration officials to permit Massachusetts to continue receiving supplemental payments as subsidies to help lower-income uninsured persons obtain coverage. This agreement, brokered by Senator Kennedy, was the major force leading to passage of the landmark Massachusetts health reform law that Governor Romney signed in April 2006.
The above mentioned actions by Senator Kennedy focus primarily on his effect on Massachusetts. That doesn’t include the effect he had on the nation. It is not just confusing but, as a Massachusetts resident, it is downright infuriating to see Romney claim credit for the long, difficult work Senator Kennedy did.
Having put credit back where it is due, there is one concept I believe both sides could learn from Senator Ted Kennedy: bipartisanship. Senator Kennedy spent his career as a far-leaning liberal, working with Republicans to make a difference. Senator Kennedy worked with 4 different governors (3 of whom were Republican) and two Presidents (one of whom was Republican) to create the sustained, bipartisan results mentioned above regarding Massachusetts healthcare reform. Senator Kennedy worked with Republican Senator Nancy Kassebaum on the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA) of 1996, which set new marks for portability of insurance and confidentiality of records. In 1997, Senator Kennedy was the primary force, working with Republican Senator Orrin Hatch and First Lady Hillary Rodham Clinton, behind the federal Children’s Health Insurance Program (CHIP), which provides health coverage to millions of poor children. Senator Kennedy worked with President George W. Bush on the Medicare prescription drug law in 2003, although he opposed the final formulation of the Act because it steered seniors toward private plans. When Democrats did not trust President George W. Bush, Senator Kennedy partnered with him on legislation to overhaul elementary and secondary education. Senator Kennedy accepted provisions governing mandatory student testing and teacher accountability that other Democrats and the National Education Association did not like, in return for increased funding levels for education. Senator Kennedy worked with President George W. Bush and Republican Senator John McCain for immigration reform. And the list goes on…
So, last night’s Presidential Debate did little to sway me one way or the other. However, I do know that if Ted Kennedy were alive today, I’d vote for him…
Kennedy’s official Senate portrait in the 1990s (Photo credit: Wikipedia)