Carol Forsloff — Judging criteria for debating concentrates on both content and delivery, but the emphasis is not on checkable facts as part of the scoring. That means it is possible to present a good argument and refutation, be inaccurate about the facts, and still win the debate. Media were quick to score the Presidential debates between Mitt Romney, Presidential challenger and Barack Obama, current President of the United States, but should the public follow suit in how it ends up judging the candidates future performance? And can you lie in a debate and still win it?
This reporter’s experience many years ago with debating saw the problems reflected in the very instructions given to debaters. Again the emphasis was on style, the ability to listen and reflect on the opponents content and to present an argument that was competitively given. No one said, “Make sure you get your facts straight, as we will be checking them afterward before giving the final score.” The final score was given almost immediately by the panel of judges, based upon the scoring criteria that measures content understanding and style of delivery.
In the clear light of day, pundits now examine the facts presented by both Romney and Obama and find errors on both sides. Obama is said to have stretched the truth about the financial picture in terms of future cost savings with his plan. On the other hand, those who have examined Romney’s arguments, remind us that those trillions of dollars of savings will require deep cuts in social welfare programs for the helpless and the needy and indeed will cost trillions of dollars more than the present budget by keeping Bush tax cuts permanent and other legislation designed to aid the more prosperous of the American people. Romney is also said to have offered few specifics on just how he would fix the medical care problems in this country outside of slashing the budget in key areas. Income concerns were addressed with simple statements based upon more people having jobs. Yet during the years of relative prosperity and boom, under Presidents Clinton and the early years of President George W. Bush, health care costs had continued to rise and people with pre-existing medical conditions found themselves without health insurance entirely.
Romney has proposed the abolition of Obamacare. The alternative is touched on lightly, with the same proposals put forward numerous times, of competitive insurance company offers. Those exist today. But they have been competitive and costly. And if they have to cover those with pre-existing conditions, the rates are likely to increase dramatically. And most people with severe health problems have likely already met with a host of insurance claims problems from these competitive companies. Blue Cross Blue Shield is often cited for its rate problems and claims issues, as well as other errors. It is just one among many. And insurance companies continue to post record gains while other areas of the economy have struggled. Yet these same companies are touted as having the solution to the existing health care problems. Lack of tort reform seems not to have inhibited these companies in making a profit. Yet tort reform would enhance those profits, as fewer people would receive maximum benefits with restrictions on plaintiffs.
Then there are the arguments offered about tort reform. The public gets the buzz words of debates and public pronouncements but not the facts that offer solutions. The fact is it is the insurance company competitors and their expensive plaintiff attorneys, who charge large fees, and pack them in large bundles that include just “thinking about the case” as a billing entry, although not worded as such. Plaintiff attorneys must front all costs for their clients and few win those big numbers insurance companies cite.
On the other side of the issue are the growing numbers of medical errors, that include physician’s carelessness, pharmacist errors, hospital mistakes caused b y personnel and a host of other issues. Without some reasonable opportunity to receive just compensation many victims of these errors will be left on their own with life-long disabilities for which they have no money to pay. And these people would then require Medicaid, highly vulnerable, experts have told us, under the plan offered by Romney.
So the next debate might want viewers and pundits to consider the facts both before and after the debates. Because that scientifically-based argument reminds us that it is more difficult for people to believe the facts after they have been told a falsehood and accepted that initially. Eyes and ears should be open to the candidates’ arguments in light of the real facts and not just points for “content” knowledge and delivery. Folks also might reflect on how difficult it is to argue and debate against lies, especially when the point system is based on personal control and delivery as opposed to facts.