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We Need Real Political Debates

The first of four Hirono vs. Lingle television “debates” is next Monday on KHON. We really should change “debates” to “We Ask, They Don’t Answer.”

They are nothing the National Forensic Society would have approved when I was a debater. We took timely issues, researched them and defended our positions in front of judges who declared a winner based on best evidence most convincingly presented. We asked each other the questions.

TV debates have become excuses for candidates to stay on a political message through rounds of questions by not-always-politically-astute reporters. Reporter asks question. Candidate dodges. Reporter is discouraged from saying, “Hey, you didn’t answer my question!” That seems like rude badgering, and in Hawaii badgering is a no-no.

In the Case-Hirono TVers, nobody asked Mazie about her endorsement by Alaska Republican Rep. Don Young, who has said that environmentalists are enemies and are not Americans. (Yes, the Hawaii Sierra Club has endorsed her.)

We need to go to the traditional debate format with set issues and a back-and-forth, toe-to-toe until one candidate has clearly been vanquished. Or bring in some inquisitors who can lock horns better than the usual newsroom folks – most of whom have de minimis politics knowledge.

End the game-show elements – “Quick, what’s your favorite color?” – and no audience hooting or applause.

We need back-and-forth between candidates. Make them get in each other’s faces. I want to see them perform under the same pressure they’ll have in office.

But no more of this: Q: “How precisely do you propose to cut the budget?”

A: “Just as I so brilliantly moved ahead with early education and help for veterans and served the people for eight years while helping my poor parents.”

Q: “Next question is … ”

I’m a proponent of people buying long-term care insurance at an early age when it’s affordable. If you need such care later on, paying for it out of pocket in Hawaii would drive you penniless quickly.

BUT … and here’s the catch. They can raise your premium, even though agents tend to say “that’s not very likely.” My wife and I have such policies. We just got a notice. Yearly premiums go up from $1,400 to $2,800 – each!

It’s why I say private insurance for any kind of healthcare is a bummer. There must always be a cozy profit built in. So poorer people drop out and fall back on Medicaid.

This rich country could afford national health and long-term care insurance with a single payer. Americans by a 2-1 margin says they want something like that, but only one in four agrees if they cannot choose their doctors and nursing homes.

So it’s a dilemma.

"Reporter" by Bob Jones

More later, but wanted MidWeek readers to be among the first to get the news that my book REPORTER is out and available at amazon.com and later as an international e-book.

As Ben Cayetano did in Ben, I’ve told my stories without any touching up, have used real names, and I’ve tried to make the book as blunt-edged as my weekly columns.

Plenty to read about the Honolulu Advertiser and KGMB, the state of journalism, and stories of fun and embarrassment. The guilty and the innocent get equal billing!

It sells for $14.95.