I Watched Ted Cruz and Bernie Sanders Debate Obamacare

Feature: And I want my money back

Cruz Sanders debate
Screen shot via CNN
February 8, 2017

What can I possibly say about Ted Cruz? A man with the perpetually cramped look of a goblin in desperate need of a Miralax and the voice of a parched turkey vulture, he has never aroused pity in me, only despair. His fake filibuster in 2013 made me want to cry; listening to Steve King declare him God’s anointed in Iowa this time last year made me want to scream; when he told an audience in Detroit that the main plank of his plan for bringing jobs back to the Motor City was "to repeal every single word of Obamacare"—including, presumably, the ands and thes—I felt like selling our car and moving my family to Costa Rica, where health care is free and abortion is illegal.

Cruz and Bernie Sanders told us they were both wrong only 12 minutes into last night’s debate on CNN, which I watched at home on a bootleg YouTube stream because, in the words of a network flunkie, it was "not open to press." (Why put it in Reuters Daybook then? If for some reason my wife and I found a TV sitting on our doorstep and we wanted to know what was going to be on cable after our older daughter goes to bed, we’d check TV Guide.) Unfortunately, there was another hour and a half to go.

Both men admit that Obamacare—which is the same thing as the Affordable Care Act only in the sense that the pink eyeball spider from the end of The Thing is the same monster as the block of ice at the beginning of the film—is a sop to greedy insurance companies. So why does Bernie defend it? Why does Cruz think the insurers are going to behave more honorably if the law is repealed? The shamanic regard in which many otherwise honorable lefties hold the ACA is as baffling as it is misguided. It’s almost as hard to understand as Bernie’s endorsement of Clinton. Just be honest and say that expanding Medicaid and preventing discrimination were the only good things about it.

I wish I had the power to describe the smile on Cruz’s face when Bernie joked that they should work together on a single-payer plan. It is a kind of fake grin that actually says, "I wish I could watch your insides microwave," one that I have only ever seen on the faces of Ivy League graduates. Is it something you learn there in a freshman seminar course?

It was a night full of baffling looks and gestures from the Texas senator. More than once he flinched when Bernie pointed in his direction. Was he afraid that his colleague from Vermont was going to poke him? Every time he stretched out his hand to karate chop a point at his opponent, it seemed to me that his chin was expanding too. But perhaps that was a YouTube problem.

One thing I want to know is why Jake Tapper had to inject himself into the exchange about pharmaceutical companies, or at any other point in the evening’s proceedings. I would rather go to the eye doctor down the road from my house, where my insurance is not accepted, than hear him say the word "gentlemen" one more time. The same goes for Dana Bash: the only purpose her chirping of "Senators!" served was to lend an atmosphere of Jerry Springer-like abandon to what was in fact a regrettably tame broadcast. Next time just let them talk and, if need be, remove their jackets and throw a chair or two. I guarantee it will be better for ratings.