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McCain in Denver

I had the chance to see John McCain's combination Health Care symposium and townhall meeting this morning over at the JCC. It was packed, as these events ought to be by now, and McCain aquitted himself well as a speaker.

Eventually, there was some stuff to like, and some to remind me of why he wasn't my first choice.

He started off by thanking us for all the water we send to Arizona. Now this was interesting, because in 2005, he made a joint appearance with George Bush to promote Social Security reform, he opened by saying how glad he was to come to Colorado to visit his water. This elicited somewhat good-natured boos and hisses, but it's amazing how his tone changed, now that he was asking for votes.

He also singled out Divided We Fail, the AARP's attempt to unite America under a crushing burden of debt, by blocking any meaningful reform of Medicare. I couldn't tell whether he was actually being supportive, or whether he had caved to a group that was shadowing his every appearance on this issue. But the whole post-partisan idea of a purple Donkephant ignores the fact that the two parties are supposed to present very different visions for the country. It's something that McCain himself has been accused of forgetting.

As for the apparent centerpiece of his health care proposal - a $5000 tax credit for individuals buying their own health insurance, while simulatenously starting to remove the incentive for businesses to provide that, is a terrific step in the right direction. He rightly pointed out that individuals are presumed not to be smart enough to intelligently spend the money, but fairly quickly learn what works and what doesn't. At the same time, divorcing health insurance from business will increase portability, and probalby add more cash to employees' paychecks at the same time.

There is some concern about what happens to group coverage. He didn't directly answer that, but my own guess is that this reform will have to be combined with the ability for small businesses and individuals to band together to form their own groups. At the same time, increasing competition by allowing insurance to be bought across state lines will bring prices down.

The rest of the plan sounded like more nany-state hectoring, though. All those extra plans to encourage people to be more healthy could be implemented much more efficiently through, oh, more expensive insurance for those who don't?

One moment stood out for me. I don't think it was a planted question, but when one woman who runs a laser- and massage-therapy clinic with her husband asked a question, McCain interrupted to prompt her to define and discuss laser therapy and its benefits. It was obvious he knew the answer, but just as obvious that he wanted her to say it. He didn't need to prove how smart he was by lecturing; he could do it just as well by letting her talk with pride about her work.

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