Yes, of course I support Niki Tsongas. But regardless of who you’re for, it’s impossible not to declare Niki the winner of this debate.
Ogo had a couple of real howlers tonight. First, he treated us to the continuation of his Jim Idon’tknowski comedy routine on the SCHIP veto; Sun reporter Matt Murphy made him look very silly. But also, Ogo said in response to a question asking what, specifically, he would do about the gang violence problems in Lowell and Lawrence, that he would make the Bush tax cuts permanent. Uh, what? And when asked which presidential candidate’s health care plan was closest to his own, he said he doesn’t support FEMA. Uh, what?? That answer, in addition to being absurd, gave Niki an opening of which she took full advantage: she pointed out that state-based programs like the Massachusetts program (which Ogo said he preferred to any federal plan) are completely dependent on federal money and federal programs to survive — without them, she said, the MA plan and others like it “will fall flat on its face.”
And one more thing on health care: Ogo said that he does not support universal health care. OK, Jim — which Americans would you suggest go without?
The Social Security discussion was another rough patch for Ogo. In response to a question whose premise was that — as everyone knows — sooner or later something will have to be done to avoid the program’s going bankrupt, Ogo just said he won’t raise the retirement age, he won’t raise the tax, and he won’t cut benefits. So, uh, what’s your plan, Jim? No answer — because he doesn’t have one. And then he claimed that Tsongas wants to raise the retirement age — which she doesn’t, as she said quite forcefully in rebuttal. She has already said that she would look at raising the cap on the payroll tax, which is both the fairest and the most politically feasible way of addressing the issue (IMHO).
So Ogo had a bad night. And Niki was, as she was at NECN last week, solid and confident. She did well; Ogo did not.