Notwithstanding a typographical error in the event program, Lang Wiseman is still Shelby County Republican chairman, not one of two county Democratic chairs.
Both Wiseman and his student cohort, Terrance Pigues of East High School, made it abundantly clear Tuesday night that their attitudes toward proposed health care legislation differ significantly from those of county Democratic chair Van Turner and his student partner for the evening, Ashton Alexander of Memphis Health Careers Academy.
Under the auspices of the Memphis Urban Debate League, the two teams of debaters kept a bipartisan audience of onlookers entertained as they held forth in the East High School auditorium on the subject “Resolved: The United States federal government should provide universal healthcare to persons living in the U.S.”
In a debate that was conducted according to strict and formal debating rules, all four participants made compelling arguments — the Democratic team for the affirmative, the GOP twosome for the negative.
Alexander and Turner early on invoked Senator Olympia Snowe, presidential candidate Bob Dole, and former Senator Bill Frist as Republican eminences who were on record as favoring something like the Baucus bill which passed muster with the Senate Finance Committee on Tuesday.
Pigues and Wiseman acknowledged the need for remedial action on health care but suggested that the solution lay in expanding the number of free-market solutions rather than encouraging more hands-on action by the government.
The debate at East High corresponded more or less to the shape and particulars of recent debates between the parties in Congress.
Some decent rhetoric got said, Wiseman maintaining at one point, ”It is not compassionate in my view to give somebody something that can only fall apart,” while Turner responded to his opposite number’s warning about rising federal costs by citing former President Bush’s expenditures on the Iraq War: “We pay to kill, but we don’t pay to live. Those are Americans dying [from lack of health care], not Iraqis.”
There were squelches: A question from the floor responded to the Democratic team’s contention that X number of people without health insurance died last year by asking, “How many people with health insurance died last year?”
And there were missed squelches: Both Republican debaters got away with saying that 10 percent of all Medicare claims were fraudulent without drawing, by way of retort, the obvious question: What percentage of private-insurance health claims are fraudulent?
All in all, the debaters on both sides were cordial toward each other and in good form, and each team was supported by a fair number of cadres in the auditorium, who also behaved agreeably toward their counterparts on the other side.
But there was no meeting of the twain afterward when the two chairmen were each asked to comment on Tuesday’s victory of Republican Pat Marsh over Democrat Ty Cobb in a special election to fill a state House vacancy in District 62. Wiseman thought that was just fine, while Turner opined it was unfortunate.