During last week's Republican debate, one of the moderators acknowledged that "everyone on this stage opposes Obamacare," but he pressed Ted Cruz to go one step further. "[I]f you repeal Obamacare, as you say you will, will you be fine if millions of those people don't have health insurance?' Fox's Bret Baier asked
. "And what is your specific plan for covering the uninsured?"
Cruz pointed to some of his "principles
" related to health care reform, all of which were difficult to take seriously. Scrutinizing the specifics, Salon
's Simon Maloy noted
the day after the debate, "Cruz's answer was lies and nonsense from start to finish."
The questions haven't gone away. The New York Times reported
over the weekend on a campaign event in Hubbard, Iowa, where a voter also wanted to know about the senator's ACA replacement plan was.
[A]t a middle school cafeteria here, a man, Mike Valde, presented him with a tragic tale. His brother-in-law Mark was a barber -- "a small-business man," he said. He had never had a paid vacation day. He received health insurance at last because of the Affordable Care Act. He began to feel sick and went to a doctor. "He had never been to a doctor for years," Mr. Valde, 63, of Coralville, Iowa, said. "Multiple tumors behind his heart, his liver, his pancreas. And they said, 'We're sorry, sir, there's nothing we can do for you.' " [...] "Mark never had health care until Obama care," Mr. Valde continued. "What are you going to replace it with?"
The room, according to the Times' account, "was silent." Cruz went through his usual talking points about how much he hates the reform law, but like his congressional Republican brethren, the Texas senator never got around to presenting his replacement plan.
As the Huffington Post
's Jonathan Cohn noted
, Cruz was forced to "confront the human toll of repealing Obamacare," which offered a timely reminder that Republicans "have nothing to offer the millions who would lose insurance."
Making matters slightly worse for Cruz, Fox News' Chris Wallace pressed the GOP candidate further on the issue on the air yesterday. These quotes come by way of the Nexis transcript of the interview:
WALLACE: Senator, the fact checkers say you're wrong. Since [the Affordable Care Act] went into effect, the unemployment rate fell from 9.9 percent to 5 percent, as 13 million new jobs were created and 16.3 million people who were previously uninsured now have coverage. Now, don't get me wrong, there are plenty of problems with Obamacare. But more people have jobs and health insurance than they did before Obamacare. CRUZ: Chris, the media fact checkers are not fair and impartial. They are liberal, editorial journalists. And they have made it their mission to defend Obamacare. (CROSSTALK) WALLACE: There's certainly no question that more people have jobs and more people have health insurance coverage. CRUZ: Yes, there is question.
This is a classic example of a Republican who finds reality ideologically inconvenient, so he chooses to deny reality's existence. Cruz simply can't explain why job growth improved to a 15-year high after "Obamacare" was implemented, just as he's at a loss to acknowledge the ACA's success in lowering the uninsured rate to levels unseen in modern American history.
As the interview proceeded, Cruz tried to change the subject, which was understandable, but only helped reinforce how little he has to offer in this debate.
In fairness, none of this is unique to Cruz -- every other Republican presidential candidate is in a nearly identical position. The Texas senator just happens to be the one who's getting pressed on the issue, but each of his rivals would struggle just as much with the same questions.