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The unbearable debates

TRAVERSE CITY — There ought to be a law that a televised presidential debate has to be between no more than two candidates, must cover a maximum of three topics, and must be moderated by a highly caffeinated person with her or his finger hovering above a giant red button that activates a trap door beneath each candidate in the event they interrupt their opponent or refuse to directly answer questions. I expect a long list of people willing to moderate.

– Did you watch this week’s Democratic debate? I did. For five long minutes. That’s all I could take. And I’m a Democrat. I think there were 48 candidates on stage, all of them lobbing cutesy prepared lines (Joe, we get it, you’re going to beat him like a drum) and jabbering over one another. That’s not a debate. It’s just a waste of precious oxygen.

– I tuned in just as Elizabeth Warren was bending over backward to not use the word “tax” in reference to her Medicare-for-all plan. Instead she said “costs” will rise for the wealthy but not for the rest of us. Which is nonsense. What she probably means (since she’s been skimpy on details) is that, yes, we’d pay more taxes, too, but our health care costs would drop to zero, resulting in a net savings for most people. So why not just say so? We’re grownups, we can handle reality. Most of us (aside from Republicans, of course) realize that to get something – roads, a decent health care system, ice cream – we have to pay something. What we can’t handle is a politician not being straight with us.

– I’m all for a single payer health care system, by the way. You should be, too. And if you’re not, I hope you realize that, like most Americans, you are a single injury, accident or diagnosis from bankruptcy, regardless of whether you have insurance or not. The medical industry, essentially, owns us all. Our money is theirs. We’re just keeping it warm for them until we get sick. You may be fine with that but I’m not.

– Good thing I’m a Packers fan because that refereeing call Monday night against the Lions, hoo-wee, that was awful. Naturally, I have a conspiracy theory as to why the reffing is so bad these days, even with replay. I think the league tells the refs to protect certain star players and certain marquee teams because that’s what the league markets. There’s a reason the whistles are extra quick when it comes to guys like Aaron Rodgers and teams like the Green Bay Packers and are a lot slower when it comes to lesser known players and historically wretched franchises like the Lions.

– Oh, stop. I know my theory is crazy, and I don’t even believe it myself. But it’s fun coming up with this stuff. League pregame meeting with the refs before the Packers/Lions game: “OK, guys, remember, if anyone gets within 15 feet of Rodgers, blow that whistle ’til you cough up a lung. And remember, if at all possible, we want the Lions to lose. Their fans won’t care. They’re used to it.”

– Well, it’s true.

– Aaron Dean, the Fort Worth police officer who shot and killed Atatiana Jefferson in her home, was charged with murder. Will he be convicted? Probably not. The law makes it tough to convict cops who kill, and it happens far more often than you think. Police kill more than 900 people a year in the U.S. Do you know how many people the police in the U.K. have killed this year? Two. The rules of engagement for police have to change in this country. We also have to do something about our national gun obsession. We own nearly 400 million guns. That’s more guns than people. No wonder police are jumpy.

– I’ve neglected mentioning Trump today, mostly because I’m sick of him. So, let’s close with a quote from Seneca that describes him all too well: “All cruelty springs from weakness.”

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Andrew Heller, an award-winning newspaper columnist, appears weekly in the Daily Press. He graduated from Escanaba Area High School in 1979. Follow him at andrewheller.com and on Facebook and Twitter. Write to him via email at andrewhellercolumn@gmail.com.

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