Saturday, August 04, 2007

Waitress smacks down Romney on health care

I found this through Americablog, and it is very revealing on how the Republican-scripted talking points can be quickly destroyed by tough questions posed by ordinary Americans. In this case, Red Arrow Diner waitress Michelle Griffin smacks down Republican presidential candidate Governor Mitt Romney. The video is through The Washington Post:

In one sense, I'm amazed at how out-of-touch Romney is with the problems of ordinary Americans here. He goes about setting up for his stump speech touting his own plan requiring every Massachusetts resident to purchase health insurance, when Romney's carefully scripted talking points are slammed head-on with this Griffin's health care reality. Griffin is paying over $1,000 a month in health insurance premiums--that is over $12,000 a year! Griffin pays more for prescription co-pays than Romney does--$30-50 for Griffin verses $10 for Romney. When questioned on whether his Massachusetts residents are paying more or less in deductibles over what Romney pays, Romney refuses to answer the question, instead going back to his scripted GOP talking points, and railing against Hillary Clinton's "socialized medicine." In a sense, Mitt Romney can't seem to adequately hard, real world questions that are facing ordinary Americans. It is certainly interesting how both Rudy Giuliani and Mitt Romney have refused to participate in the September 17, CNN/YouTube Republican Debate, where the Republican presidential candidates will face questions posed by ordinary Americans through YouTube.

Here is the print story on this testy exchange through the WaPost:

MANCHESTER, N.H. -- Mitt Romney was about a minute into an answer about his commitment to fighting the global spread of AIDS and health care diplomacy on Wednesday when a waitress behind the counter yelled out a question.

"What about our nation? How 'bout the USA? C'mon!" yelled Michele Griffin, a 12-year veteran behind the counter at one of Manchester's most famous eating establishments.

She turned to walk away, but the former Massachusetts governor and Republican presidential candidate called her back, sparking an emotional and confrontational 10-minute exchange about health care and the needs of the working class. The already hot diner got even hotter fast.

The exchange took place at the Red Arrow, one of two diners the Washington Post will be visiting repeatedly during the next six months.

One of the things I'm proud of doing in my state is putting on track a plan that gets everybody health insurance," Romney began, seeing an opening for his standard stump speech about his efforts as governor of Massachusetts.

But Griffin was in no mood for platitudes, and interrupted.

"After we pay our huge deductibles for our insurance and our cost for our prescriptions, there's nothing left," she said.

"Are you a Massachusetts resident?" Romney asked.

"No I'm a New Hampshire resident," Griffin said, and then added, before Romney could jump in, that "we pay over $1,000 a month for our insurance. Then we have co pays. Every time you go to the doctor, it's $50 a visit. Then you have co-pays for our prescriptions. Can you tell me what your co pay is?"

"Yes," Romney said. "$10 for each prescription."

"That's very nice isn't it?" Griffin answered dryly.

"Yes. What are yours? Romney asked.

"Mine are like $30-$50. I have three sick children."

A moment later, Romney tried to get back to Massachusetts and his stump speech. "One of the things I thing is important to do--as you've heard me do as governor across the border--is to find a way to get health insurance for all our citizens..."

Griffin interrupted again.

"Yeah, but how are all your citizens..."

"You know," Romney quipped, "if you'd like me to answer the question I will."

"Well," Griffin said, "but how much are your citizens paying for deductibles? Same as you?"

"Well, how much?" Romney stumbled for a moment, then got his footing as he used the question to launch into an explanation of the need for choice in health care. "Everyone has their own plan. Because in my state there is private insurance and we get to choose the policy we'd like."

The pair quibbled for a few more minutes as a small crowd of diner patrons, reporters and Romney aides listened in the cramped, little diner. At one point, Griffin criticized Democratic Sen. Hillary Clinton, saying that as First Lady "she had a plan and she never followed through. Now, she wants to be president."

Romney was quick to say he didn't like Clinton's plan and opposed taxes to pay for health care subsidies, but that prompted a question from another patron. "Who's paying for the subsidies if it's not the government of Massachusetts?"

Another chance to pull out the script: "We found it cost us more money to be giving free care out at hospitals than to help people buy their own private care," Romney said, sweating a bit by this point.

A couple of other questions - another on AIDS, one on education - and he was, mercifully, out of the diner. Aides looked relieved, but said they were always happy to have tough questions.

Meanwhile, a tearful Griffin said after he left that she heard nothing to make her feel better about her plight or the health care situation for working class people. She said one of her daughters has Crohn's disease and another is a diabetic.

"I just want him to start taking care of us Americans," she said. "You know? Stop worrying about everyone else right now."

Romney is not the first candidate to hear of Griffin's plight. Griffin described her situation to Sen. Joseph Biden of Delaware, a Democrat, when he was last in the diner, according to Joe Klein of Time Magazine. Biden touched his forehead to hers, Klein wrote, "an awkward but touching gesture, and she shuddered into deep sobs. He hugged her."

1 comment:

Joan Griffin said...

Michelle Griffin passed away this week. She will be missed by her family and remembered for being a great parent and asking the tough questions of the politicians.