We’re all going to be hearing a lot about Republican primary debates in the coming weeks.
About which 10 candidates will be invited to Fox News’ kickoff event on Aug. 6, based on their standing in which polls. About what it would mean for Gov. Bobby Jindal’s candidacy should he, as expected, not make the cut.
About how his rivals plan to handle Donald Trump’s disruptive presence on stage. Even about whether the network will buckle under pressure and change its rules for inclusion.
In fact, just about everyone you ask has an opinion on what would make for a better debate than the one that’s likely to happen.
Not that anyone asked me, but here’s mine: I’d like to see Jindal debate another candidate who’s polling so badly that he’s unlikely to earn a coveted podium at the Fox event, Ohio Gov. John Kasich.
When Kasich became the 16th Republican to declare his intentions this week, he immediately added a new point of view to the mix.
Only true conservative purists would call him a moderate, but in one important way, Kasich differs from the field in general — and from Jindal most pointedly. Instead of refusing to adopt the Affordable Care Act’s Medicaid expansion, Kasich took the money on behalf of his neediest constituents.
And more than that, he came out and declared it the Christian thing to do.
“Now, when you die and get to the meeting with St. Peter, he’s probably not going to ask you much about what you did about keeping government small,” Kasich has said. “But he is going to ask you what you did for the poor. You better have a good answer.”
Jindal, of course, has refused to expand Medicaid in Louisiana, leaving some 166,000 struggling residents without insurance, despite the fact that the cost is covered 100 percent by the federal government for three years and a minimum of 90 percent thereafter.
Like Kasich, Jindal is quick to invoke his Christian faith in public.
But his comments generally center on protecting the sensitivities of those who don’t want to do business with legally married gay couples.
Jindal is actually capable of speaking with compassion for the downtrodden. But his public sympathy pretty much begins and ends in his support for public school choice and private school vouchers. Beyond that, he rarely utters a peep about the poor.
As for the health care plan published by his think tank, America Next, it does call for a direct government subsidy for those who’d otherwise not be able to buy insurance and also promotes reform of the Medicaid program.
But Jindal’s defiant stance toward other Republicans who’ve made their peace with the law’s existence and want to try to fix what’s wrong rather than repeal the whole thing — not to mention his willingness to let the people affected go without — suggest expanding coverage is anything but a priority.
Kasich, by contrast, was an early and forceful advocate for the expansion, which President Barack Obama and Congress intended to happen in every state but which the U.S. Supreme Court later declared optional.
The two governors have apparently gotten into it over the issue at least once before. In a lengthy profile of Kasich last spring, the Atlantic magazine quoted unnamed sources describing a closed-door forum hosted by the Koch brothers. According to the account, Jindal and South Carolina Gov. Nikki Haley accused Kasich of “hiding behind Jesus to expand Medicaid.”
The Jindal camp denied that that specific language was used but confirmed that the governors had aired a “disagreement” on the subject.
But wouldn’t it be illuminating if they had that conversation in front of the whole country, not just for a select group of big donors?
I, for one, would like to hear Kasich explain why he thinks what he did is not only the responsible but the moral thing to do.
And I’d really love to hear Jindal justify his contention that it’s not.