First Presidential Debate Marked By Disagreements Over Taxes, Medicare And Health Issues

Many news outlets are reporting that President Barack Obama often found himself on the defensive as GOP presidential hopeful Mitt Romney launched attacks against his record.   

The New York Times: Obama And Romney, In First Debate, Spar Over Fixing The Economy
Both men argued that their policies would improve the lives of the middle class, but their discussion often dipped deep into the weeds. ... Even as (Romney) repeated his plans to repeal the president's health care plan, he happily embraced the plan he pushed into law in Massachusetts. ... an argument for bipartisanship animated much of Mr. Romney's message through the night. He said he had worked with Democratic legislators in Massachusetts. And he said that he would do the same thing on his first day in the Oval Office. The claim drew one of Mr. Obama's sharpest retorts of the night. "I think Governor Romney’s going to have a busy first day," he said, "because he’s also going to repeal 'Obamacare,' which will not be very popular among Democrats as you're sitting down with them" (Zeleny and Rutenberg, 10/3).

The Washington Post: Romney Goes On Offense, Forcing Obama To Defend Record
An energetic Mitt Romney launched a series of attacks against President Obama here Wednesday night, calling into question the president's record on the economy, health care and the deficit. ... Romney argued that (Obama's health law) would raise health-care costs and make it less likely that businesses would hire new workers. He accused Obama of establishing an unelected board to make health-care decisions for patients, and of cutting more than $700 billion from Medicare to help pay for the law. And he chastised the incumbent for "pushing through" legislation of such magnitude without a single Republican vote (Balz and Gardner, 10/3).

Los Angeles Times: In First Debate, Obama And Romney Politely Disagree Sharply
President Obama and challenger Mitt Romney differed sharply Wednesday night over taxes, Medicare and, especially, the record of the last four years in a pointed but largely polite debate. ... Romney repeatedly attacked "Obamacare" — a label Obama happily embraced with a smile — saying it would rob $716 billion from Medicare and make it more difficult for seniors to find doctors and hospitals willing to treat them. He said his overhaul proposal would protect current beneficiaries as well as those approaching retirement age. Obama shot back that Romney's promise was contradicted by the facts. Romney's plan to give future retirees a voucher to help subsidize their coverage would end up driving up their out-of-pocket costs and undermining Medicare for future generations, he said. He added that his Medicare cuts are aimed at providers and insurance companies and would not scale back care for seniors (Barabak, 10/3).

The Wall Street Journal: Candidates Spar Over Taxes
The way the candidates answered questions showed their core differences on the role of government in the economy, in particular on whether the government or the private sector can best provide health care for Americans. ... Seeking to exploit a potential weakness for the Republican ticket, Mr. Obama invoked his late grandmother as he said Mr. Romney's plans to overhaul Medicare would ultimately put the insurance program at risk by turning it into a voucher program. ... Mr. Romney said his plan would ensure a solvent future for Medicare and said there were merits to a private option (Lee and Murray, 10/4).

The Wall Street Journal: A Wonkfest With Few Zingers
Take, for instance, one provision of the Obama health-care law, which creates an independent board that can make recommendations for cuts to Medicare spending if the program grows too quickly. If lawmakers fail to act, the cuts take effect automatically. Mr. Romney brought up the board on his list of complaints with the law. "It puts in place an unelected board that's going to tell people, ultimately, what kind of treatments they can have. I don't like that idea," he said. Mr. Obama started to respond by explaining that he wants to reduce the cost of delivering health care. He said policy makers can either leave people uninsured or figure out how to reduce costs. From there, he was off to explain how the Cleveland Clinic is able to provide excellent care for less than average costs by having doctors work together. And then he shifted to a discussion of how providers are reimbursed for care (Meckler and Nelson, 10/4).

Bloomberg: Romney Puts Race Against Obama Back On Track In Debate
Mitt Romney aggressively challenged President Barack Obama in their first debate, seeking to recharge his campaign after weeks of setbacks, while a subdued incumbent largely passed up chances to attack a rival he said was hiding his full plans…. The president highlighted a provision in his health-care law that requires insurers to cover people with pre-existing health conditions, noting that Romney's plan wouldn't guarantee such coverage (Davis, 10/4).

McClatchy: Obama And Romney Clash Over Economy, Taxes, And Health Care
With the presidency hanging in the balance, President Barack Obama and Republican challenger Mitt Romney clashed sharply Wednesday in their first debate, trying to convince voters they're uniquely qualified to lead the country to full recovery from the worst economic downturn since the 1930s. The two men sparred from the opening minutes over their competing visions of government and whether it should help lead the way to a better economy or get out of the way. Each also repeatedly accused the other of promoting damaging policies on such issues as taxes, spending, health care and business regulation that made or would make things worse, not better (Lightman and Kumar, 10/3).

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