Stephanopoulos returned to a theme Elizabeth Edwards has hammered for the past few weeks—that McCain has had government run health care all his life. Why shouldn’t every American get health care like members of Congress and the military, Stephanopoulos pushed. McCain ducked the question, calling it a “cheap shot.” He noted that there was a time when he didn’t have good government care given by another government, presumably referring to his time as a prisoner in Vietnam. Then before the topic switched again, McCain said he knew what it was like in America not to have health care. “We know Americans are hurting there,” he said, and pitched other aspects of his plan, like letting insurance companies sell policies across state lines, a proposal that needs a careful examination, but didn’t get it on this show.

The Stephanopoulos interview is instructive. Questioning candidates who have been media trained to the hilt is hard. Reporters need to know their stuff and amplify what the candidates are saying even if it means telling audiences where they are just plain wrong. This is not the time to be shy.

Trudy Lieberman is a fellow at the Center for Advancing Health and a longtime contributing editor to the Columbia Journalism Review. She is the lead writer for The Second Opinion, CJR’s healthcare desk, which is part of our United States Project on the coverage of politics and policy. Follow her on Twitter @Trudy_Lieberman.