Tuesday, October 27, 2009

"I agree with Michael..." and other thoughts from Monday's Senate debate

You're looking live at the JFK Library in South Boston where the four Democratic candidates for US Senate try to be even half the politician that Ted Kennedy was...will any of them measure up? Or will the least small of them win? And away we go...

(OK, it's not live. I watched it on tape delay because the kids had their Halloween parade and then I had to head back to the office. Deal with it).

Auuugh, my eyes! Instead of running this thing in HD, it's in widescreen standard definition, which means it looks like it's being broadcast from the bottom of the ocean. Guess I won't need my glasses...

The first question goes to "Martha." I wonder if they agreed to call each other by their first names. It seems too informal, especially when a sitting Attorney General and Congressman are involved.

First question is "What was the moment you thought you should be the next senator?" That's really a question without a good answer. I'd rather hear them answer the question "why do you want to be Senator?"

Wow, Michael Capuano talks way too fast.

There is an interesting dynamic going on with the way the candidates deal with the TV cameras. Martha Coakley and Alan Khazei are looking at what they think are the hot cameras or an advisor, or something, and it looks like they're staring off into space. Capuano looks straight at the moderator, Steve Pagliuca looks at the crowd.

"Senator Kennedy would have wanted me to do this." Wow Pags, just a little presumptuous, no?

Peter Meade, no one wanted to give you a moment, because no one had an aha moment or had a rock hit them in the head.

Capuano whacks Khazei for his not answering the hypothetical question about Hanscom Air Force Base, and then doesn't really have an answer. He then goes after Khazei a little more: "If you want to go down and change Washington, Good Luck." Risky business. It doesn't seem like the insider's track is usually a winning strategy.

And Pagliuca calls him on it. He sounds naive, though. "I'll tell the other senators that we can't afford to close it." That and three bucks will get you a cappuccino, Steve.

Martha has found the camera. She is preaching the importance of staff.

Oh, God. Pagliuca thinks that we won't have any bad deals because we have John Kerry.

Coakley: "They're both in Middlesex County, so I can't give either of them up." So, would one of them be more apt to be dropped if it were in Worcester County?

Khazei name-dropping Carl Levin and John McCain. Apparently he thinks the one who can name the most senators in an hour wins.

What an absolute farce. I'm 18 minutes into this and this is becoming a Republican's wet dream. Having a wonky insider like Peter Meade run this debate is the worst thing that could have happened because he's talking like the insider that he is and the entire first quarter of the debate has been about process, and "horse-trading." There are real issues to be discussed, yet the whole thing is about process. NO ONE CARES HOW LEGISLATION IS MADE! We want to know what these candidates stand for.

Peter Meade needs to stop answering his own questions.

Do we need another stimulus? Steve Pagliuca: "We might." Way to take a stand, Steve. And then he likens raising taxes on the rich to robbing banks. I don't think he has the first idea what he's talking about.

And Coakley jokes that we really should start robbing banks. There is a Republican campaign ad right there. She also won't commit to an updated stimulus.

Alan Khazei's father is a doctor....and Khazei is in favor of another stimulus. Not sure what one has to do with the other, but at least he took a stand.

Khazei is wrong that the problem of the stimulus was "8,000 earmarks." The problem of the stimulus is that the "centrists" stripped out things like money to build schools (as though actually building things is not stimulating).

Hey, Capuano agrees with me about the stimulus. But he's losing votes every time he talks about "horse-trading." He has to stop talking about that like it's a good thing. Being able to negotiate is a good thing, but the term "horse-trading" has a negative connotation. If I were a Republican operative, I'd run a 30-second ad consisting solely of a montage of Mike Capuano saying "horse-trading". End it with a tag line of "Can you trust a horse-trader to represent you in the Senate?" or something like that.

Health Care...Public option? With or without an opt-out provision? Capuano is for a robust public option. May not support Senator Harry Reid's opt-out. Pagliuca will only vote for a "robust" public option with no mention of the opt-out. Coakley will support a public option with or without an opt-out. Khazei is all about the public option as well, hates the medical insurance lobby, and would vote for the opt-out. His father is a doctor and his mother is a nurse. Coming up next, the work status of his siblings.

Meade is asking whether or not they need to have a Republican vote to justify the plan. Another wasted question. Of course they don't.

Hey, Khazei's father is a doctor...but he also is in favor of strong Malpractice reform, which sets him apart from the others.

Steve Pagliuca has actually read about the difference between a majority and a cloture-vote. Good for him. Earlier tonight, I read "Green Eggs and Ham." Vote for me.

Khazei is against a troop increase in Afghanistan...Capuano will also not vote for more troops. OK, he says we should get out of Afghanistan because we're done rooting out Al Qaeda, and they are now in Yemen, Sudan, Pakistan, etc. and we should chase them down. I assume he doesn't mean that we should invade all of those countries.

Pags, you agree with Capuano on just about every question. Why don't you just vote for him?

Coakley knows that one of the troops killed in Afghanistan was from Massachusetts. Point Martha. She would also not vote for the troops.

Honestly, I'm having a hard time finding a difference between these guys.

Khazei in a nut shell: Kennedy, doctor, doctor, Kennedy, doctor, nurse, Kennedy, doctor, doctor, Kennedy.

General McChrystal isn't wrong. He's supposed to give his opinion. It's a data point that the president needs to take into consideration. One of many. I'm not sure saying that a general in the field is "wrong" about what he needs is a big vote-getter.

Immigration? Good question. Maybe the first one of the night. Coakley says no drivers licenses for illegal immigrants, punts on healthcare. Khazei says no to both. Capuano refuses to answer. For what it's worth, his overall question was the best one, but he refused to say what he would do on the specific issues Meade mentioned.

Capuano is wrong, by the way, that the issue will never come up or be voted on. The public option proposed in the house would exclude illegal immigrants from the possibility of receiving subsidized care. Not only will the issue come up, but it is currently before Congress. While I liked his answer about immigration in the whole, this dodge was weak.

The only issue that would preclude Khazei from voting for an Obama Supreme Court nominee is Roe v. Wade? Oh, come on. Pagliuca had no idea what the question was about. None.

It's interesting to hear Coakley talk about what she would look for in a Supreme Court justice, considering her widely panned appearance before the court.

Peter Meade needs to stop badgering Khazei. He lectures him like he's a schoolchild on the length of his answers. At least twice Meade has started to cut off Capuano and then clammed up to let Capuano extend an answer. If he's going to condescend to one candidate he needs to do so to all of them. It seems like "Mike" is his favorite.

And that's it. I can't say I was wowed, but I need to think about it a bit.
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