General Thoughts on Debate Number 2
To begin with, I have to be honest that I’m not a big fan of the format used by WFSB-TV Channel 3 to host this second Senate debate. The 30 second sound-byte question and answer format might make for good television, but it’s hardly useful for those of us sitting at home trying to really learn a thing or two about the candidates in order to make an informed decision about who to vote for. If WFSB were serious about providing a public service – they would’ve hosted a 90 minute or 2-hour debate and allowed the candidates more time to explain their positions more thoroughly, and permitted follow-up questions by journalists that were of interest to viewers.
Most of us are less concerned about who the candidates think is their favorite Senator from Connecticut history, what the candidates think the price of milk is, when they last pumped gas, or what kind of car they drive. Anyone making decisions on who they’ll support based on frivolous questions like these should be banned from voting altogether. That part of the show was full of play it safe or unoriginal answers anyway - once you hear the best answer, all you have to do is repeat it - it wasn't a surprise that 3 out of 5 Republicans chose Prescott Bush as favorite Senator with the annual Prescott Bush Dinner being held less than a day and half away! Duh! Questions like those wasted both the candidates’ time, and viewers’ time. At least the two guest journalists weren’t left to embarrass themselves by being asked to pose such foolish questions.
For the most part, The Wall Street Journal’s Shelley Banjo, and the Connecticut Mirror’s Mark Pazniokas did a good job trying to squeeze the candidates for details, but moderator Dennis House seemed to push along the debate too quickly almost before the candidates could do any damage to each other, or to themselves. Don't get me wrong - the questions were good, but lacked the pointedness which led to fireworks that sparked in the debate moderated by Ray Hackett last week - so to that end, I was a little disappointed. Ray Hackett set a high standard in the first Senate Debate and the Face the State version fell well below that mark.
I like Dennis House, but rarely if ever does he really challenge people with tough questions. If you can't make it through a Face The State interview, you aught to quit politics. It doesn't get any easier than FTS. It's like watching guests play an easy game of badminton with Dennis each Sunday. Occasionally, he does have Bad-Ass Brian Lockhart on to ask a tough question or two, but Dennis always seems to pull on his leash so as not to allow for any of his guest to have a serious mental breakdown. But I guess it works for WFSB, and no-one will ever accuse House of being a gotcha-journalist. I still propose Shoot Out with Brian Lockhart as a viable option on a competing network: cowboy hats, six guns, and all - it would be a real hit! Think of the possibilities of seeing your favorite Connecticut politicians limping off the stage each week, figuratively bleeding and wounded at the hands of Sheriff Lockhart. Oh man! We can still dream can't we?
Overall Performance Ranking
Last time out, I thought that Brian K. Hill led the pack with his stellar performance - original and refreshing, followed by Linda McMahon, Chris Shays, and then Peter Lumaj and Kie Westby pulling up the rear. This time around my rankings are close but somewhat different.
One of the reasons for the delay in this piece is that I wanted to go back and re-watch the debate to make sure that my initial reaction wasn't off base - and I believe my gut feeling (reported out on Twitter) was supported by a closer review of the hour long exchange. I’d say for the most part all the Republican candidates did very well presenting their positions and representing the GOP as best they could getting their points across under such limited conditions. Chris Shays did extremely well and came out on top because he seemed more relaxed and truer to his usual form. Linda McMahon was the opposite, she came across very stale, and at times looked very foolish trying to trip up Chris Shays on trivial matters that he easily dismissed as in accurate or misleading. More so this time, Linda seemed to really lack tangible facts beyond her early unloading of memorized statistics. This is where her overconfidence hurt really hurt her - a mistake she's made for three years now.
Brian K. Hill was once again quite good. The reason that Chris Shays shined better this time around is simply based upon Shays' detailed references to his past-experience in Congress, and overall depth of knowledge. Hill's outsider approach works well for him, particularly last time when he played referee between Shays and McMahon (while the others just stood there like mannequins). This time, he didn't get that same opportunity, but sold his R-R-R plan as a believable strategy for the public to absorb.
Peter Lumaj is a bright guy, but his overall presentation and style is abrupt, rude, and confrontational. Anyone watching Lumaj doesn't even want him as a neighbor never mind seeing him represent them in the Senate, or anywhere else. Imagine what it would be like sharing an adjoining property with Lumaj and having a dispute about where the property boundary really lies. Some people have a knack for being bright, but also have the ability to darken a room the minute they enter it - Lumaj is exactly that. You just don't want to see him coming.
Kie Westby is a nice and knowledgeable guy, but he just doesn't have an ounce of charisma. He's a lot like a going into a Baskin-Robbins Ice Cream Shop, and ordering plain vanilla. He's not wrong about what he says, it's just he's very dry and uncanny. He reminds me of the guy who wants to talk about work when you go out for a drink after a long day's labor. After about twenty minutes you just want to slit your throat and jump out of the barroom window. At this point, he's not really separating himself from the pack, and he's not even mildly amusing like annoying Lumaj. He's a policy-wank who would be better off in the State Senate or elsewhere. Again, Kie is a great guy, but this Senate deal is just not his gig.
Individuals Performance (Best to Worst)
|I'm back! Was there ever a doubt?|
I was glad to see Chris Shays raise the electability question early during the debate since it’s the only question that REALLY matters. It’s important to point out the objections that many Republicans have to allowing Mrs. McMahon to repeat history and take another trouncing on Election Day. Pushing her through to November is what every Democrat is hoping for given her resoundingly high negatives with the public. And today's debate performance sort of underscored the many reasons why people don't want to see Linda as their nominee in the Fall.
The winning strategy for Shays is the benefit of his Congressional experience: in-depth grasp of the issues, co-sponsoring legislation, being a key sponsor of the Contract with America, and underscoring the many areas in which he was part of the solution. Those calling him part of the problem haven't spent a minute researching his background. When it comes to spending at the Federal level, aside from cloture votes, Mr. Shays was pretty thrifty with our tax dollars. This is a point that he and his surrogates can do a better job reminding folks of.
I do love Shays’ statement: “Linda McMahon isn’t a fiscal conservative because she wouldn’t spend $50 million dollars so recklessly, and she’s not a social conservative because she wouldn’t run the business she’s in. You really have to question what kind of Republican would donate thousands of dollars in ’06 to elect Nancy Pelosi Speaker [of the House], and then give thousands of dollars to keep her in as Speaker [of the House] in ’08. I’m not sure that’s the kind of Republican people want to send to Washington.”
Bravo. And by the way – Linda McMahon has never provided Connecticut Republicans for a rationale for her donations to Democrats over the years, but it seems pretty shady to simply ignore the fact when it’s raised. I like Shays’ comment about removing ObamaCare (not repairing it as others have suggested). Shays said, “And by the way, Obamacare won't get repealed if you don’t elect [someone] who can get elected.”
Shays was quite strong on domestic policy issues such as health care, reducing taxes on businesses, and tax reduction across the board, bringing back American manufacturing, and eliminating our dependency on foreign oil, dealing with Medicare, and Medicaid issues, etc. When you look a Shays speaking on these issues, you cleary see that he's qualified to talk about them - you simply don't get the same feeling when you listen to the other four candidates. This is where experience counts over wishful thinking and funny cliches.
Shays would also deal with the matter of who are here illegally by having them carry a Blue Card. That seems to be a way in which they could work, but not vote, and certainly not be deported. I think I’d have to hear more about how this Blue Card would work before I would buy into this strange idea. Seems like lots of details would need to be worked out before the Government starts printing out Blue Bards to illegal aliens.
"The most important thing that we can do is focus on economic growth and provide opportunities for more American, and that’s called the American Dream"… reducing taxes. Home run!
Brian K. Hill
|Sharp as a tack, Hill brings value|
and common sense to the race
Hill’s statement that “We need new leadership in Washington” is an age-old theme usually spoken by politicians who’ve been around the block but just in a lesser role (this includes Linda McMahon whose 'newness' has long worn off). But the fact that it’s coming from someone who actually is new to the scene gives him some credibility on the matter.
As he mentioned last time out, Hill said, “We don’t need any more career politicians, and we don’t need any more self-funded candidates. Those are the type of people who are destroying this country.” Even though it makes for a great theatrical sound-byte, this is sort of a double-edged sword for Brian K. Hill who has the least amount of experience of anyone running on the GOP side. Having experience is valuable – whether it’s consistently practicing law for many years, or serving in Congress for 34 years – and to be frank - not everyone in Congress who’s been up there for many years has been a disaster. It really boils down to who they are, or what their voting record shows - that truly matters. The counter-argument to going with a novice might be the pitiful results of the last three years of the Obama Presidency - since his lack of experience has been a disaster of sorts.
A point that Brian Hill continues to make is the need for the CTGOP to expand its base, and by that he means – expanding gains by attracting minority voters; changing the hearts and minds of those folks who reside in our cities to whom Republicans do not appeal. The problem here is that this idea looks great on paper, but fact is that its not an easy nut to crack, and no-one including Brian Hill has a plan for making this happen (aside from him becoming the nominee and assuming that he'd siphon off a few votes with his minority presence). You'll remember that this tactic didn't exactly pay dividends for another popular African-American politician - Corey Brinson. Although Corey is loved and admired, at the end of the day his minority status didn't exactly win him the election in Hartford. Corey Brinson was rejected by inner-city residents on the basis of his Republican principles, and their lack of appeal to Hartford residents.
I’m not sure that Brian’s attack on politicians residing in lower Fairfield County will win him a lot of support in the Southwest, but you have to admit his quip that “...nominating Linda or Chris is like rearranging deck chairs on the Titanic. It doesn’t matter what order you put them in the ship is going down. We need a candidate like myself who can navigate around that iceberg – Obama.” is entertaining. You've got to love his spunk and delivery. But again, would being a new face help Connecticut in the Senate Chamber? I'm not so sure.
But I should say this - of all the candidates, Hill’s R-R-R (Reduce, Reform, and Restructure) explained in simple terms as - Reduce spending, Reform entitlement programs, and Restructure the tax code to a flat tax. It seems pretty simple, and it is probably the most memorable and understandable plan of any of the five GOP candidates.
Brian K. Hill was also strong on the immigration issue. He said he would support a liberal guest worker program. Making the statement that he's wants accountability of people who are here, and to find a way to tax them for the services they are using. I agree with both of these ideas. He seemed to endorse Chris Shays’ Blue Card idea which is as he said a “fair compromise” to consider.
Hill also supports the Gold Standard. Which is a topic that always seems to come up now and then, but never seems to gain any real traction.
Again, great job. It's The King's View that he's earned a spot on the ballot.
|It's only $50 mil, just raise |
This Plan that Linda constantly touts is really not a plan at all, but a list of general ideas without any substance behind it. I read through it line by line, and although it has some good ideas - I'm not that impressed. A plan is supposed to outline how one gets from point A to point B; if you read Linda’s so-called plan you’ll see that there is no meat to it. Surely, it’s a nice color brochure, and great marketing, but it’s hardly a roadmap for “moving the ball down the field.”
One of the criticisms people have always had about Linda McMahon is her shallowness as a candidate. And with two additional years of preparation for this race, we haven’t seen any real improvement in the quality of her positions. I have trouble with a candidate who constantly hides their specific points of view from the public. She almost has to be put on the spot in a television interview - the few she grants - to find out where she stands. Ask any of her surrogates what she thinks about this or that, and they can’t tell you. This debate did very little to help us know who the real Linda McMahon is. And that’s an unbelievable thing considering that she has the commitment of people who don’t seem to know, or care where she stands on the issues, either. Everyone seems to only be interested in her money which as we've seen guarantees nothing.
One of the things that’s most surprising about this contest is the willingness of the other candidates to allow Linda McMahon to fool voters into believing that her her company is some normal, run of the mill operation. WWE is unique in its product and appeal and is not tied to the same economic indicators that most small or large business are - markets, exports, economic growth, etc. WWE is tied to ticket sales which may do well based on the quality of the show she puts on, but have little or no realistic comparison to mainstream businesses. And there is a big difference between making a lot of money off of the backs of entertainers, ticket sales, and -- forging and creating a legitimate business enterprise which consists of a product one can truly be proud of. P.T. Barnum made a bundle fooling people and committing numerous acts of a fraud in a business very similar to Linda’s. Yet the other candidates seem to shy away from questioning its legitimacy as a business, and the negative aspects of it – which go directly to her un-electabilty problem. They even shy away from questioning the role she's really had in its creation, and success. What a pity.
One of the lines that Linda often uses is to link Chris Shays to the famed Bridge to Nowhere, but the problem with this line of attack is that her attempts to inaccurately portray Chris Shays as a big spender is hardly his record in Washington. One thing about Chris Shays is that he was pretty tight with the penny. And to attempt to sell the Bridge to Nowhere as some stand-alone vote instead of what it was - part of an enormous package of domestic and foreign policy bills rolled into one ... is dishonest. Picking apart votes to serve your own interest is a long-time election tactic that is both disingenuous and misleading to the public.
Linda McMahon doesn’t like it when someone blames her for the death of her employee-wrestler Chris Benoit who murdered his wife and child, and then committed suicide while under her employ, but she will use the same kind of tactic – guilt by association – to try and make cheap points against Mr. Shays by tearing apart cloture votes. Not the brightest thing to do when there is so much filth, injury, and death in her profession which honestly begs the question – how much does she know about all the drugs, violence, and deaths? And as an industry owner, how much is she responsible for? But she doesn’t like to talk much about her Professional Wrestling Empire for some reason - except to advance her job creation myth. And the recent post-debate press release by the WWE is as ludicrous as it gets.
And Linda McMahon speaking forcefully on health care issues doesn’t make a shred of sense to me. As former Candidate Richard Blumenthal pointed out – her company, the WWE, didn’t exactly cover her employees the way she pretends it did. For the most part, her employees were on their own when it came to health coverage. So how this makes her an expert in business-run health care costs, I’m not quite sure – and sadly, none of the other candidates took the opportunity to point out this clear irony. And it’s very true that McMahon donated quite a bit of money to national health care advocate Democrat Nancy Pelosi – and not just once, but twice. I’m just surprised at how quickly State Reps and State Republican Leaders are so quick to forgive such blatant treason, in the hopes that they too can peel off some of her cash for their own coffers.
Linda McMahon is also on the class warfare bandwagon. She inaccurately accused Chris Shays of being against a Middle Class tax cut when he had just got done saying he was for a tax cut across the board. Fact is that Shays was quite clear that he wants to lower the tax rate for everyone as he pointed out succinctly for a second time during his rebuttal. Once again, Linda McMahon’s attempts to take cheap shots at Mr. Shays seemed to backfire as he seemed more prepared to deal with her chicanery and twisting of facts. Even her accusation of that Chris Shays voted most of the time with Democrats is misleading when the records shows that he voted 75% of the time with Republicans (Chris Murphy voted 96% of the time with Democrats). Another example of how Linda is grasping at straws to try to earn cheap points.
When Mr. Pazinokas asked Linda McMahon is she could see any way for those who are here illegally to find a path to citizenship – she completely avoided the question, went straight to the memorized script, and spoke about preventing illegals from coming over the borders and uttered that she'd tell those who came here illegally to “get to the back of the line” – whatever that means. She wants to impose a penalty on those who don’t pay their taxes, which isn't outlined anywhere in any of her plans, but made for good rhetoric on stage.
On the immigration question, Linda further said that if someone commits a crime they should be deported. Personally, I think if they commit a crime they should be held, tried, and punished. And only if the punishment warrants less than jail time, perhaps then deport them. But unlike Linda, first and foremost, I would hold accountable any illegal person for a crime they committed, and if it means giving them due process, and such ending with them serving time in our jail cells - so be it. Linda’s idea advocates for illegals to commit crimes and get away with it. Very bizarre, indeed.
Her overall performance was mediocre to poor. But I think that Linda McMahon really did herself in by suggesting that Joseph Lieberman was Connecticut’s all-time best Senator. Does she understand that Lieberman voted with Democrats 85% of the time? Does she understand that on most domestic issues, Lieberman was always a hold out, but generally voted with his own Party against Republicans? I hope this struck a cord with those who are curious about what to expect from a Senator McMahon who finds supporting Democrat position just fine with her.
Perhaps her support for Joe Lieberman is par for the course for Linda McMahon. Her handlers did not prep her in advance for the question. And as a result she went back to what she knew best, and what she believes in - which is probably why she donated to Democrats in the first place.
The one saving grace in all of this for Linda McMahon is that there are five candidates, and two of them performed far worse than she did.
|I will save America from Socialism!|
Peter Lumaj’s problem is that he’s Peter Lumaj. He comes across as an arrogant S.O.B. On the question of compromise – and it seems pretty simple Lumaj is against it. His unreasonable approach to working with others would not endear him to anyone within his own Party never-mind the other side of the aisle. His overly negative approach to the last two debates underscores why he wouldn’t be a good choice for Republicans in August. As for his criticism of Chris Shays, he might want to go back and look at Shays’ record more closely – and note that Shays was well regarded as a fiscal conservative, and was a co-author of the Contract with America which brought about significant positive changes for our Country including wholesale Government reduction. You'd also see that the Contract with America was well-principled and much of it supported by Bill Clinton in an act of compromise. The outlandish argument that Chris Shays is responsible for the poor state of the country today is totally unreasonable. This is the kind of thing that makes Peter Lumaj look foolish. Lumaj seems to discount the work Shays just just completed to save taxpayers $60 million dollars within Government Military Contracting division.
Lumaj also ventured to call Linda McMahon an “empty suit who stands for nothing. Her policies are completely confusing. She doesn’t understand the role of a Senator. You’re not a State Senator.” Wow! It’s not often that a male candidate makes such a nasty remark against a female opponent – sort of bold, and probably not well-received. Mr. Lumaj might be conservative, but I'm sure conservative champion Jack Kemp must be rolling over in his grave at the way he represents us.
Another point that makes Lumaj look outrageous is that he often invokes Ronald Reagan, but like many who do, he seems to have forgotten that Reagan was most successful because he compromised with Democrats on domestic issues (from taxation to spending) and managed to get things done through a give and take process. The revisionist history that portrays Reagan as some immortal God to whom Democrats cowered in fear is pure fiction. Lumaj should study his history before using Reagan as a campaign prop for his so-called absolute and unapologetic brand of conservatism.
We also learned that Peter Lumaj wants to eliminate the Department of Education, the Internal Revenue Service, and the Department of Energy. While there may be some merit to shrinking the size of these federal agencies, I’m not sure how selling the elimination of these three (and more) helps Republicans win the election. Moreover, every time I hear the words Federal Reserve, I immediately become terrified and have visions of Ron Paul waving his fists in the air. This kind of talk is frightful to Independents and even moderate Republicans – who Mr. Lumaj doesn’t think we need as part of our majority to win elections. Mr. Lumaj's one view of the world is counterproductive to our goal which is after all - winning.
Lumaj challenging Medicare as likely unconstitutional probably won’t win him any votes either. The King predicts that if Peter Lumaj ran today, he'd be lucky to gather 5% of the vote with his divisive attitude.
The one chuckle I got from Peter Lumaj was when he said, that “Linda's tax plan was misplaced. And the guys, who wrote if for her, do not understand….” I love the fact that he went out of his way to point out that Linda’s well-paid marketing firm put together her plan. Bold point, but also comical because it’s likely true - and he had the audacity to say such a thing on television. It is true that nothing that Linda claims to be her own creation is actually hers – not even her business which was long established before she and Vince took it over from Vince’s father after his death in the late 1970s. All of her experience is built on a false premise that she even built a business from the ground up – again, none of which is true.
Lumaj was outright rude when asked about Immigration Policy. He was trying to be coy by saying that the immigration issue could be blamed on Mr. Shays who served us – or pretended to serve us – a very classless comment to make during a Senate Debate. Does Mr. Lumaj really mean to imply that Chris Shays wasn’t diligently serving his constituents when he was in office? Really? And then to look over at Chris Shays and say, “Please don’t call immigration on me.” Is Mr. Lumaj just a big Wise-Ass? We think so.
The one thing we learned about Peter Lumaj (as if we didn't know it already) is that he lacks any sense of respect for his opponents, or the process.
|This may not be the job for Kie|
One of the positions that Kie Westby discussed was his idea to rewrite ObamaCare. I’m not sure he got the GOP memo that we aren’t looking for a revised national socialized medicine scheme of our own making which - reserves more power to the states as he said - or anything remotely close to that. We want the whole damn thing scraped and forgotten about since no one goes without health care in this country except those who refuse to seek it. Westby's position on health care is not conservative. Heck, it may not even be moderate.
And although he didn’t say it implicitly, Mr. Westby seemed to be the only candidate who would deport people who are here illegally. That might have been his strongest point in the debate. Other than that most of what Westby contributed for the hour was not very exciting or original. That isn't to say he isn't a thoughtful or bright man - he is. But this Senate run just isn't his gig. Given what we've heard so far - I'm very suprised that he's in this race at all. I'm not sure he's even convinced he should be running. It's The King's view that after the Convention is over, he should probably drop out and endorse someone. This would save him from back to back humilations when it's truly not necessary.
Yeah, I know this is too long. I hear this all the time. But what can I say?
This race will come down to several factors outside of the rigged Convention that's planned for next month. Based on what these candidates are all saying - the CTGOP State Convention is merely a prelude to a five-way battle that will begin at the end of next month. It may come down to whether or not those who shouldn't really remain in the race siphon off enough votes to give the victor the win at the time of the August primary. With all five candidates remaining on the primary ballot for August, this likely means that the Party could end up with a nominee that nobody wants at all.
It will be interesting to see if forces with in the Party come to their senses and merge camps to allow for the most electable candidate to take his crack at a seat Republicans haven't held since the time of Lowell Weicker. And if Brian K. Hill's ominous foreshadowing comes true again, and we will set ourselves up for defeat before the election even takes place.
But one thing is for sure. If the Connecticut Republican Party nominates Linda McMahon, she will guarantee the Democrat Party a Senate seat. And she will have set a new record - for being the only Connecticut Republican candidate to have knowingly delivered a U.S. Senate seat to Connecticut Democrats twice in the modern age.
This original blog entry can be found at http://www.thekingsview.blogspot.com
Disclaimer: This entry and others will be modified/updated at a future date. All entries are for the sole purpose of entertainment. This article does not imply endorsement of the candidate mentioned above, nor has this article been solicited for publication by any political candidate, campaign, or PAC.