Wednesday, February 24, 2010
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Wednesday, February 03, 2010
You can watch the entirety of the debate on PCN here. It does require you to poke around some though. Its probably worth the effort.
The PA Progressive Summit 2010 was held in Harrisburg Jan. 29 through Jan. 30, more information here. The "debate" between House Rep. Joe Sestak and current Democratic Party Sen. Arlen Specter was held Saturday night.
Here are my random impressions, more or less.
One: It wasn't really a debate between the candidates, but a moderated session where Joe Sestak appeared first and then answered questions from the audience. Then Joe left the stage and Arlen Specter, choosing to stand perhaps to show his "vitality", also answered questions for about 45 minutes. Verdict: points to Specter. And: who designed this format? What Sestak should want is face to face encounters with Specter, who at times, looked to be a very old man. This format didn't allow for contrast or even intelligent follow up questions. Its quite clear that Joe would have had some followup questions.
Two: Keep in mind that I endorse Joe Sestak. Joe Sestak is relatively young and, so far, the most progressive legislator/former admiral I have ever seen. There are few issues that I disagree with when it comes to Joe Sestak and I'm assuming that's he's getting very good advice from Chris Bowers of Open Left , who's been advising him. So if its a close call I would probably say Joe Sestak. Unfortunately, because of the format, this seemed to be more of a personality contest. I think Specter wins that confrontation every time. He came off warm and gracious. By the way, just a personal note of observation learned from watching senators closely for about 30 years: Senators tend to be superior politicians and generally very likeable. They have to have a talent for making you like them even when they're acting against your interests. (Former Senator Barack Obama is exhibit A. and more on that Republican smackdown later...)
Three: Labor has always been in the tank for Arlen Specter. I first heard rumors back in the 80s that Specter had essentially bought off Labor's leadership. When I worked for America Coming Together in 2004 we were downstairs from Joe Hoeffel, who was running against Arlen Specter for that senate seat. For some reason, it never occurred t our organization to support Joe Hoeffel, who was better and still remains better on almost all progressive issues, especially labor's. Just to recap: America Coming Together was pretty much run by the American labor movement. I suppose it could have been an ethnic decision. Both Andy Stern (SEIU reps were operating out of our office...) and George Soros are Jewish. That's not a good reason to base your political decision making on. I imagine that's why labor's power seems to be in a permanent decline. I mean, Obama didn't support the African American governor of New York just because he was African American. Then again, perhaps that's just a reflection of how weak African American political power is compared to Jewish American political power. For the record, Barack Obama is supporting Arlen Spector in the Democratic primary for senate. In a wishful way, I'd like to think that he would do the same for David Patterson if he was a senator and he needed a 60th vote. Yet a small yet insistent voice in my gut tells me "No he wouldn't."
Four: Light of hope: there haven't been a lot of labor endorsements for Specter. Of course, Joe Sestak needs more than just labor not endorsing Specter. Joe Sestak needs labor's enthusiastic backing. Rendell and Obama have sown up most of the establishment Democratic Party endorsements for Specter. This is a long list. Labor can't sit this one out. I'm trying to imagine how Sestak could match Specter's ground game without an enthusiastic labor base and my imagination fails. I say that as an aspiring science fiction writer. Let's hope that Sestak doesn't get the 2004 Joe Hoeffel treatment from the American labor movement.
Five: Here's some advice for Joe Sestak: if and when he gets an opportunity to debate Specter he needs to politely but insistently question him on his positions. I thought Specter had two bad moments during the debate where he played the decent elder statesman of stature. Someone had asked him a legitimate question about his record and he showed, I thought, a disturbing flash of anger that reminded me of Montgomery Burns of Simpson's fame. It just seemed quite unseemly. That wasn't a guy who would get my vote, at least for 10 seconds anyway. For the record, I also thought Specter's 2nd worst moment was when he danced around ending the filibuster in the senate. It was clear that he hadn't an answer or more than likely didn't want to end the Senate's powergrab supermajority. He should have said either yes or no. He kind of danced around and didn't really answer the guy's question. Here's a question for Sestak: "Would Specter support the nuclear option in the senate if it meant passing a public health care plan that had a public option? Or any other meaningful legislation?"
Six: I don't care if Specter gets a zillion endorsements. A Specter vs. Toomey race means an unenthusiastic democratic base vs. a justifiablly enthused republican base. I just don't see an old and tired Arlen Specter beating Pat Toomey in the general election. And now Specter's vote doesn't seem to be as important.
Not change we can believe in, again.
I watched all four of the remaining Democratic Party nominees debate last night at the Pennsylvania Progressive Summit 2010. The debaters included Allegheny County Commissioner Dan Onorato, Montgomery County Commissioner Joe Hoeffel, Scranton Mayor Chris Doherty and Pennsylvania Auditor General Jack Wagner.
- I think Onorato will probably win it because he's raised the most money, a whopping 8 million dollars. That's just the way it is in our very corrupt country. There's no Santa Claus, either. I don't think anybody else is even close. The only other number that I've even seen is Joe Hoeffel's, which is about a measley 400000. Despite this, I have to say that the best informed of the candidates on policy issues seemed to be Dan Onorato. I like, and this is very important to me after watching the Dems in action at the national level over the last 8 months or so, Hoeffel the most but I just don't think you can pull off a victory when you're being outspent 20 to 1.
- Scranton Mayor Chris Doherty, who seems like a likeable guy with a likeable family (and lots of 'em. Six kids I think...) just didn't look ready for primetime as a professional political speaker. Politicians have to speak well, especially if they're being outspent by a zillion dollars. He also had the worst moment of the night when answering a question about Marijuana legalization. First, he said, and I'm paraphrasing, that he would continue to lock people up for the crime. But he also spoke about the "Drug Menace" and seemed to imply that Crack and Heroin and Marijuana were somehow equal things when in fact they're clearly not. No one is arguing that Crack has medicinal value.And the more he spoke about how evil the evil drugs were, kind of like that "Drugs are bad mmmmkay" guy on South Park, the audience started to reply with boos and some low level hissing. I just don't see him winning the nomination.
- Wagner had the second worst moment of the night when he danced around a question by Planned Parenthood. The question made a lot of sense and kind of went like this: if Roe v Wade is overturned (kind of likely since they just overturned much older 100 year precedent in that gawdawful Citizen United corporations are people too case...) would he veto the likely bill that would arrive at has desk criminalizing abortion and subsequently women and their lawbreaker doctors. He simply didn't give a straight answer. He should have said that when the Pennsylvania legislature gives him a law that will recriminalize abortion in the state that he would sign it, and probably sign it proudly. He's a longtime pro lifer. Not this evasive nonsense about supporting the current law and nebulous talk about protecting the "children". Disgraceful. Related: Both Chelsa Wagner and her husband Khari "Mr. Mom" Mosley were there as well. I dropped lit for Ms. Wagner and I'm very proud of her sensational work as a state rep. I've known Khari for years and respect his politics. But, if they weren't related to Jack Wagner by blood and/or marriage there is no way that they would be supporting his campaign. It would be either Onorato of Hoeffel as the imaginary diety is my witness.
- Even though I mentioned the inevitability of an Onorato win in a bad way, I don't think Onorato would be a bad governor. In fact, I think he would be a pretty good governor. It would probably be a continuation of the Ed Rendell regime, which wasn't bad. We just have to watch out to make sure that Dan doesn't try to sell our state highways to rich folks.
I"ll have more later since I'm attending the summit.