I didn't get a chance to listen to the MPR debate among the Senate candidates live, so I'm now listening through the miracle of the Web. I guess I can non-live blog it since I'm sitting here listening now.
Both Kennedy and Klobuchar seemed to ignore Independence Party Senate candidate Robert Fitzgerald, which is too bad because he seems direct and pleasant, including admonishing the audience that "the applause and catcalls aren't doing any good." What? Civility? This could catch on. Plus you've got to like a guy who had to take his two-week vacation from work to campaign at the State Fair.
(Times relate to the time from the beginning of the RealAudio file)
9:00 - Kennedy took on Klobuchar for saying she supported the troops but saying she was against a bill that would provide body armor and other supplies for troops in Iraq. Klobuchar called Kennedy's remarks "outrageous for implying that I don't support the troops." "I'm not implying it," Kennedy said.
Fitzgerald responded by saying the real issue is why the troops were sent over to Iraq without body armor in the first place.
13:31 Klobuchar says "we have to send someone to Washington who's willing to take on the oil companies. Fitzgerald says Klobuchar needs a stronger position for energy independence. BTW, he's campaigning in a bus that runs on vegetable oil. Kennedy again connects Klobuchar to the body armor issue, and proactively takes on the allegation that he's too close to President Bush before having the issue raised by saying there are "twice as many people who vote with Bush" more than he does. Outlines his energy independence plan to take tax credits back from the oil companies.
Eichten cuts him off because his time ran out. I mention that because my son was the guy who held up the signs to the candidates when their time was running out. Yes, I'm proud. Now back to our story.
17:00 - Klobuchar blames Kennedy for supporting tax breaks to oil companies. Fitzgerald says this whole deal is what happens when special interests pollute democracy.
18:33 - Kennedy challenges Klobuchar to name one difference between she and Mark Dayton, Ted Kennedy or Howard Dean. Klobuchar says she hasn't studied their voting records but says there are things she'd do differently than Dayton (would've supported CIA chief).
Fitzgerald says it's true George Bush's name isn't on the ballot (Kennedy's response to the questions of his voting record). But says neither is Mark Dayton's.
20:55 - Health care. Fitzgerald says health care should not be tied to employment, but says he won't support universal health care as an unfunded mandate. Says if the feds write the plan, it'll be as bad as the Medicare Part D. Kennedy says "we don't want government-run health care." Says businesses should be allowed to band together to buy coverage at a discount. "That's backwards," he said. Klobuchar said health care premiums have gone up 60 percent since Kennedy has been in office. Says Medicare Part D was "a $90 billion Christmas gift to the prescription drug companies." Calls for small businesses and self employed to buy into the federal insurance program with tax credits.
25:24 Eichten gives candidates a chance to ask another candidate a question. I bet my wife $1 that nobody will ask Fitzgerald a question.
26:08 Kennedy asks Klobuchar if she's troubled by her mutual fund's largest holding is ExxonMobil at a time when she's "demonizing" oil companies. Klobuchar says she doesn't know where all the investments in her mutual fund are but says Kennedy is running an ad saying he'll go after oil companies when he's "taken $55,000 from oil company PACS." "I don't think this was the best question to ask, Congressman Kennedy," she said.
27:30 Klobuchar's turn to ask a question. She asks Kennedy (as I collect my $1) why he doesn't favor reimportation of drugs from Canada. Kennedy hammers her on the mutual fund issue in response. "I would expect somebody that had an education at Yale and Chicago Law School to be able to figure that out." Kennedy, answering the question, said "we cannot set aside the safety concerns."
"So you think Gov. Pawlenty is endangering the health of our state," Klobuchar responded?
"I'll ask my question now, " said Fitzgerald.
30:55 - Manure is the topic. Fitzgerald asks Kennedy why he doesn't think manure is a hazardous waste, citing several liquid manure spills. "Is it not better to have more farmers raising fewer animals," he asks. "I would support the Clean Water Act that's in place," Kennedy said. "There's already state rules in place" to make sure the requirements are followed, saying "we should enforce the laws that are out there right now."
33:18 Budget deficit. Kennedy says the budget deficit has declined in the last two years by growing the economy and says cutting taxes is the solution. "15% growth in revenue last year and 12 percent this year, " he said. He also wants a line item veto to "get the junk out of there."
Klobuchar says Washington took "a $200 billion Clinton budget surplus and turned it into a $300 billion Bush budget deficit." Proposes rolling back tax cuts on "wealthiest 1%." Says her plan would only "derail a few yacht sales." Proposes eliminating offshore tax havens and eliminating tax subsidies to oil companies, add pay-as-you-go policy.
Fitzgerald says "only in Washington can elected officials pat themselves on the back for a $300 billion deficit because it wasn't $400 billion." Says Klobuchar's plan isn't enough and says Social Security and Medicare have to be reconsidered. Advocates means testing for both.
38:05 Social Security. Klobuchar says "we're using Social Security as collateral for the debt." Says "number one focus" should be on paying off deficit/debt. Advocates fiscal responsibility. Kennedy says the Social Security fund should be "locked up." Says $1.54 tax increase would be three times bigger than the largest tax increase ever passed. He criticizes Klobuchar for threatening the growth of the economy through tax increases.
40:14 Fitzgerald questions where "this growth" is happening that Kennedy is talking about. Klobuchar talks about a coffee shop where 100 people showed up to talk about their problems. Kennedy says he has proposals. "There's no question I'm not as good at complaining. There's no question I'm not good at criticizing. But you need to put forth proposals, not just complaints and criticisms."
42:08 A farmer from Alexandria calls in to say how much energy prices are hurting. Says he's worried about the concept of "punishing oil companies," noting the increase in a pack of cigarettes since the government started punishing tobacco companies. Asked about drilling up in ANWR and opening Yucca Mountain for nuke waste storage.
Fitzgerald: Nay on ANWR but says it's not off the table. "Kind of a yay?" Eichten asked.
Klobuchar: Opposed to drilling in ANWR but said drilling in the Gulf (of Mexico) has possibilities and suggested more nuclear power.
Kennedy: Opposes ANWR. Supports Yucca Mountain and suggests drilling in the outer continental shelf.
44:14 Audience member asks about immigration. Asks Klobuchar to describe key components of Senate immigration bill. Klobuchar says "we need adequate border patrol." No amnesty for companies hiring illegal workers, she says, and calls for "some sort of earned citizenship." Fitzgerald the borders could be secured if the National Guard would come back from Iraq. Calls for stronger visa compliance. Doesn't like guest-worker program. Kennedy rejects components of Senate bill that gives illegal immigrants apparent breaks on back taxes. Says the U.S. doesn't need permission from Mexico to build a border fence. Objects to $50 billion in "welfare type payments."
48:00 - Eichten asks about stem cell research and asks if President Bush "did the right thing." "I don't believe he did," Klobuchar says. "We must move forward on stem cell research," she said. Kennedy said "we are moving forward. We've made great breakthroughs... dealing with cord blood." Says he supports doubling investment at the National Institutes of Health. Fitzgerald says he approves investing in stem cell research.
50:50 Each candidate was given a minute to summarize. Nothing you haven't heard before.
Did I mention my son was the timekeeper? He called his mother tonight to talk about the debate and about how much he enjoyed Midday's second hour, which featured ex-governors. He noticed that since nothing was at stake in their comments, he found them more -- and I'm not sure this was his word -- sincere.
My kid. Talking politics. Working at MPR (he's an intern and, yeah, he got the job on his own). If he ever realizes how much he's like me, it'll horrify him.
What a lousy debate this was. No fault of MPR of course, but really, is "sling mud at the other guy" the best these candidates are capable of at the end of August? Oh that Lourey was running in this race...
Fitzgerald seemed like a reasonable candidate until the manure question. That question (and the logic behind asking it) was completely unintelligible.
I believe the manure question was the result of a prior debate at Farm Fest. Kennedy tried to characterize Klobuchar as an extremist because one of her contributors characterizes manure as toxic waste. Which, not unlike human waste in bulk, IS rather toxic.
There was someone mising from the debate.
A committed anti-war and social justice activist. as well as being a Nurse, to boot.
Oh well, "liberal" MPR and the "liberal" non-support of a real Peace and social Justice campaign and candidate. Figures.