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Friday, October 10, 2008

Liveblogging the KCTS Burner/Reichert debate

Good evening everyone! Tonight I'll be LiveBlogging this second (and as far as I know, final) debate between Democrat Darcy Burner and Republican Dave Reichert, who are campaigning for Washington's 8th Congressional seat.

The debate is being broadcast on KCTS television, channel 9 in the greater Seattle metro area, so watch it if you can!

UPDATE: turns out this debate was taped earlier in the day so Andrew wasn't actually watching it live as I had thought. Andrew is planning on attending the debate live and will probably chime in with his thoughts after the event. In the meantime, if you don't have access to a television at the moment, kick back and get ready to hit "reload" a lot.

Coverage is just starting. Tonight's moderator Enrique Cerna. Tonight they'll be covering the economy, the war, health care, education, and other important issues.

The format will be 2 minute opening statement, 90 second answers on questions, no rebuttals but possible followup questions, viewer questions from email, and 90 second closing statements at the end.

Reichert wins the coin toss, so he goes first.

Reichert's opening statement: Thanks to KCTS for the opportunity to share our ideas, praising public television and claiming he has voted continually to support public television funding (I don't know if that's true, but we'll check up on that claim later when there's time). He's thanking his supporters, and says it has been an honor to serve the voters of the 8th district these past four years. Now he's claiming his votes have been based on facts and investigation of the issues to best support the needs of people in the 8th. I just plain know that's not true. Lie #1 from Dave.

Burner's opening statement: She covers her economics degree from Harvard, her Microsoft background, and how that's related to the current crisis and her ability to answer economic questions from voters. She's outlining her economic plan and laying out a brief statement of the core economic problems and their causes. Let's have tax cuts for middle class, policies that grow the economy and small businesses. Let's have oversight and end the recklessness of those in the markets who have got us in this mess.

The bailout: you both opposed the bailout; explain your position and what should have been done?

Reichert: I was in D.C. as part of that process. What was disappointing was that a year ago the administration started hearing signs of trouble, but they waited too long to come to congress to do something. So when they came and asked for 700 billion, we (the congress) said "no that's not how that works, we're going to come up with other ideas." He's claiming to have been in lots of bipartisan meetings geared towards coming up with a different plan (Which, since the 700 billion figure and the substance of the plan never changed, I'd have to say "nice leadership there, Dave"). I voted no because it was rammed down our throats and didn't protect taxpayers.

Burner: The middle class has lost $1000/year for the past 8 years, while costs have gone up by about $9000 a year. As a result, people are now about $10,000 in the hole compared to where they were eight years ago. People are borrowing more and more, and now people's 401k savings have vanished because of this market crisis. But the answer is not to take $2000 out of everyone in the country's pockets, give it to 1 person with no strings attached to do with as he sees fit, so he can give it to the people who got us into this mess. We can get out of this mess, we can fix this, but to do it we need to change who we have in DC working to fix these problems.

[ right about here my wireless died. I decided to take notes rather than try to fix it. Here's the rest. I'm posting the raw notes now; I'll go back through with an update to clean them up. ]

What should be done to stabilize the markets?

Reichert: We have a process in Congress; it's called committee hearings. We need to have hearings with experts, to get to the facts. We haven't addressed the problem yet. We need to find the answers and apply our knowledge to find the solutions [ed: huh? If we find the answers, isn't that enough?]. Then we need legislation to address why we got in this mess. But let's not just throw 700B of taxpayers' money down the drain.

Burner: Whatever process Congress has is clearly not working. She cites a survey saying that half of Americans think we would have better leadership in Congress if we randomly picked people from the phonebook to serve versus the people we have now. We need new leadership in Washington. The problem right now is the credit crunch, and the resulting inability of businesses to get credit for day to day operations. She's covering the specifics of what the Fed is doing about it. She would fix the bailout by adding accountability for every dollar and demanding that taxpayers receive equity in any bankns which get bailouts. She's saying we can do that but only with new people in Congress.

Followup: how should we tweak the existing package to help all Americans in the long term?

Reichert: There are 435 members of congress; he doesn't think you can go to one person [ed: oh, goodness, especially not me! Don't ask me!] and ask for the answer to the crisis. He's citing other congresspeople who have non-economic backgrounds like himself. So, in other words, "don't ask me." The Democrats control this congress, so ask them what to do.

Burner: I'd do 3 things. 1, make sure taxpayers get equity in any banks that the government invests in, to protect taxpayers and their money. 2, make sure bailout money is not used to reward the irresponsible executives who caused this mess (no AIG spa treatments!). 3, unroll these elaborate mortgage-backed securities (MBSs) all the way back to the underlying mortgages, and give the people with the mortgages help to stay in their houses, which would not only help those people directly but would also fix the underlying problem with the MBSs. If those securities become stable again, this whole economic crisis gets a whole lot better.

Should the current middle-class tax cuts be continued?

Burner: Yes. The middle class definitely needs those cuts. And MORE! [ed: I didn't get many direct quotes, but here's one:] "I want to cut taxes further for the middle class". To the tune of $4000/year [ed: which for my family would certainly buy a lot of GET credits for my kids' future education]. Reichert is voting for the status quo. She's asking voters to consider whether they're happy with the status quo and think it's working? Or do they want soemone who will change the status quo to help middle class citizens?

Reichert: Saying how he grew up poor too, so he knows the middle class. Saying Darcy can't have it both ways. Now he's saying something about PAYGO and tax cuts, but it isn't making much sense and I can't figure out what his point is. He's saying that PAYGO has to be paid for by eliminating tax cuts or else cutting services, and is blaming the Democrats for choosing to do it by eliminating tax cuts [ed: again, I have no idea offhand if that's true, but someone should check]. He's criticizing Darcy's numbers saying they don't add up and that they require a taxpayer to somehow fill out two separate and conflicting tax forms. This part didn't make much sense to me either.

Burner: I am not in favor of raising taxes on the middle class. She's saying that Reichert, "unable to find anything in my actual positions to attack, is making claims with no basis in fact." She cites the Times [ed: or was it the PI? One of the local papers anyway] backing her up on that. She wants to lower the middle class's tax burdern and change policies to help middle class tax payers and small businesses. "I propose to help people who are suffering that need a break."

Follow up question: substantiate your claim that Reichert has only passed one bill in 4 years.

Burner: Says this is actually pretty straightforward to do. Citing specifics of Reichert's record, and his 401/439 congressional power ranking, that he's less effective than the American Samoa and Guam representatives who don't even vote in the house. "Citizens of the 8th district would get better representation in congress if they lived in American Samoa or Guam". Saying how her background in economics and technology gives her a unique and powerful ability to represent the citizens of this tech-savvy district. [ed: which is hard to argue with compared to Reichert's professed McCain-like understanding of the economy and background far outside of the tech sector.]

Reichert: I've passed 10 pieces of legislation in the last 4 years. [ed: of course, he didn't list them or anything useful like that]. If my opponent believes I'm ineffective, we should talk about Norm Dicks who has only passed 4 pieces and is ranked as very powerful. Or Adam Smith, who has 2 pieces of legislation to my 10. He's directing people to check the congressional record, saying "it's not always about getting your name on the bill" that it's about influencing the language of the bill. [ed: which sound to me like "I'm such a nice guy I wrote all this other great legislation but I let my hapless colleagues put their names on it." Um, yeah.]

Under what circumstances would you support raising taxes?

Reichert: this is the worst time to talk about raising taxes. He's re-capping his answer about what congress should do about the bailout and the banking crisis. He's really rambling about the bailout now, and we're a long ways from talking about tax policy.

Burner: Now is indeed not the right time to raise taxes. What we need now is a stimulus. Right now is when we want to have a rainy day fund so we could invest in growing the economy. Unfortunately, we've squandered our rainy day fund [ed: presumably a reference to the $600 billion Iraq war bill and the $700 billion bailout package bill] so now we have to increase debt in order to create stimulus. We need policies that spend responsibly so we can create stimulus without going into debt. [ed: I'm pretty sure there was something about balancing the budget amid that, but she was talking faster than I was able to keep up]. When we get out of this crisis, that's the right time to ask wealthy corporations to pay their fair share, so we can put kids through college and live up to the promises we've made to our G.I.s and to retirees. But we can only do that if we change who we send to Congress.

Re-iterate the question: when would you support a tax increase?

[ed: props to the moderator for pushing for a specific answer. After this week's Obama/McCain debate, I can't imagine Brokaw doing that]

Reichert: that's a hypothetical question. Uh. Um. I would be against raising taxes unless this country was involved in a conflict that was so... um something or other. [ed: here, Dave's brain apparently stalled out.] We cannot raise taxes on companies, on people [ed: note, he put them in that order. Companies first, then people]. That's where I am today. Remember, the Democrats control congress! How is any of this my fault?

Burner: Every household in this district understands what it means to balance their checkbook. Every household has to do it. Most of the states have to figure out how to make sure they're not spending more than they're bringing in. We have to be willing to make investments in schools, roads, technologies, to grow the economy. To do that we have to have revenue coming in. I absolutely think corporations should pay their fair share. They're the ones that benefit from stimulus.

Health care. Do you believe that health care in America is a privlege or a right for all?

Burner: every American should have access to high quality affordable health care. The system right now is broken both for those who don't have health care and for those who do. She recounts a conversation she had with a local woman telling her about how much the woman had to pay in premiums, co-pays, prescription drugs, et cetera. "People are getting squeezed. We need to make sure insurance companies aren't making huge profits on the backs of ordinary citizens." We need to make sure people don't need to use emergency rooms as primary care. Emergency room coverate is not an adequate health care plan for America. We need real insurance reform to fix this. I know Barack Obama, when he is president, will fix this and I'm looking forward to being there to help him.

Reichert: I've been heavily involved in working to fix health care [ed: really? Well if you're so effective in congress (see your earlier answer) where are the results? Why is there still a health care crisis?]. I was invited by the Democrats to be part of [a health care working] group. We're looking into how to provide health care for those who can't afford it and don't have it. We had the UAW and GM explain how they're transitioning health care responsibility from the employer to the union. [ed: Um, Dave? Union members pay dues out of their paycheck to support the union. So if the union is paying for the insurance, that's really just that's still on the backs of the people, isn't it? This is just another example of right-wing efforts to shift the burden of providing all forms of services and infrastructure onto the backs of the people in order to turn everything into a private business opportunity for those with the connections to push for it.]

What kind of health care system should we have? Universal coverage? Free market?

Burner: We need a system with oversight, so middle class Americans stop getting squeezed out of access to high quality health care. The government already provides health care for a lot of Americans, through medicare, the V.A., etc. But middle class people who are in the private sector are getting squeezed out of it. Insurance companies need to be regulated to stop "death by spreadsheet" [note, she didn't use that term herself, but it's a great term for the situation we have where people pay huge premiums for insurance that turns around and never actually covers anything because it's a "pre-existing condition" or it's a "non-essential procedure" or because of annual deductible limits that are so high you never actually reach them, et cetera. Anybody else know what I mean, there?]

Reichert: everyone agrees with universal health care, but what does that really mean? Is it the canadian model? The massachussets model? Doctors and patients need to be in charge of medical decisions, not insurance companies. He suggests non-taxable personal savings accounts and small business association health care systems.

Health care vs. the national debt: what entitlement reforms do you support?

Reichert: Move management burden from employers to employees [ed: a recap of his earlier answer]. Provide people with tax incentives to go buy their own insurance. Now he's pivoting over to the bailout and comparing that to the similar cost of annual medicare/medicaid. The dems are in control of Congress! [ed: Take a drink if you're playing the Reichert "it's not my fault" drinking game!.] Oopsie, I ran out of time.

Burner: We need to keep the promises we have made. Retirees barely get by on social security and medicaid. To even threaten reducing those benefits is ridiculous. I will NOT allow social security to be privatized like Reichert wants. Given the markets lately, that position [that putting Social Security money into private accounts that are invested in the stock market is a horrible idea] has been vindicated. With respect to costs, the problem is that medicaid costs end up going to treating complications of underlying illnesses because insurance companies make it so expensive to get primary care that they push people off into emergency room treatment. It's a colossal waste. We need fiscal discipline, and we can get it if we change who we send to Congress from this district.

Followup: what about raising the Social Security retirement age?

Reichert: There have been lots of ideas on Social Security. But we can't cut benefits, raise taxes, or change the retirement age. We need to keep the status quo system. But I never said I support privatizing Social Security. I do support personal savings accounts as a part of a larger system.

Burner: No. We need to keep the promises that we have made. Especially to those who have retired or are near retirement. But Reichert's proposal (personal savings accounts placed into the markets) is the very definition of privatizing soc. sec. The level of risk and recklessness involved in playing the markets is just too high. It's absolutely reckless. But what else should we expect when Reichert has said he doesn't understand economics?

Do you support an Iraq withdraw timetable?

Burner: I do support a timetable for withdrawal. We're spending 10 billion dollars a month in Iraq. Our district alone has spend 2.5 billion dollars in Iraq. That's a lot of schools, a lot of bridges, a lot of businesses that didnt' get started because they couldn't get the money. It's time to demand that Iraq be responsible for its own stability and reconstruction, for dealing with its own population. The generals are saying we could safely withdraw one brigade per month. Based on that and the number of troops we have there now, I favor a 20 month withdraw period.

Reichert: Hey! I never said we should put Social Security money into the stock market! I've been to Iraq and Afghanistan. I've met with Karzai, lots of generals and other folks over there, including General Petraeus. I get 1st hand information from those people. The reason Burner says 20 months because the surge is working [ed: duh, because it's the same as the Powell Doctrine of overwhelming force that worked so effectively in the first gulf war, and which the geniuses *cough*Rumsfeld*cough* in this administration decided they didn't want to use]. I would agree with her, but I won't give a time frame because I'll leave that up to the generals [ed: nice leadership again, Dave. Don't you remember, it's the Congress that's supposed to authorize wars. It says so in the Constitution and stuff.]

Is Iraq still the most important front in the war on terror:

[ed: anti-props to the moderator for a question that, if I were a lawyer in a courtroom, would have me screaming "objection, your Honor! Assumes facts not in evidence!" Upheld, Council, Iraq never was the most important front.]

Reichert: Iraq and Afghanistan are equally important fronts in the war on terrorism. I've been there, I've seen the improvements. The turning point is when the local people step up to kick the terrorists out of their neighborhoods. That has been working in Afghanistan [ed: it is? I thought the Taliban were coming back again these past few years.] We can do the same in Iraq.

Burner: we took our eye off the real threat when we went into Iraq. Bin Laden is the real threat, and he's in those mountains on the Pakistani border. To have gone into Iraq, to have made our selves weaker militarily and diplomatically was reckless. Not to keep the pressure on Afghanistan while the Taliban has been resurgent has been the height of recklessness, yet is a policy Dave Reichert has supported.

Audience question: Do you support manditory reductions in CO2 via federal regulation?

Burner: Yes. The threat posed by golbal climate change is very real, caused by human activity, and we need to address it. She wants Henry to live in a world that doesn't have global famines and rising sea levels. She's recalling hikes as a kid to the Carbon Glacier, and how now that Glacier is almost gone. We have to address this problem. We can do it in a way that makes WA and the 8th district stronger by developing new energy sources through stimulating entrepreneurship and innovation.

Reichert: there are 2 bills in congres that address these issues. The Waxman and Gilcrest bills. I'm on the Gilcrest bill. I do agree that global warming is occurring. We do need to do things now. [ed: here he drifts off into general environmental issueus rather than CO2 reduction] I co-sponsored Wild Sky. I've got my own alpine lakes bill. We all want to preserve the NW greenery and protect the environment for our grandchildren. Cites the PI endorsement and the League of Conservation Voters' score.

Closing statements:

Burner: On July 1 our family lost our house. When my son Henry came in and said the house is on fire, I made a pact with God: let me get my family out and you can have everything else. And we did lose everything. But with the incredible help I received from people all over the 8th district, I learned you can face catastrophe and live through it. This is a country where everyone is facing a crisis. But we can get through it. We must change. Wee must and we can change if we change the people we send to Congress. If we make the changes we have to make, we can turn our hopes into reality.

Reichert: It's been a pleasure to be here, et cetera. Thanks for having us. Thanks for this opportunity. I'm 58 years old, I have a lot of life experience. I was the oldest of 7 kids in a home with domestic violence. I know what it's like to put my life on the line, make life and death decisions [ed: I simply can't let that pass without comment. How Reichert can say that with a straight face when he let Gary Ridgway, the Green River Killer, wander around free for FIVE YEARS on his killing spree because as the lead investigator on the case he simply never bothered to do a DNA test on a saliva sample from Ridgway, all the while pursuing an unsubstantiated lead against an innocent cab driver, I just can't fathom. Here's my question for you , Dave: How many women did Gary Ridgway kill during those five years? How do you look yourself in the mirror without throwing up? How do you sleep at night? Answer me that, Mr. Sherrif man. Jerk]. To make decisions when people's lives are at stake. I bring the exprience and perspective to research and made decisions based on facts. [ed: no, you don't, Dave. You vote like the Republican leadership tells you. You don't investigate anything. You don't make up your mind about anything. Don't you dare try to convince me that you do, because I'm not buying that lie.] And that's why I've been successful, and I ask for your vote again.

And that's the debate, folks. It was fun to type it all in for you, and I hope you found it informative.

Overall, my impressions were that Reichert didn't come across as hapless as I was expecting. His answers had that veneer of sounding good, without actually daring to have any substance to them. Darcy answered almost all of her questions with specifics (witness her answer on how to fix the bailout bill), and she didn't have to fumble around for any of them. She's a woman who knows her stand on the issues and isn't afraid to say so.


Blogger Laurel said...

Before watching last night's debate I had seen Darcy Burner as sort of a goody two shoes, sweet faced young thing.
How quickly my view changed regarding who she really is. She was far more comprehensive in her answers than Rheichert, who looked rather odd with his knees apart, hands clenched posture. His answers definitely lacked punch. His entire demeanor did not befit his station. Darcy Burner, in my mind, won that debate hands down. She was focused and informative and expressed the right ideas.

October 11, 2008 2:36 PM  

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