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Mystery Senate Primary Debate Theater

The three major Democratic candidates for U.S. Senate (no Jacob Meister or Robert Marshall) appeared on Chicago Tonight last night in a revealing discussion led by Carol Marin. Let's take a look, with my own comments yelled at the TV inserted. (Remarks from all involved edited for clarity, convenience and sanity.)

*

Cheryle Jackson: [Massachusetts] was a change vote much like the vote for Obama . . . it was very much about jobs . . . and a sense that people in Washington are not addressing these issues.

Marin: But Obama was the change agent. How did he fail?

Alexi Giannoulias: Voters are angry. Angry at reckless Bush-Kirk economic policies . . .

Rhodes: Massachusetts voters are angry at Mark Kirk!

Marin: They were angry at Bush so they went for Obama. Now they're angry at this administration.

Giannoulias: For the last 10 years, Mark Kirk has been steeped in Washington politics.

Marin: But the Republican won there.

Rhodes: Bush-Kirk 2012!

Giannoulias: [Sitting with a bewildered half-grin on his face, having been thoroughly slapped down for his amateur attempt at practicing the Washington-style politics he decries.]

*

David Hoffman: It's going to be a very difficult year for Democrats. Not enough independents, too much reliance on party orthodoxy . . . additional problem in Illinois of corruption . . . we need a nominee who is as independent as possible.

Marin: Did the Democrats suffer an Obama backlash?

Giannoulias: We have a stark choice between failed policies of the past . . . or we can move this country forward . . . that's what Massachusetts was all about.

Rhodes: And voters chose the past?

Jackson: It was not really about politics. They've voted Republicans out, they're voting Democrats out. They're looking for somebody to solve problems.

*

Marin: Asks about Giannoulias's problems at Broadway Bank and with the Bright Start fund.

Giannoulias: I ran against my own party . . . guilty by association attacks . . .

Hoffman: It's not about guilty by association or political attacks, but job performance . . . the treasurer's office was misleading parents . . . you told parents their money would be invested in only conservative funds but you knew they were being put partially in high-risk vehicles . . . and then you told them that they'd get 90 percent of their money back instead of the 50 percent they got . . . and there was a failure to take responsibility . . .

Giannoulias: I took responsibility . . . the most important thing is making sure we can beat Mark Kirk . . . David Hoffman is in favor of keeping the Bush tax cuts . . . David Hoffman's had three commercials and hasn't talked about jobs . . .

Rhodes: Giannoulias has had three questions tonight and hasn't answered any of them.

*

Marin: Asks Jackson about working as a spokesperson for Rod Blagojevich "when people like me were calling you about him . . . earlier than 2006" when she left the administration.

Jackson: I had no way of knowing in 2004-2005 that those things were true.

Marin: You believed they weren't true?

Jackson: I left . . . to do what I thought I was signing up for . . . and went to the Chicago Urban League (to create jobs).

Rhodes: You thought were signing up to create jobs by becoming a flak?

Marin: Your name showed up on a clout list regarding your husband's state job.

Jackson: My husband is very qualified, he got his job based on qualifications.

Marin: Did he get in the door because of you?

Jackson: No.

*

Marin: The parking meter was a done deal when your report came out. Was your report political?

Hoffman: The report came out after the deal was done because the whole deal was done in 48 hours . . .

Marin: There had been chatter . . .

Rhodes: So the inspector general was supposed to investigate chatter? An inspector general inherently can't investigate a deal until after it's done; he's not a policy adviser.

Hoffman: There were no details, it was all done behind closed doors, which was one of the main points of our report. A couple weeks after it passed we started looking at it.

Marin: Wasn't it too late by then?

Rhodes: Well, you heard the chatter, Carol. Where were you? It was your job up until then to illuminate for us what was going on, not the inspector general's.

*

Marin: Is Obama right or wrong on Afghanistan?

Jackson: My position is to not only not send more troops, but to bring our troops and resources home. I'm the only candidate to take that position.

Giannoulias: It's not the right thing to do to pull out . . . there will be a spike in terrorist recruitment . . . Al-Qaeda will claim victory . . . America's prestige will be diminished . . . the region will become more dangerous.

Rhodes: So you support the Bush-Kirk position on Afghanistan.

Giannoulias: We have to build more bridges, roads, hospitals over there.

Marin: We tried that.

Giannoulias: Not enough.

Hoffman: Mr. Giannoulias is in favor of the escalation, I'm opposed to the escalation. I agree with our vice president; I read General McChrystal's report in October . . . it's an expansion of the mission. We need to focus on the terrorist threat there, which is a localized threat . . . [the larger threat has] moved to Yemen and Somalia. We need to build roads, bridges and hospitals here.

Rhodes: Giannoulias is wondering who General McChrystal is.

Giannoulias: The status quo has not been working . . .

Rhodes: That's why I support more of the same!

*

Marin: Iran and North Korea . . .

Jackson: It's very, very important that . . . uh . . . um . . . Israel is our most important ally . . . threat . . . Iran . . . [blah blah blah] . . . a serious and great matter . . it's time to employ diplomatic tools; economic sanctions on Iran and North Korea. We tried the discussions and it does seem as if they are delay tactics . . .

Rhodes: Bush-Kirk 2012!

Giannoulias: I don't think we've gone for enough in Iran . . . we've tried to be as diplomatic as possible . . . time has already run out . . . we need to engage in crippling economic sanctions . . .

Rhodes: So the Obama diplomatic strategy has been a bust. Say it! Say it!

Hoffman: We have not been tough enough with actual sanctions . . . I'm the only person in this race who actually has any foreign policy experience . . . I was an assistant to the chairman of the intelligence committee [U.S. Sen. David Boren] . . . which is important given Mark Kirk's foreign policy experience . . .

Jackson: If we want to avoid another Massachusetts, we need to be strongest where Kirk weakest, and that's the economy.

Marin: You've actually produced jobs?

Jackson: At the Chicago Urban League.

Rhodes: Where I did some hiring!

Jackson: We've helped counsel and train over 6,200 people. We help place people in jobs.

Rhodes: Maybe you should stay there then.

Giannoulias: I'm the only candidate who's actually created and helped save jobs . . . big banks . . . Massachusetts . . . Wells Fargo, Hartmarx, Des Plaines . . . we saved 600 jobs . . . Washington insiders are controlling Washington.

Marin: Doesn't everybody say they are an outsider? Barack Obama said he was an outsider. Andy McKenna says he's an outsider . . .

Giannoulias: We fought to get credit cards off college campuses, keep people in their homes . . .

Marin: Isn't that just rhetoric without meaning?

Hoffman: If being in the U.S. attorney's office and taking on corruption is being in the system . . . .

Jackson: The outsider label is not the most important thing here. The most important label is problem-solver . . . I would suspend payroll taxes for a year . . . only I know that tax credits alone aren't enough if you've been in the trenches . . .

Hoffman: Taking on Mayor Daley . . .

Rhodes: Whose endorsement you are still seeking . . .

Hoffman: . . . taking on Michael Madigan . . .

Rhodes: Taking on Alexi Giannoulias . . .

*

Marin: China.

Giannoulias: I've spoken about China more than anyone else . . . David Hoffman wants even freer trade with China.

Hoffman: He's trying to make it appear that I'm a Republican. It's the tactic of a failed frontrunner who has seen the momentum shift . . . I'm endorsed by Abner Mikva, Dawn Clark Netsch . . . for gay marriage, the public option . . . when he says freer trade . . . I think opening up markets is important, but free trade needs to be fair. With enforcement provisions for labor and the environment.

Giannoulias: He has said that when it comes to the Bush tax cuts, the wealthiest Americans need a break.

Hoffman: That's disingenuous. I've said over and over that I'm in favor of letting the tax cuts expire as soon as the economy rebounds. And keeping the middle class tax cuts in place.

Jackson: It is troubling on the Bush tax cuts . . . and that China owns so much of our debt . . . this country has forgotten how to grow and innovate.

Rhodes: Really? Let me use my iPhone to check Google on that . . .

*

Marin: Health care.

Hoffman: We should vote for it and pass it. I'm disappointed we didn't get the public option . . . because of insider lobbying in Washington.

Marin: If you read the bill closely, you find out that, for example, the provision on pre-existing conditions won't arrive for some time.

Jackson: It's a first good step, not the final step . . . I too was taken aback when I read the fine print, that the provision for pre-existing conditions for adults comes in at a much later date. I would vote to pass this and then walk in day one fighting for more. It's time to focus on jobs, with the same amount of intense energy that's been focused on health care.

The problem has been messaging. Why not call it health insurance reform instead of health reform?

Rhodes: That's what the bill has been accused of being.

Giannoulias: It's not a perfect bill but I would vote for it.

Jackson: Partisanship is not the problem, but special interests.

Marin: Who here hasn't taken money from the health industry?

Hoffman: I'm the only one.

Giannoulias: I have not taken any . . .

Hoffman: I know he says that but . . . he says he won't take money from federal lobbyists, but why do you take money from state lobbyists?

DH: I know he says that but . . . he is taking money from state lobbyists . . . I'm taking no no lobbyist money, no PAC money . . .

Jackson: These are the guys with all the money. Not that I know of.

*

Viewer questions.

1. How can we properly fund mental health services for our veterans?

Hoffman: We need to ramp up spending . . . can get the money from waste, inefficiencies, pork projects in the military budget . . .

Giannoulias: We need to take care of our veterans, who have made the ultimate sacrifice . . .

Rhodes: Memorize every political cliche much? [At this point I looked up the definition of the word "callow" to see if I could accurately pair it with "smarmy" to describe Giannoulias. The answer: Yes.]

2. A question about domestic partnerships.

Giannoulias: I was the first candidate - I'm glad that David's shown his backbone and agreed with me - for gay marriage.

Rhodes: The wedding is in June.

Jackson: I am absolutely for fighting for GLBT civil rights. I want to repeal don't ask don't tell. Repeal the Defense of Marriage Act. And enforce civil unions like Barack Obama, Dick Durbin and Pat Quinn . . .

Rhodes: She's trying to give the appearance of being in favor of gay marriage without admitting that she's not.

Marin: So yes to gay marriage.

Rhodes: Carol! Pay attention!

Jackson: Yes to civil unions.

Rhodes: So why are you against gay marriage, Cheryle? Make her say it.

Hoffman: Yes to all of it.

3. Which of you is least politically connected?

Hoffman: I think I have to take that title. I've never been on a clout list. I've not been involved in putting campaign funds together or currying favor with politicians. I've done the opposite, fighting against politicians who are corrupt.

Giannoulias: When I ran for treasurer, there were lot of people from my own party who didn't want me there.

Rhodes: That's because you were a callow, smarmy and unqualified candidate who was only in the race because you raised a lot of money for Barack Obama.

Giannoulias: What's most important going forward is to help rebuild the economy . . .

Jackson: I definitely have the mantle of the people's candidate . . . I don't have a long list of endorsements . . .

Rhodes: Unpopularity as a virtue.

*

Marin: Tell us about a mistake you've made that helped inform who you are today.

Hoffman: At age 42, I realized I hadn't spent enough time with my family . . .

Rhodes: And that's why I want to move to Washington to take a job that will consume all of my time . . .

Giannoulias: My biggest weakness is that I wear my heart on my sleeve and I get emotional . . .

Rhodes: Alexi cares too much.

Marin: What was the mistake in that?

Giannoulias: You have to divorce yourself from everything, what everyone says on the blog pages and everywhere you go . . .

Jackson: I went to Northwestern and it wasn't until after that that I realized I did not tap all of the resources that were there . . . I always carry that with me, make certain, am I doing enough, using all the resources?

Rhodes: Like when you worked for Blago.

*

Marin: When was the last time you used public transportation?

Hoffman: Two weeks ago, going to work.

Giannoulias: The "El," a month ago.

Jackson: In October. Amtrak.

*

Marin: Name one political mentor/role model.

Giannoulias: Probably our president, who is my mentor.

Hoffman: Paul Simon, a man of independence and integrity.

Jackson: Dr. King. He was unafraid to speak truth to power.

-

Comments welcome.



Permalink

Posted on January 21, 2010


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