Three Republican candidates who want to replace U.S. Senator Christopher Dodd took to the stage at the University of Hartford Tuesday night for a debate. WNPR’s Jeff Cohen reports.
Even though the run-up to Tuesday's debate has been ugly, the debate itself was anything but. Linda McMahon put a fine point on it when she spoke about jobs.
“Well, I think you'd hear a lot of agreement among the three of us here on the stage.”
And, for the most part, McMahon was right, as she, investor Peter Schiff, and former Congressman Rob Simmons talked about the economy, foreign policy, and healthcare without doing too much debating.
This was the second of two senatorial debates sponsored by the Hartford Courant and Fox Connecticut. On Monday night, Democrats took the stage and tried to draw distinctions between themselves. Tuesday’s affair was tamer.
The candidates first fielded questions on the economy, and they all seemed to agree that jobs were good and that government needs to get out of business’s way. None of them had terribly good things to say about the federal bailout programs.
On foreign policy, Schiff took issue with the country’s invasion of Iraq, and said he would use diplomacy first with Iran. McMahon said Iran is a rogue nation that wants to, in her words, blow us all up. And Simmons said that sanctions on the country won’t help.
“At some point, the American people are going to have to decide whether military action is acceptable.”
None of the three candidates liked Democratic health care reform plans. None of them, though, had read the senate health care legislation. McMahon said lawmakers who voted on it didn't read it. And Schiff said there wasn’t any point to reading it.
“No, I didn’t read the bill. I don’t have to read the bill to know that I oppose it. I mean, I oppose it on principle. I oppose the concept that we need more government involvement in health care.”
The last question was on partisan gridlock in Washington. McMahon derided career politicians and said she’d work for compromise. Simmons said he would, too.
“My mother’s a Democrat, my wife is unaffiliated, and my two children, Rob and Jane, are Republicans, but I love them all. In my service in Congress I worked with many Democrats on issues where we did not have to sacrifice our principles but we could work together effectively for a common cause.”
Here, Schiff saw an opening.
“You know, A lot of people say that we need bipartisanship so we could overcome the gridlock. Well, I don’t want to overcome gridlock if that’s the only things standing between us and more government.”
And, maybe it couldn’t have been avoided, but, on this topic, McMahon -- the former wrestling executive -- brought a little bit of muscle into the political arena.
“I think probably if all else failed in Washington, I would set a ring up in the Senate chamber and lay the smackdown on some of these guys that didn’t want to come to the table.”
And that was about as cantankerous as the evening’s debate got.
For WNPR, I’m Jeff Cohen.