Dear Debate Minnesota: You have a broken debate mechanism. There have been four and a half hours of debate and a narrow set of questions. You can’t hear new ideas if the same questions are asked. The format being used gave the moderators the first round of questions. Every moderator asked the same question. In this debate, there was no new information obtained because the organizers didn’t ask for it.
7 p.m. – We’re underway. The person making the introductions says this is the “third and final” debate. I was under the impression the traditional MPR Sunday-before-Election-Day debate would be held at the Fitz. (Update: It will be held.)
Tonight’s crowd is the most boisterous we’ve head so far. Chants of “Norm…Norm…Norm”
The format is two-minute opening statements. Again, the subjects are the economy, foreign policy, and energy, which means we stand a good chance of having the exact same questions and the exact same answers as the first two debates. As I wrote earlier this week, in three hours of debates so far, moderators have asked only about 6 questions.
Barkley: Says the middle class will be talked about quite a bit tonight and he knows the middle class because he comes from the middle class. Barkley comes out a bit more warm-and-fuzzy tonight after a very strident performance in the second debate.
He says he’s watched his retirement savings dissipate and he doesn’t need the consultants to tell him why he’s angry.
Franken: Starts exactly the same way as last debate. “This election isn’t about the three of us; it’s about you.” Recounts his upbringing in St. Louis Park. Expecting the “I felt like the luckiest kid in the world” line. And there it is: “I felt like the luckiest kid in the world.” Same opening statement as the previous two debates. (Here’s the first debate. Here’s the second.
Coleman: Doesn’t lead with a biographical sketch. He starts out promising to put people on Wall Street in jail, then goes with the “stop the negativity” message. He tells the Franklin Roosevelt funeral story again. This does not bode well for new material in this debate.
Q: Does either presidential candidate get to the heart of the economic matter? If not, what’s missing?
Barkley: No. People don’t trust Wall Street anymore. Calls again for a law that says people running for Congress can’t take money from people they regulate.
Franken: Says he’s the only one “up here” who said he was not for the bailout. Says John McCain gets it “a lot less” than Sen. Obama (That’s not exactly a ringing endorsement of the top of the Democratic ticket). Says deregulation of financial markets and housing crisis weren’t taken care of. (Aside: Pew survey this week said people aren’t buying the deregulation argument)
Coleman: Says Congress can generate confidence by tightening its belt. Talks about spending caps, stealing a position Barkley staked out in the first two debates. Wants an energy policy that includes more drilling and more “clean coal.” (Aside: Clean coal through the eyes of a WV miner)
Rebuttal Barkley takes note of the Coleman’s call for spending caps. Franken says economic policies have been tilted toward the wealthy and wealth is created by the middle class. Coleman says the middle class needs to be able to afford energy and says Franken would’ve voted against the bill that created renewable fuel policy.
Q: Can we win the war on terrorism and how will we know if we do?
Franken: The U.S. was right to invade Afghanistan but Iraq was “a tragic mistake.” Paul Wellstone voted against the war and Norm Coleman said “that vote was way out of the mainstream…. but he was right.” (Aside: If you’ve got RealAudio, listen to Paul Wellstone’s speech before casting his vote on Iraq) He didn’t answer the question that was asked.
Coleman. We have to win. Part of it is a military piece. Forces have pushed al Qaeda out of Iraq. Says Franken has changed his position on the war “as he got closer to the Democratic nomination.” Says when “forces of moderation prevail over forces of extremism,” the war will have been won.
Barkley: Everyone “wants us out now except Bush.” He says “we broke it, we fixed it… we’ve done enough.” Says it’s up to Iraq to decide. Says al Qaeda was never in Iraq until the U.S. invaded. Says we have to be in Afghanistan and says terrorism flourishes there because they have no economy. The long-term economy is to “start building schools, not dropping bombs.”
Rebuttal: Franken says he’s been to too many memorials and the only leverage the U.S. has “is to tell them we’re leaving.” Says the U.S. could hire 5,800 teachers a year for what it costs to be in Iraq. Coleman says everyone wants to get out but do you listen to MoveOn.org or to Gen. Petraeus. Says it’s not about whether you were for the war in the beginning, then points out again that Franken was for the war in the beginning. Says he’s not going to say the war was a mistake. Barkley says the best way to support the troops is to bring them home (That’s been an applause line in other debates. There was no applause this time.)
Q: What’s the most important steps we can make to achieve energy independence?.
Coleman: More drilling, more subsidies for winds and solar and more transmission lines, more nuclear.
Barkley: Needs to strengthen the dolar. Says you have to send someone to the Senate who’s going to do something and not just talk about it. Barkley throws off the “warm and fuzzy” and goes back on the attack.
Franken; We can create jobs with green industry. Also calls for more energy efficiency, and talks about a company in Elk River that “does geothermal.” Refused to sell out. Tells the bell-going-off-when-they-sell-a-system story. This is the company.
Rebuttal: Coleman says you’re not going to get the jobs if you don’t have wind credit and Franken would’ve voted against the bill. Barkley says Coleman has rewarded oil companies with tax credits while taking campaign contributions from the industry. Franken says he started the campaign talking about “an Apollo project” for energy efficiency, suggesting Coleman started talking about it when gasoline went to $4 a gallon.
Q: What are you going to do to reduce the “brain drain” from the heartland and northeastern Minnesota?
Coleman: Wants to double the Pell Grants. Raises concern about huge endowments that colleges have.
Barkley: Says Coleman didn’t answer the question so he will. Says he studied rural economic development under the Ventura administration as planning director for Minnesota. Create good-paying jobs. How? Telecommunications. They need access to high-speed Internet. They need infrastructure to get products to market and they need ventura capital to start new businesses.
Franken: Asks what the question is again. Is it about college? He goes with that version. Says rural schools are hurting, going to four-day school weeks and losing after-school programs. Says the feds are passing on unfunded mandates. “What do you want a kid doing between 3 and 5?”
Rebuttal Smarter kids are key to good jobs, says Coleman. He says he doesn’t think the Ventura administration is an example of good government. (Ventura’s cabinet was perhaps the most bipartisan cabinet in the history of Minnesota. Coleman’s been campaigning on that very issue). Barkley says Ventura didn’t have anyone in the Legislature to stop the politicking and tells Coleman, “it’s your buddy Tim Pawlenty and Roger Moe” that caused the problems. Franken calls for loan forgiveness programs to get people to go into teaching .
Q: What are your guiding principles on Supreme Court justices?
Barkley: Starts talking about college tax credits proposed by Franken and suggests he’s pandering. On the question, “they’re not going to create things that don’t exist.”
Franken: Experience. Intellect. Judicial temperament. Doesn’t want ideologues. Wants a judge that believes the Constitution is a “living, breathing, document.” Says Clarence Thomas is “the number one activist judge.”
Coleman: Says Franken’s “single pay” universal health care for kids is unaffordable (what’s this got to do with the Supreme Court?) Goes with the “you can’t just place blame.” Gets to the Supreme Court: Doesn’t want justices who legislate from the bench.
For more on this question, see the second debate. We’re plowing the same ground except that in this debate, Barkley wasn’t asked to name a Supreme Court justice.
Rebuttal: The debate is now completely out of control. Barkley repeats his second debate attack on Coleman for allowing the economic collapse. Franken goes after Coleman for saying Franken intends to increase taxes. Coleman says Franken championed single-payer health care.
Bob: Take a look at that. It was a question about the Supreme Court. The moderator, Patrick Marx, is doing nothing to get this thing focused, and as a result the debate had degenerated into a meandering mash of stump speeches.
Q: What can you do to assure the revival of mining in an eco friendly manner. What can you do to support forest industry?
Franken: There’s demand for steel. Thinks we can create a balance for non-ferrous mining in an economically friendly way, but doesn’t say how.
Barkley: Until we build houses again, the forestry industry won’t recover. We have to be careful on trade agreements.
Coleman; It’s a time for opportunity for the Range.India and China provide opportunity for non-ferrous mining. Says he’s been a champion and again says “it’s not about talk, it’s about what you do.” Says he supports Excelsior Energy Project (a big controversy on the range)
These answers really didn’t answer the question but if you want to read more about the concerns that led to the question, here’s one source.
Q: What is your position on special interest influence on the legislative process and publicly funded campaigns?
Barkley: Reads definition or bribe. “Bribery is illegal everywhere in this country except in Congress.” Says the Senate race is the best example of “money gone wild.” Says campaigns should be financed through vouchers. (There’s a little more here)
Coleman; “If you think you don’t like those (TV) commercial now, just wait until you’re paying for them.” Says there’s got to be a better way. Opposes public financing.
Franken: Says Coleman “ran millions of dollars in negative ads and then they backfired so he stopped them.” Suggests Coleman’s campaign dollars from the health care industry led to his vote on Medicare Part D. Talks about the high cost of drugs but doesn’t answer the question that was asked.
Rebuttal Says to Coleman, “The only thing missing from your statement was an apology” for the negative ads. Drops the second Paul Wellstone reference of the evening and says he supported public financing. Coleman says the discussion “degrades the institution” and says Barkley was a gambling lobbyist. Franken says Coleman has taken more special interest money than any politician in the history of Minnesota.
CLOSING STATEMENTS (special one-sentence version)
Barkley; We’re running out of time.
Franken: If you want change in Washington, i ask for your vote .
Coleman: I’ve taken on special interests and the pessimists.
The final debate will be held Sunday November 2, between 7 and 8 p.m. at the Fitz, and I’m pretty sure that Gary Eichten will prove once again why he’s in the Museum of Broadcasting Hall of Fame. He’ll ask some tough questions and he’ll step in when they don’t answer them.