Live-blogging the Senate debate


Coleman: He starts where he left off in the last debate, “it’s not enough to blame and criticize.” Recounts accomplishments which he says includes Rushford flood recovery and I-35W bridge. “Minnesota, we’ve been working together for 32 years. You know me and I know you,” he said.

Franken: Says the election is about “you, the people of Minnesota.” He also repeats last week’s opening statement in which he talked about feeling like he was the luckiest kid in the world growing up in St. Louis Park. Says people of Minnesota “aren’t feeling so lucky anymore.”

Barkley: “The election isn’t about who buys Norm Coleman’s suits or Al Franken’s negative ads.” Calls for an end to partisanship


Q:: Is this bailout the right course of action and what specifically can be done now?

Coleman: We came together in a bipartisan way and put together a package that isn’t a solution. Talks about working outside the partisan word. Shades of his final debate with Walter Mondale in ’02.

Franken: People are confused and frightened and they deserve to be (huh?)

We were rushed into the bailout package. Hopes G7 meeting this weekend can stabilize things. “We gotta inject credit into small businesses through the Small Business Administration. We need to build infrastructure… a stimulus package to start rebuilding America.” Says we should reverse “disastrous policies of the last 8 years.”

Barkley: There are no quick fixes. The real crisis is Americans have lost faith in American institutions because of greed and corruption. Congress caused this problem by being asleep. “Democrats wanted everyone to have a house. Republicans looked the other way “because all their rich friends were getting rich.” Wants to be a tripartisan.

Bob notes: Compare this debate with the one last week.

Rebuttal— Coleman. “You’re not going to build things up by placing blame. Says Franken would’ve voted “no” . The bill also includes AMT relief.

Franken: Could’ve done AMT relief and mental health parity separately. Brings up Wellstone’s vote against the war in Iraq. Says Coleman criticized him for being outside the mainstream.

Barkley: Hopes stimulus package works.

Most interesting thing of this question: Blaming the Democrats for wanting everyone to have a house. That’s The American Dream and it’s an interesting strategy to run against it.

Q: What will you do to preserve Social Security?

Barkley: Says he’s been “railing” about Social Security for 16 years. The solutions aren’t hard but they’re politically difficult. You have to raise tax, raise cap, raise retirement age or means-test the benefits. Would bring AARP into the discussion.

Franken: Has a bedrock commitment to Social Security. Says his wife “made it” when she was young because of survivor benefits. Criticizes Coleman for wanting to put Social Security money in the stock market. (If you’ve got RealAudio, go here and listen to Norm Coleman talk about Social Security in 2002

Coleman: Says the issue isn’t “philosophical concepts, it’s who has the ability to get things done.” Wants to take the issue out of politics and, again, talks about his plan for a “base closings commission” type panel. Says the bailout bill was the “last shot to do it” on mental health parity.

Rebuttal:: Barkley says there are no easy answers and he has the courage to say so. Franken says his plan calls for no increase in FICA tax to anyone making less than $250,000. Coleman again asks “who has the ability to work with folks on the othre side of the aisle to get it done.”

What a difference 6 years makes! Back in 2002, Social Security “privatization” was credited with several election victories.


Q: Would you support military action to prevent Iran from getting nuclear weapons?

Franken: Doesn’t want to take anything off the table but says military action against Iran would be “a big mistake.” Says we need to stop the “cowboy foreign policy.”

Coleman: It’s not just the U.S., it includes Israel. Iran cannot be allowed to have nuclear weapons and says he’s glad Franken doesn’t want to take military option off the table because in the past he has. Calls for energy independence.

Barkley: Acknowledges Iran is supporting terrorism around the world. Says we have to be mindful of nuclear proliferation. Need to make sure nuclear stockpiles of Russia and Pakistan are safely guarded.

Rebuttal: Franken: Most important threat is “sneaking in nuclear device in ports.” Says Coleman voted against 9/11 recommendations (See last week’s debate for links on this question.) “Maybe I’m just… oh I don’t know… a maverick.”

Coleman: “Minnesota should decide whether they want a maverick in the Senate or someone who can get things done.” Coleman says he co-authored the port security bill and was on the committee to implement the 9/11 Commission recommendations. (Applause breaks out)

Barkley: “I’m still waiting 20 years for the peace dividend to pay for itself.” Questions whether the U.S. can continue to police the world. (Some woman started shrieking.. probably because the Coleman folks applauded before. )

Q: Minnesota is 49th out of 50 in income growth. What will you do to stimulate Minnesota’s economy aside from energy?

I’m not sure the question is correct. A quick check showed Minnesota was not ranked 49th in 06-07 in personal income growth. Will check some more)

Coleman: Proposes bonding to create jobs on infrastructure. Says we need to stabilize the housing market. He didn’t say how. Also says taxes shouldn’t be raised.

Franken: We have to prepare our kids for a 21st century economy and we’re just not doing it. Says feds should fund mandates like No Child Left Behind and special education. Government should fund stem cell research.

Update: The figure stated in the question comes from a Pioneer Press story.

Barkley: Says he’s only heard his opponents mention the national deficit once. Our balance of trade is responsible. A gimmick or an $800 tax credit isn’t going to work

Rebuttal: Coleman:Says Citizens Against Government Waste gave Barkley the Porker of the Month Award. Says wind energy tax credits in the bailout bill will increase jobs. Says Franken would’ve voted against it.

Franken: This administration is leaving the next president the biggest deficit in history because of “irresponsible stewardship.” Says the middle class is the engine and he says Coleman believes it works from “the top down.”

Barkley: Citizens Against Government Waste Porker of the Month before he even landed in Washington because he said he was for the Northstar Commuter Rail Line. Says he got the Wellstone Center authorized “but you got the money.” ( Nice turn, there. Last week Coleman made the “but I got the money” reply.)

Q: What is the biggest threat to the U.S.?

Franken: al Qaeda. “We started right, but we didn’t finish the job; we got sidetracked to Iraq. We have made ourselves less secure.” (Reuters looks at upcoming National Intelligence Estimate)

Barkley: Says the national debt is the biggest threat. Calls it “financial trial abuse.” Proposes four-year spending cap. Wants to balance the budget in the next five years.

Coleman: Says he and Franken “were in the same place” on Iraq at the beginning of the war. Says the key threat is the “vitriolic partisan divide.” We should be able to deal with health care, but not single-payer. “If we can overcome the partisan divide….”

Rebuttal: Franken: I didn’t speak out for or against the war. I gave the president the benefit of the doubt and that was a mistake. But says Coleman still thinks it was right. Says he’s not advocated a single-payer program. Asks if Coleman supports John McCain’s program.

Barkley: “I don’t like going after you Norm, but this “get things done” thing. The economic collapse: You let it happen, you guys were asleep. you let it happen… You didn’t do anything to stop it. You’re Mr. Energy Independence. You only started talking about that after gas got to $4. I want to look at what you did, not what you’re saying now.”

Coleman: I was one of a handful of people who wanted to take taxes from oil companies and put it into renewable. Says Franken supports single-payer health care. “There are no Mayo Clinics in Canada.”

FACT CHECK: During an MPR debate in February, Franken said, “”states should pick which system works best — maybe the Clinton plan would work in one state, but single-payer would work well in another.”


Coleman: Talks about Lindbergh’s solo flight across Atlantic and says he referred to it as “we.” “We need to come together,” he said.

Franken: Says if you believe in the middle class, “I ask for your vote.” Says every American should get affordable, quality health care. Kids should get world-class education. “If you want to end the war in Iraq and bring the troops home and treat them with dignity and benefits, then I ask for your vote.”

Barkley: “A lot of people think Al and Norm are their worst nightmares.” Acknowledges that people think a vote for Barkley is a vote for which one of the other two people don’t like. “Before you vote against someone, ask yourself: Who can go to Washington and make Congress work again. Who’s going to stand up to special interests.”

>> The TV folks have gone back to programming, but the debate continues. Is a rerun of Knight Rider really more important to the state right now? << AUDIENCE QUESTIONS

Q: Judicial philosophy

Barkley: Says the Constitution is not “a living document.” Wouldn’t ask judicial candidates their position on Roe v. Wade. Can’t think of a current Supreme Court Justice he admires most.

Coleman: Judges are powerful. There should be objective standards on integrity, intellect. Judges should interpret the Constitution, not legislate from the bench. Admires John Roberts.

Franken: “You want judicial temperament, experience, a record of looking at the writings and seeing a level of intellect.” Rebuts activist judge. “Who’s the most activist judge on the court? Clarence Thomas.” Says he likes Stephen Bryer, who believes in a “living Constitution.” Says Justice Department shouldn’t be used as the political arm of the administration. (Applause)

Rebuttal Barkley: Says he admired Warren Burger and Sandra Day O’Connor. Says the “most interesting” justice is Antonin Scalia.

Coleman: Agrees on Scalia. The Republic is at stake if we politicize Supreme Court justice nominations.

Franken: Agrees. Says the Bush administration chose justices who were very ideological. “I don’t want ideological, because the issues change.” Wants judges who believe in the right to privacy.

Q: Share one film, book play or other work of art that has inspired you? (Great question)

Coleman: Favorite movie is The Godfather but probably didn’t inspire him (laughter). Selects Profiles in Courage. Says working “together” takes courage. Repeats that the mental health parity bill would not have passed if it weren’t in the bailout bill. (More applause: Apparently the “no applause” rule is now dead now that commercial TV is off the air)

Franken: “Bright Shining Lie,” by Neal Sheehan (Bob notes: I wish I’d saved the interview I did with Sheehan, the day before he won the Pulitzer back in the mid -’80s. Alas…) The book is about Vietnam through one person’s eyes who starts out as a hero. Talks about courage. Says Wellstone showed it by voting against the war in Iraq. “And he was right and Norm Coleman thinks it was the right course of action and I’m astounded by that.” (More dueling applause)

Barkley: Favorite actor was Jimmy Stewart and “Mr. Smith Goes to Washington.” Tells his Capitol Dining Room story again (Republicans and Democrats didn’t eat together until he got there, basically) The story has been questioned.

Q: Define what “winning” in Iraq means

Franken: We’ve been there a year longer than we were in World War II. We’ve reached a point where we have to set a timetable to leave. We need to “jumpstart diplomacy” by setting a date to leave.

Barkley: The original goal was to have a regime change, get rid of weapons of mass destruction and restore democracy. “I think the time is: we’ve done enough now. Iraq, it’s time for self determination.” The best way we can support our troops now is bring them home. Everyone wants us to withdraw, including Iraq.

Coleman: “We’d be losing if we withdrew when Mr. Franken wanted us to.” We need to get out, the issue is how we get there. Says the answer is to work with our generals and make Iraq pay for the reconstruction.

Rebuttal Franken: To Coleman — “How you can still say that the war was the right thing to do is beyond me.”

Barkley: To Coleman – Show me where I’ve had any other position on the war.We all grew up in the Vietnam War era. We said the same thing when the Iraq war started. We were lied to in both wars and once we were there, we couldn’t get out.

Coleman: To Barkley – Says he said we should get out of Iraq as quick as it takes a Humvee to get to the border. Do you listen to or General Petraeus? Need to push Iraqis on benchmarks.

Q: Does Main St. bear any responsibility for the financial crisis and need to change?

Barkley: Yes, people bought houses they couldn’t afford. He says members of Congress “would be going to jail now” if they were Enron executives. (The audience groans)

Coleman: We were well intentioned; we wanted people to own homes. Doesn’t answer the question but talks about Democrats in Congress who ‘didn’t do oversight.’ Then — ironically — he repeats the need to work on both sides of the aisle. Says “it’s easy to criticize people for something they didn’t do”. He said that just a few seconds after criticizing two congressman for what they didn’t do (Frank and Schumer)

Franken: Again asks Coleman if he supports McCain’s health care plan. Says people bought homes — some people speculated, he said — assuming they could sell it if something happened. Anyone with a medical crisis, or divorce could sell the house. Now they can’t. “We need to address that.” Says we should do what Roosevelt did, buying mortgages at a reduced amount, renegotiate them “one by one.”

Rebuttal Barkley calls for a new ethics law to prevent congressmen from taking contributions from anyone who they regulate while in office.

Coleman: Turns to Franken and says “if you want to deal with it, you have to take action. You can’t just be against.”

Franken: Coleman is running for two jobs: Senate and the Republican Senatorial Campaign Committee chairman. “That’s the most partisan job. The job of the chairman is to defeat Democratic senators running for office and attack them. Is Norm Coleman going to be able to reach across party lines if he’s chairman of the Republican Senatorial Campaign Committee..

==End of the debate==

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