Raging Right Wing Republican

For those of us who are politically informed, and therefore Republican.

Wednesday, September 06, 2006

Santorum / Casey Debate on Meet the Press

Sen. Santorum and Bob Casey Jr. had their first senatorial election debate last Sunday on Meet the Press, with Tim Russert as moderator. It pitted the Senate's best debater against an inexperienced challenger in one of this year's most hotly contested elections. Santorum has a lot of enemies who would be glad to see him go.

At some points I thought it was actually Russert v Santorum. Russert would throw a softball to Casey and let him ramble on unchallenged for minutes, then dig up some obscure quote from Santorum's past and start an interrogation.

To call it a "debate" is misleading as it leads one to think that the confrontation was anything other than a slaughter. Casey was outclassed and outgunned. Santorum had complete command of the facts and an acute grasp of policy issues. Casey looked bewildered throughout the debate as if he was drugged and suddenly awoke to find himself in front of the camera on Meet the Press. The fact that Casey was preparing for this for eighteen months and still did so poorly speaks volumes.

When Santorum would unleash a torrent of facts, details and plans to deal with Social Security, Iraq, and the economy, Casey couldn't come up with anything more than vague platitudes and empty slogans like "change" and "supporting fiscal responsibility" without defining what that meant.

Casey couldn't escape the pay raise issue from his past. If you're a government official, and something comes across your desk that you know to be unconstitutional, what would you do? Veto it?

Well, if your name is Bob Casey, the answer is: sign it anyway!

He signed into law illegal pay raises for Congress that he knew and said were unconstitutional. When nobody knew about it, he had no problem with it. When the spotlight shone on his misdeeds, he was suddenly against the payraises, despite being the one who signed the checks. He tried to have it both ways and Santorum nailed him on it.

And what the hell does "supporting fiscal responsibility" mean? He went on to rail against the Bush tax cuts and how they were a "giveaway" to the "richest 1%." (How can it be a "giveaway" to give people their own money back?) It was like watching the 2004 election all over again, compressed into one hour. Every old saw John Kerry played out was revived and trotted out here: "tax cuts for the rich," "it's the wrong war but I'll win it," "Clinton surpluses led to Bush deficits," and on and on and on.

When asked what he would do to solve the Social Security crisis, Santorum brought up personal retirement accounts -- but noted that since Casey opposed that, he had only three options: raise taxes, cut benefits, or push the retirement age back. What was Bob Casey's answer to the Social Security crisis?

If you answered "nothing," then you're absolutely right! He said the only "crisis" was the one the Republicans created to campaign on. Even Russert didn't buy it. He threw his hands up into the air in exasperation. "The baby boomers are going to retire and the answer is -- do nothing?" It was great. I bet he was aching to tell him just the "right" way to answer but couldn't because the cameras were on.

In short, Santorum stood firm, going so far as to stick up for President Bush and Rumsfeld even though he knew they've been unpopular as of late. That took guts. And unlike other politicians like Casey that just regurgitate canned lines, you can tell he passionately believed everything he was saying -- it was almost funny watching him get so "into" the debate at some points. He articulated a clear vision, whereas Casey came off as weak and uneducated on the issues. So far all I got from that debate was that Bob Casey has a "plan" for Pennsylvania. (Sound familiar?) What exactly that "plan" contains is still a mystery.

If you want to see the beatdown in its full glory, here's the transcript.

But hey! Casey still has three more rounds in the ring with Santorum to clear up his platform and serve as an excellent punching bag. I never knew what to think of Santorum until this debate. It was one of the best ones I've seen. He's now one of my favorite Republicans, if not the favorite.

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