Wednesday, December 23, 2009

Second Mass. Senate Debate: WBZTV Boston: Brown, Coakley, Kennedy Trade Barbs - Analysis

MA U.S. Senate Debate on WBZ TV: Brown, Coakley & Kenndy - image: Boston Herald

U.S. Senate Candidatesappeared on WBZ TV Boston last night for a debate moderated by Boston Reporter, Jon Keller. The Boston Globe and The Boston Herald both have articles summarizing the hour long debate that was available on WBZTV Boston Website, and will be telecast on Sunday morning in the Boston Area only (TV 38 & WBZTV).
In the debate, independent candidate Joe Kennedy appeared to target Brown, rather than Coakley, while barbs directed at Brown were easily deflected. One challenge by Kennedy was that Brown makes his legislative resume available on-line – which, Brown replied, it has been on-line for 12 years. The Massachusetts Legislature has information on-line for all State Representatives and Senators available here.

Both Brown and Coakley gave the usual back and forth rhetoric common to candidates that have spared in back to back debates, Coakley, relying on her record as State Attorney General, repeated several times that her department makes the Commonwealth money, while Brown repeated his anti-tax message on more than one occasion.

The moderator, Keller, gave Brown and Coakley the majority of the questions, throwing a “bone” to Kennedy on occasion, which although normal in all debates where major party favorite candidates are present, hardly seems fair. In the radio debate, Kennedy had more of an opportunity to highlight his similarities to Coakley, and in the televised debate, again, his attacks on Brown, give the appearance the both Kennedy and Coakley are somewhat simpatico.

Notice appearance: Brown comes off as the boy next door, the son of a single mother who managed to get through Boston College, become a lawyer, successfully run for office, and take the time to serve his country in the Guard – He stands by his record, one of moderation that, that indeed allows him to state that he would be an independent thinker if elected to the U.S. Senate. Interestingly, Brown is more than aware that the Independent vote is what will drive the Senate election, and that is where he stands to gain, and is most comfortable. Should Brown continue in this vein, he will pick up the 12% of the Republican vote, with approximately 35 to 40% of the independent vote (given that some independent voters will trend Democrat and based on past elections.)

Coakley on the other hand is the epitome of accomplished woman, she has the air of the “Seven Sisters” about her, she is polished, and has an air of elitism – however, she noticeably flushes when Brown throws bars, such as the suggestion she might be “robotic” in her votes should she be elected. Brown’s barbs tend to hit home, and although in the first debate, she did complain that Brown was attacking her, in the televised debate she refrained from complaint. One pattern, oft repeated by Coakley, was her use of Bush/Cheney as the cause of all problems she would go to Washington to fix. Brown had to remind Coakley that she wasn’t running against Bush, rather against him. What Coakley might have missed was a recent Gallop Poll that indicates 44% of those surveyed want George Bush back in office. She also used the refrain “the past 8 years”, while Brown pointed out to the here and now of massive spending. Coakley appears to be playing to the base. She needs to somehow prove she is an independent thinker, and move away from the Bush-Cheney rhetoric, which will not play with the independents, although it may be too little too late, given the sound-bites are now on record. In appealing to the Democrat base, she can count on at least 30% of the vote.

As to Kennedy, he was given little airtime, and he spent most of that time focusing on Brown – that said, he should have been better prepped, as his attacks were easily deflected. The local Boston News is making the fallacious point that Kennedy will be a sore spot for Brown, while from this viewpoint, Kennedy might be more effective if he focused on issues (for his own sake), rather than attack Brown without obviously being prepared. Kennedy, in this tactic, will pick up approximately 2 to 6% of the vote, which is historically the case for Independent (third party) candidates in Massachusetts, unless he peels away votes from Coakley, given his anti-war stance.

Overall, the debate allowed those the Boston area, and those in the rest of the Bay State who might have been aware of the debate, the ability to view the candidates (albeit online).

Note: Still waiting for the first public polls to appear.

Tuesday, December 22, 2009

Obama ends year with growing disapproval - Parker Griffith (D-AL) first to switch to GOP – Health Care Drives Debate

According to Rasmussen ReportsDaily Presidential Tracking Poll, Obama’s approval rating has hit another low; with only 25% of respondents approving of the president’s job performance. Key among issues is the Health Care Reform Bill currently before the Senate; with a majority (55%) of American’s hardly enamored of the legislation.

One of those, Rep. Parker Griffith, a Democrat Congressman from Alabama announced today that he would be switching to the GOP Politico broke the story earlier today:

A radiation oncologist who founded a cancer treatment center, Griffith plans to blast the Democratic health care bill as a prime reason for his decision to switch parties—and is expected to cite his medical background as his authority on the subject.

Griffith is one of many “Blue Dog” (fiscally conservative, pro-life) democrats who were recruited by Rham Emanuel in 2008 in order for the DNC to gain a majority in the house. Over the summer recess, many of these conservative Democrats heard from constituents who were not at all pleased with the plan to “reform” the nation’s health care system, reduce Medicare, increase Medicaid, and add trillions to an already bloated deficit.

The Alabama GOP issued a press release noting the “pleasant surprise”. Griffith’s district had traditionally been held by a Democrat, but has trended Republican in the past few years. Should Obama with Reid and Pelosi continue to pursue a course of action that is clearly not palatable to the majority of American’s, those Senators and Congressmen who, like Nelson (NE) and Dodd (CT) signed on over the past weekend, will most likely be forced into early retirement. The question remains how many Democrats who are facing stiff GOP opposition in their states and districts will choose early retirement, and or a change in Party.

Mass. Senate Seat Special Election - Next Coakley Brown Kennedy Debate Tonight 7PM on Boston

The second debate for Candidates for U.S. Senate (Coakley, Brown and Kennedy) will be taped tonight at the Brighton studios of WBZTV Boston. The debate, which will be streamed live on WBZTV (here) will be broadcast on the 28th. Those interested in catching the debate can log on to WBZTV at 7:00 pm according to the website.

Update Iran: With the Death of Grand Ayatollah Hossein Ali Montazeri, how long can the current Regime Hold Sway?

The Grand Ayatollah Hossein Ali Montazeri died this past Sunday. The cleric was part of the original revolution that brought the Ayatollah Khoemeni to power, and was Khoemeni’s first chioce as a replacmenet. Montazaeri declined, citing the every growing violence of the ruling clerics against their own people, and up though this last so-called election, Monatzeri was outspoken against the brutalities of the regime. During his funeral, Iranains were, once again, repressed by the regime , as police attacked mourners who came to pay their respect to the 87 year old cleric who was a lone voice of sanity in a nation ruled by violent, power hungry, old men.

According to the Toronto Star analysts covering the situation in Iran, are calling Khamenei a “symbolic Leader”, one who’s time is fading, in face of a nation who no longer embraces Islam overall, but would prefer a more secular style government.. Those closing monitoring the situation are not certain what type of government will emerge. One has to understand that with any revolution or change in leadership in the middle east, the risks of a dictatorship are heightened, however, the Persian people overall are better educated, and understand the workings of a Democracy (having tasted the ability to vote, although in an election that was tainted), and would most likely move towards a more centrist and stabilized form of a Republic or Democracy. Should it take six month or several years, (age and time are not on the side of the mullahs), the world would be better served by a free Iran, one that would offer a stabilizing force in an area that has long had only one voice of reason in Israel. Adding a second Democracy, would present a boon to the area, in terms of peace as well as economics. It is also highly doubtful that a government run by the people of Iran would fund Hezbollah, who are the “hired guns” of the current Grand Ayatollah, and have been instrumental in brutalizing those who seek a Free Iran.

Monday, December 21, 2009

First MA US Senate Debate Abridged Transcript: Coakley, Brown and Kennedy - Analysis

Tonight at 8PM, the candidates were in the studios of WBZ 1380 AM Boston for a conversation with host, Dan Rhea – Mr. Rhea began by noting that there would be no phone calls taken, and that it was scripted, “fair and balanced.” The following is an abridged version, as stated.

The first question: “What makes you think you can be an effective Senator from Massachusetts?”

Brown – thank you for having us into this discussion – the differences between me and Martha, (host: and Joe Kennedy) because I have consistently fought for fiscal restraint on Boston hill – Brown lists his issues (Host: what would make you effective?) I’m somebody that can be there fighting for the ordinary citizens of MA, the ones that are worried about paying the bills – Being a legislature, my 30 years of military experience, and owing my own business, give me the experience.

Martha, because I have a record of being an effective leader, bringing both democrats and republics Together to get solutions done – I’ve had to deal with the economy and address health care reform, and address climate change in my positions as attorney general – bringing money back to Mass from Merrill Lynch – I have a record that says I’m going to get solutions, that are going to fix the problems

Joe Kennedy – public life – more effective, as a virtual unknown – I've spent 17 years in the private sector and helped more than 4 dozen corporations get off the ground – I understand what difficulties small business faces
Public sector experience, I don’t think it’s about that- jobs are created in the private sector and that’s what fuels the economy – Host: but you would have no party to affiliate with, if you are asking caucus, I would probably lean republican.

Topic Health care

Host – The Senate Version does not include a public option, not as restrictive on abortion – Martha, I’m not accusing you of flip-flopping but, are you tailoring you message – running to the left in the primary and getting out to the right?

Health care – get people insured, and to keep costs down – I’m disappointed in the Senate bill, but it does a lot of good stuff, though provides coverage for children

Host: it’s weaker – from your perspective?

Less effective – the goal of reform should be getting people covered and bringing costs down, it’s an effective first step – if that’s the case then I would support this bill.
This is a bill I would support and vote for, not just to move it among.

The Senate version – Not in any way shape or form for the health care bill as it exists; I would spend my time, trying to repeal this bill.
(Kennedy –this new health care bill is similar to what Romney Care does, but it does not address the cost – and this bill just expands coverage

Brown: I don’t’ think the bill will be cast before then, wither it’s Martha or me, I would vote no – during the primary Martha took a principled position, but she has already abandoned her principle, but I would not vote it, it will cut half a trillion dollars from Medicare, effecting jobs in Massachusetts, I don’t know why people would vote for it in Washington ,and if I go down there, the first thing I’ll look for is this bill good for Massachusetts and it’s not.

Martha, we took that approach with private health care and get people insured and then we would address costs, we have about 90 to 98% covered and now we’ll address that, we really don’t know what health care costs, and the national piece that allows the competition to bring costs down, including that we agreed going forward that there would be a Hyde amendment,federal dollars would not be used to fund abortion – not I’m talking about the senate bill – if the Stupak amendment gets in the bill she would vote against it.

Martha (brown interruption) it’s funding, mandates and how to get the bill out? – We have a good bill, why would we throw it out – this bill is just not good for the people who live here– in a 2nd year recession.

Moderator to Kennedy:
How many of your signatures were secured by professional help?

About 68% -

Moderator: I don’t think that any non-party candidate – both of your opponents have long records of public service and are highly qualified, are you qualified to run for the senate or for the school committee –

Kennedy: the document I’m holding – the constitution, was not meant that the public sectors are career politicians – with all respect to Scott (who took a term limit pledge)

Host: I would not categorize either one as career politicians
Although Joe Kennedy is a member of the libertarian party – he is designated as an independent - a member of the Liberty party

What’ more important the environment or the economy?

Brown – both – the cap and trade scheme is not good for businesses – we need to take an approach , with wind, solar, - well, we need to get off our dependence of foreign oil – it’s also tied into our economy – if you look at health care the economy and the expiring tax cuts, there’s so many things that are going to affect the people, how are they going to pay the bills – how is Martha going to tell the people they have to pay for that?

Coakley: As attorney general I wear a lot of different acts, I worked over the last three years, as we look at large utilities that want increases, we have been very proactive to make sure we provide clean and effective energy –we are concerned about the environment – Scott acts as if there is not a climate change issue, so, if you think there is a climate change issue, you have to work on I t- we’re going to work in new England…

Moderator: Your convinced – more global warming or climate change,

Martha – they are interchangeable

Moderator: Financial Times in Canada had a piece saying you have to get the population under control, 9 billion 10 billion - in order to control global warming

Martha – that may be but, we have to do something - like the Boxer bill, that companies reduce their energy down – by 20% -

Brown – I said the climate is always changing – is it man made or is it factors that happen naturally I want to make sure that we get scientific data so that we understand it perfectly – I worked for Reggie and we were sold a bill of goods, and I made a mistake and I admit it – I would not do that in Washington, under this home workers would pay an extra $1700 dollars a year for energy –

Why is the president doing this – then?

Kennedy: you have to address issues that are important the problem is that we have to control the dollar if we don’t and the dollar collapses, we can’t do anything about global warming – if we take away our dependence on foreign oil we’re in the black.

Host: Afghanistan – surge huge issue, republicans criticized Obama for taking so long – he wants to send 30,000 troops, Martha you disagree what do you know what Obama doesn’t know.

Coakley: I might be open to changing my mind, taking into consideration what I don’t know – I just don’t believe that 30000 troops in this period of time, a mission that is directed in keeping us safe, costs 30 billion dollars a year, how much is the commitment -? What I think and why.... but I believe that this is an issue that is expensive, and we have been sending our troops over, 3 or 5 times a year, I think we should be focused on Al Qaeda and Pakistan.

Brown, 30 years in the military – I agree with the President and I didn’t criticize when he took his time, my fear is that the Al Qaeda will use Pakistan - Martha was right it costs, but there was a trillion dollars in a day on that stimulus, so what about those costs?

Moderator: Bringing our people home – how do you define finishing the job?

Brown: Finishing the job is to insure that the al-Qaida and Taliban do not restore bases, first thing – and they are using civilians as shields, you mentioned Bin Laden, and she mentioned she’d like to support the trials in New York, instead of spending the money on our soldiers.

(Martha, its attorney general holders position, but it’s a good decision)

Brown to Coakley are we going to Mirandize Bin Laden and give him a big show for al Qaeda?

Coakley: Scott's going to be in Afghanistan for ever –

Brown: Dan with all due respect I think it’s not accurate it’s disingenuous as her president in her own party made this position.

Joe Kennedy – I’m a non-interventionist, I don’t think we should be in Iran or Iraq, but we need to put a thoughtful plan in place bring troops home, it’s a war that’s expensive, that we should not be in and we can’t afford, and I trust the Pakistan government.

Barack Obama gave himself a B Plus - Scott what grade would you give him

Brown: I think he has been faced with some interesting challenges, I think he’s done a wonderful job with N. Korea, a c plus, because I’m afraid of the stimulus and tax bills – there’s a trillion on the table

Martha: all the problems that Obama is facing are coming from the Bush administration – we had to sue the environmental agency would not address health care reform, and an economic mess– he gets an "A" for effort – that’s because Republicans have said we would not allow the president to do anything

Kennedy: I give him a d plus – the Bush administration did a bad thing to our economy of course the war mongering

Supreme Court nominees: President Obama praised chief justice Roberts and then voted against him because of roe vs. wade Do you have a litmus test?

Martha: I would vote for qualifications – look at the records I would be hard pressed to – abortion – if someone did not support roe vs. wade, I would not vote for them

Joe Kennedy – roe versus wade cannot be overturned, I would not nominate someone who would overturn it

Brown, as a Boston College graduate, I would look at qualifications I want to be sure someone is not going to be legislating from the bench – we all support roe vs. wade, I’m against partial birth abortion and she’s not, and she’s in favor of lowering parental consent –
Martha, Emily’s list supporters have endorsed you – does that mean she supports late term abortion?

Coakley: yes, I do – There are circumstances in which it’s legal – I don’t support it for convenience.

Kennedy: Federal funding for abortions, I am against federal funding for abortions, but I’m adopted and when you are adopted, the abortion is.. - I support roe vs. wade, because it is the federal government - federal funding I don’t – it should not happen. Pro-choice should mean pro-choice, if they go into Planned Parenthood, they go straight for an abortion, but they do not get another choice, in today’s educational system, they are taught to go to Planned Parenthood first.

Moderator: Joe – quick question, in your opinion, Joe, if you became a United States senator what is the top marginal rate be for income tax.

I am against income tax – the goal would be zero – to eliminate the income tax, the 16th amendment – was incorrectly ratified – but the point is you can’t put it back, but if you can get it down to 20 to25 % I’d be happier.

Scott Brown, the rates are high now, and the bush tax cuts are going to expire, that’s going to be an increase, I would do a 5 to 7 percent reduction in the current rates, from 35 to 30% - an across the board, every man woman and child, the marriage penalty will come back, we will have no more child tax credits

Coakley: I support a tax policy that will allow for the middle class so that they can keep more money in their public, the bush tax cut was beneficial to the top 2% - I have said, that part of the bush tax cuts expire for the top two percent, the conversation was around the piece, there were other benefits that the president supports – that he may extend – if Scott says Martha this or Martha that I want to have a chance to answer my own questions – the reason we have to address this mess, is because of Bush failed policy – top tax rate should be 35 to 40%

As noted this is an abridged version of the debate: Overall, the addition of Kennedy in the debate gave Brown an opportunity over Coakley. Many of the anti-war and Bush Syndrome language from Brown will sit well with those Democrats looking for an alternative. Brown had a slight edge over Coakley, she appeared somewhat flustered when Brown brought up statements she had made during the Democrat debates – and accused him of attacking her, overall she was the left of Kennedy candidate, and Brown came off as a moderate Republican.

Brown, Coakley & Kennedy Preliminary Debate Schedule for Mass. Senate Special Election – Coakley concedes to Two Debates.

According to the Boston GlobeMartha Coakley, Democrat running to fill the Massachusetts vacant U.S. senate seat, has agreed to two debates. The first on the Dan Rea show, WBZ AM, Monday (tonight?) at 8PM and the second to the held on WBZ TV and steamed live on the website, (for those who live in the rest of the state). The WBZTV debate will be taped, and then broadcast on a Sunday morning. These debates will include the Libertarian Candidate, Joe Kennedy.
Coakley and Brown have been invited to debate on several news organizations, including WCVB on January 10th at 10. A.M (shown locally and then simulcast nationally on CNN), as well as a January 11th debate sponsored by the Edward M. Kennedy Institute for the United States Senate. The Boston Globe along with NECN, WGBH and WBUR has also invited the candidates to debate on January 6th. Coakley has yet to accept any additional invitations.

Apparently, Ms. Coakely refuses to debate unless Kennedy is included – analysts have offered several theories regarding Coakley aversion to debates, including – using this tactic to avoid debating Brown one on one, believing that if Kennedy is included in the debate, it will serve two purposes, one to allow those viewing the debate to see Kennedy and understand that he is not related to the Senator (although, the fact that Mr. Kennedy is running as a Libertarian may be the first clue), and second, in order to use the clock to her advantage, giving both Brown and Kennedy the opportunity to be drawn into one on one de bates, allowing her to sit it out. On the flip side, Coakley could be asking for the third party candidate to be included for the sake of Democracy – third party candidates rarely make a difference in the overall vote, especially in Massachusetts where it can be anticipated a third party candidate will draw approximately 6% of the electorate. That said the avoidance of debates with Brown, specifically any that are televised to the state and the nation, gives the impression that perhaps Ms. Coakley can’t stand the heat in the proverbial kitchen. It is hoped that Ms. Coakley will accept both the WCVB, Kennedy Institute and Globe debates; as those three would allow the citizens of Massachusetts an opportunity to make an informed decision as to who they would prefer in the race. Limiting a race of this import news organizations that few of the Commonwealth’s voters are able to access, may appear to some like a smart move, but it may also be an opportunity lost.

Coakley bears the additional burden of being a woman running in Massachusetts, a state that is not overly gung-ho when it comes to electing women. The last woman to run for a major office was Kerry Healy in the 2006 gubernatorial race. Several factors contributed to Healey’s loss: negative campaigning, a bad party brand (Republican) and the fact that she was a woman. The addition of the third party candidate, Christy Mihos, only accounted for 6% of the vote, making little to no difference in the Healy loss.

Coakley is facing the same, although this is Massachusetts, the Democrat brand is now tarnished (Afghanistan, Health Care, Cap and Trade, etc., etc.), and although the President maintains unusually high favorable ratings (compared to the balance of the nation), the policies do not. Secondly, although neither Brown nor Coakley has released one television or radio ad since winning the primary, should Coakley’s ads smack of negativity towards Brown, it may not play as well as hoped.
Coakley, is viewed as the frontrunner based solely on Massachusetts Democrat voter registration (36% of the voters), she must appeal to that 51% of the electorate who are designated unenrolleds. As of this writing, it is anyone’s game – Coakley has the backing of the SEIU, as well as the DNC, and of course, the endorsement of former president Bill Clinton, which will play well with registered Democrats. Brown, has been taking advantage of the press, (set up Google alerts for both Brown and Coakley – the results are interesting to say the least), and, and is now featured prominently on the front page of the National Republican Senatorial Committee with a link to a Boston Globe article featuring his post primary video "Daughters Know Best".

As of this morning, there is no information on the WBZ AM website as to the debate, however WBZTV 38 Boston via Keller’s Blog, has the debates air times along with an opportunity to submit questions for all three candidates. (Of note: a poll is offered on the Keller’s site regarding who one might choose as of today. Total respondents: 126, with Brown taking 81%. This is hardly scientific, but mentioned due to the minimal reach offered by the medium. ) One would hope that equal time would be given to all three candidates, including Ms. Coakley, in order to allow those capable of viewing these debates the ability to make an informed decision. Of course, it would also be hoped that the balance of those who would cast a vote in this special election, have the opportunity to view one of these debates, CNN would do the trick.

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