Gomez, Markey stick to campaign talking points in joyless race, leaving election day get-out-the-vote effort to solidify or weaken Mitch McConnell's hold on U.S. Senate.
Last night’s Senate debate between Democrat Ed Markey and Republican Gabriel Gomez was a schoolyard scramble to see who could make the “old and stale” label stick. Gomez says it’s Markey who’s old and stale because he’s been in Congress for 37 years. Markey says it’s Gomez, because he’s touting old and stale Republican ideas, like opposition to assault weapons, women’s rights to choose, taxing the rich, and more. From the voter’s perspective, all the themes the candidates have sounded during this special election race are old and stale. Precious little new ground was broken on either side. If you’ve been following the race, you’ve heard it all before.
A new wrinkle came on Gomez support for limiting Senators to two terms. Markey asserted he was sure Gomez hadn’t pushed the point when 30+ year Senator John McCain had come to Massachusetts to campaign for Gomez. Gomez insisted that yes, he did say that to McCain. Markey, incredulous, said “No, you did not.” Back and forth, but score one for Markey. Reporters, I am sure, will be seeking comments today from McCain.
Markey also had a strong moment on Gomez’ opposition to a ban on assault weapons and high-capacity clips, pushing Gomez to answer the question “Where would a civilian need a gun that could shoot 200 bullets in two minutes?” Gomez never answered.
But Markey never directly answered Gomez’ challenge to name one tax supported by Democrats that Markey had voted against. (Instead, Markey talked about voting to cut taxes by $1 trillion over his time in Congress.) Gomez reinforced his differences with the GOP on gun purchase background checks, global warming, and gay marriage, and drove home the point that he would “tell my party where they are wrong.” He linked this back to his main message, referring innumerable times that Markey has been in Congress for 37 years. Gomez’ new riff on that was urging voters to give him 17 months to show what he can do or turn him out (in the next regular election to fill the seat held by John Kerry). His sense of what he could do was hubris but an effective debate line.
Markey reflected more substance on issues, the kind of knowledge that comes with multiple years of experience. He reminded voters of Gomez’ willingness to approve a pro-life appointee to the Supreme Court, his openness to trimming future Social Security increases through a so-called chained CPI, his inclination to water down Wall Street reforms. And he scored on Gomez’ unwillingness to name the clients he had helped fund when working for Advent International. (Gomez went small bore, scoffing that there were no clients, only investors, but was reluctant to identify companies those investors had put money into. )
Gomez’ closing was cliche ridden: “about the future not the past,” about “people not politics,” making “Congress as good as the American people.” Markey’s close plowed familiar territory as well, staying on message with the tenacity of an endodontist doing root canal. Thankfully, Markey is a better legislator than he is a candidate.
Whether you believe polls showing Gomez just seven points behind or others showing Markey 13 points ahead, the outcome will likely hinge on next Tuesday’s GOTV (get-out-the-vote) effort in a low turnout election. Remember, there are now many more unenrolled voters in Massachusetts than Democrats and Republicans combined.
This has been a paint-by-numbers, joyless race, and I, for one, will be glad when it is over. But the stakes are too high to skip it. The anti-Mitch McConnell forces are wafer thin now and the at-risk seats in 2014 now portend a possible Republican majority. For all of his rhetoric, Gomez would likely be no more independent from McConnell’s control than was Scott Brown and probably less so as a newbie with no legislative experience at any level. Ed Markey, notwithstanding his devoted partisanship and sometimes tiresome rhetoric, has demonstrated his ability to work behind the scenes across the aisle, and would be a far better choice for the people of Massachusetts.
I welcome your comments in the section below.
Barney Frank gives the back story on Dodd-Frank, cutting the military budget and saving Social Security.
There was a time when former Congressman Barney Frank said you couldn’t pay him enough for sitting on a panel with Karl Rove. As it turns out, he mused, “you can.” Frank is doing well on the speaking circuit but returned to his roots on Friday, speaking to the New England Council. The long-time Congressman hasn’t lost his fast ball.
“The notion that Social Security won’t ‘be there’ is the dumbest thing anyone can say.” It’s good for another 20 years, plenty of time to remediate any shortfall. He opposes further hikes in the retirement age (now 67), noting the physical impact on many, including, for example, women who wait tables for 30-40 years or men who do construction work.
Nor would he tinker with the formula for adjusting cost-of-living increases (so-called chained CPI), something to which some have become resigned, but he makes a clear case for why we shouldn’t throw in the towel. “Don’t tell me that people getting $1500-$1600 a month” can make a go of it. He prefers the strategies of increasing taxes on for those earning more than $75,000 (in addition to Social Security) even to the point of eliminating Social Security benefits for the wealthy. He’d lower the floor for increasing income taxes from the $400,000 floor that President Obama supported to the $250,000 floor that candidate Obama favored. That will be a tough thing for a lot of middle class families to swallow. Finally, he’d also lift the tax base on the income on which Social Security taxes are imposed (now at $113,700), which would be a lot more palatable. Would that those still in Congress would discuss the specifics!
He reflected on the importance of the Dodd-Frank bill and shared some of the back stories in getting the comprehensive legislation passed. More importantly, Frank said he expects the implementation of the included Volcker rule by the end of the year. (Recommended by former Fed head Paul Volcker, it will limit risky investments by banks.)
While legitimately concerned by federal debt, Frank urges that, short-term, further budget restrictions be deferred. Over the long haul, he still feels cuts to the military can help with the deficit and can be sensibly made. We can reduce the military budget by $100 billion a year without weakening our nation. ”Terrorists are not the existential threat of the Nazis and the Communists,” he observed, noting that “We are not the indispensible nation any longer.” Others can and must step up to the plate. ”Even the best military in the world can’t bring coherence to an incoherent society.” (He faults Obama, for example, for trying to mediate between Sudan and South Sudan.) “We have to be more realistic about our needs and capacities.” While Frank had opposed sequestration, as he views the impact of sequestration cuts in the military, “no American will be one inch less safe.”
Not surprisingly, Frank observed that one of the single greatest reasons for Washington dysfunction is the filibuster. To those who defend it because it is a tradition, he recalled the words of Winston Churchill fighting those who resisted reorganizing the Royal Navy on the basis of tradition: “The traditions of the Royal Navy are rum, sodomy and the lash.”
In addition to cashing in on the speaking circuit, Frank is writing a book. I look forward for it to be published. For all his curmudgeon-like qualities and, for many years, not infrequent rudeness, Frank will continue to be missed for his intelligence, incisive wit, and ability to work across the aisle for legislative effectiveness.
I welcome your comments in the section below.
A multi-generational examination of choices facing women and the roads not taken. Viewed with humor, substance, and perspective.
The last time I reviewed a Huntington Theatre production, it was M for miserable. The current play is T for terrific. Run, do not walk, to see Rapture, Blister, Burn, the Huntington Theatre production at the Calderwood Pavilion at the Boston Center for the Arts in the South End through June 22. It’s a fresh exploration of the centuries-old issue of male/female relationships and a smart, funny look at life’s “what might have beens.” The writing by Gina Gionfriddo is outstanding. Even while keeping you aware that profound and often contradictory truths are being minutely dissected, Gionfriddo keeps the audience laughing. Her use of language is masterful and pleasurable. Director Peter DuBois is totally in tune with Gionfriddo.
Rapture, Blister, Burn explores the shifting roles of women and throws in the perspectives of everyone from Jean-Jacques Rousseau (1762), Betty Friedan (1963) and even Phyllis Schlafly (1977) and Dr. Phil. But the play is anything but a feminist screed. Catherine Croll, played by Kate Shindle, the woman who chooses career over family, reaches the pinnacle and realizes she wishes she had a family, especially when facing the looming death of her mother and the loneliness of an old age lived alone. Her aging mother, wonderfully played by Nancy E. Carroll, was my mother – ( a Wellesley College chemistry major in the 1930′s fired by the Dupont Corporation because she was engaged to be married) - funny, resigned, eager for her daughter to have it all.
Catherine’s former roommate, Gwen Harper, ably played by Annie McNamara, had stolen Catherine’s boyfriend from her and married him and had two children but now, anticipating an empty nest, regrets having chosen to give up her career to be a wife. Her husband, Don Harper, played convincingly by Timothy John Smith, is dean of a liberal arts college but hardly a catch. He’s a pothead, addicted to porn, lacking ambition and energy. I mean, who’d want to be married to him? The play will let you know that as well.
The younger generation is represented by Catherine’s student Avery Willard, played artfully by Shannon Esper, is astonished by the ruts the others are in and starts out thinking she has all the answers. She is loath to accept the message that “women are screwed either way……either have a career and wind up lonely and sad, or have a family and wind up lonely and sad.” What Gionfriddo doesn’t provide her is a model of a relationship between two married professionals with kids who have figured out the give-and-take, the ebb and flow, the way to meet each other’s needs and their own as well, optimally while not messing up their kids lives any more than is absolutely necessary.
Gionfriddo, if you’re out there, will you join us for a drink so we can take the discussion to the next level?
I welcome your comments in the section below.
Abortion, gun safety, tax fairness, national security, and much more at stake in the Ed Markey versus Gabrield Gomez race to fill John Kerry's seat in the US Senate.
It’s easy to think of ourselves as thoughtful deliberative voters with no single litmus issue for judging a candidate, but that theoretical criterion came up short last night in the final moments of the Senate debate between Gabriel Gomez and Ed Markey. The defining (litmus, if you will) issue for many became preserving or overturning Roe v. Wade.
Gomez said he’s pro-life but that he wasn’t going to Washington to try to overturn that decision. At the same time, he also said he would be comfortable with mandating a 24-hour waiting period for a woman between her seeking an abortion and being able to have the procedure. Markey disagreed. He averred that should remain solely a decision for a woman and her doctor. He also noted what’s at stake when, as a Senator, he (or Gomez) would be called on to vote for a Supreme Court nominee.
Markey made it clear that he absolutely would not vote for a Justice who is pro-life and might vote to overturn Roe v. Wade. Gomez said, “There should be no litmus test for any nominees.” Given the split on the nation’s highest court, avoiding a litmus test on a woman’s right to choose whether to have an abortion could well turn into a decision to take away the option. To me, that is unacceptable, and, in those last moments of last night’s debate, bright light bulbs went off.
There are other areas in which the Senate race offers a clear choice. Between an experienced legislator who, despite a long record of accomplishment, sometimes comes across as a reflexive partisan, too much a Beltway insider, and a younger, fresher face, a watered down Scott Brown with inadequate substantive knowledge and an abundance of naivete about what he could accomplish were he to make it to DC.
Between someone willing to take on the NRA lock, stock and barrel, including outlawing assault weapons and high-capacity clips and a narrowly focused supporter of universal background checks for gun purchasers (an easy position for Gomez given some 90 percent support among the public). A choice between Markey’s wanting to fix the Affordable Care Act and Gomez’ saying health care should be left to the states while also saying Obamacare’s model, Romneycare, isn’t working for small businesses in Massachusetts. And probably a choice between a longtime incumbent whose priority surely isn’t cutting taxes to a newcomer for whom that seems much more important and who feels the wealthy are already taxed enough.
Gomez scored some points as he repeatedly tried to portray Markey as a Washington resident out of touch with the people of Massachusetts, but he failed laughably when he asserted that for 20 years Markey hadn’t authored a single piece of legislation that became law. Markey simply provided a list of bills in high tech, clean energy, telecom, home health care and more. Nor could the former Navy SEAL persuade listeners that Markey is weak on national security. Again Markey talked about his role in airport security and seaport security. Additionally, Gomez insists on pulling out a couple of isolated votes that purported to be against honoring victims of 9/11, but all that does is show Gomez’ lack of understanding of the nuances of the legislative process.
Gomez was constantly on the attack, sometimes snarky. Markey parried with specifics but sometimes evaded direct questions. Neither was particularly endearing. While WBZ’s Jon Keller did his usual good job at controlling the time spent on different issues, the format didn’t allow for the reporters (Keller was joined by Globe political editor Cynthia Needham) to ask follow-up questions, so the debate didn’t go much beyond the candidates’ pat answers and already shop-worn messages. Perhaps we’ll get more from debate #2, June 18th, for the Mass. Media Consortium with R.D. Sahl moderating. Amazingly, the election is only two and a half weeks away.
I welcome your comments in the section below.
Yesterday thousands of dollars in scholarships were handed out in memory of WCVB-TV reporter Kirby Perkins to honor Massachusetts graduating seniors who had distinguished themselves academically while facing serious life challenges.
Shootings, muggings, fires, crashes, sports and weather– all the stuff of local television. Then there are the Kirby Perkins A+ scholarship segments.
Kirby was a Channel 5 reporter who especially loved politics and sports. The station’s “High Five” series had for years celebrated high school athletes. But he thought that academic performance should also be honored.
So, back in the 1990′s, Kirby pushed for – and got – a series highlighting students who achieved academically, overcoming often some of life’s greatest challenges. Kirby (the husband of Channel Two’s Emily Rooney and a good friend) died in 1997 at the shockingly young age of 49. A year later, a scholarship fund was established in his memory to provide financial assistance to the most deserving of these young individuals, and yesterday those monetary awards were handed out. To his credit, general manager Bill Fine has kept up the scholarship program and the values it represents. [Disclosure: my husband is on the A-Plus board.]
The stories of the winners are always inspiring. Ashley Firth, a leader at Saugus High, going to the University of Vermont; Ingrid Mile of West Roxbury Academy, going to Colby-Sawyer College; Ope Olukorede from Nigeria, who graduated from Rivers and is going to Johns Hopkins; Michael Richard, graduating from Fitchburg High and going to Harvard College, with a career in medicine one of his goals; Dennis Zambrano, also from Fitchburg High and planning to attend Bowdoin. Zachary Surrette, a Mashpee High graduate going to Cape Cod Community College.
They include students who came from foreign countries as teenagers, speaking little to no English; students who had to overcome severe health problems, from tumors to autism; students from single-parent families; one student came to America after her mother died and was raised by her aunt. None of them had a “Father Knows Best” family. All of them faced serious challenges. They stayed focused and worked hard;they accomplished great things academically and became inspirational to their peers and teachers.
There’s a saying that no news is good news, and good news is no news at all. Hence, the arson, car crash and robbery mentality of many local news outlets. Highlighting these Massachusetts success stories is one of the best things local television can do. I am no longer on Channel Five’s roster, but the A-plus feature series makes me especially proud of my past association.
If you know a senior who should be a candidate for next year’s scholarship awards, check out the A-Plus part of the WCVB website and submit a nomination.