A few debate thoughts

I agree with much of this assessment. I will just add this: David Gregory, the "moderator" of this debate, did a profound disservice to the people of Massachusetts tonight. He had a little less than 60 minutes to conduct what could and should have been a wide-ranging conversation about issues that really matter to the people of this state. Instead, he spent about the first third of it - nearly 20 minutes! - on BS issues that do not matter at all (and that polling shows the vast majority of MA voters don't care about), and even at the end, he took maybe 3-4 minutes to ask whether the candidates thought that Bobby Valentine should manage the Red Sox for another year, as though either of them has any qualifications to opine on that. He was an embarrassment. - promoted by david

Scalia. That’s the biggie. How can Mr. Bipartisan admire Scalia, the most hardline, polarizing, far-right justice on the court? Not to mention rather ethically challenged? This was one of Brown’s few answers that wasn’t scripted, and we got a rare chance to see him say in public what he’s really thinking when he’s not coached and prepped by his handlers.

One of the most important parts of the guy’s job is to confirm Supreme Court justices. He’s an attorney. How could he not have an opinion on justices he admires and justices  he doesn’t?

I really hope the someone follows up on this so we can learn more about what it is he so admires about Justice Scalia.

Tax breaks for oil companies. This was the other response from Brown that shocked me. He doesn’t think that oil companies should pay more taxes because those taxes would just get passed along to consumers in the form of higher prices. By that logic, oil companies shouldn’t pay any taxes at all!

Job creation. I would have liked some follow-up on Brown’s answer to the student who asked about creating jobs. It seemed odd that he was telling her that she could apply for some kind of funding to start her own business. Because surely most history majors fresh out of college are ready to do that. Good grief. And then the Republican platitudes about how companies aren’t hiring because they’re concerned about tax and regulatory uncertainty. Seriously?

He’s an “independent?” No, he’s a Republican. And it was insulting to our intelligence for him to keep talking as if he actually doesn’t belong to a political party. He’s truly a Mitt Romney Republican — he’ll say anything he thinks his audience wants to hear, regardless of whether or not it’s true. Of course you plan to vote for Mitch McConnell as majority leader if you manage to keep you job. Be a man and say so, and explain why.

If he’s so independent and so “disgusted” with Mitch McConnell, why is he telling Republicans outside of Massachusetts how he’s one of their best hopes for McConnell and the rest of the hard right seizing control of the Senate?

The asbestos and LTV Steel issues. I think those have been put to rest. Warren was prepared and responded well. Brown started looking ridiculous after she pointed out that asbestos victims and union workers support her. Does he really know better than they do?

Thinking on their feet. I though Elizabeth Warren did well, appearing calm, confident and knowledgeable. While Brown gave a few good answers — his one about admiring Warren’s teaching and working to keep her in the classroom was my favorite (although I totally disagree about wanting her to stay a professor!) — in general he seemed to be mouthing a lot of platitudes and seemed stiffer and tense when being asked something he wasn’t specifically prepared for. I actually liked Warren more when she was off script and talking about issues, while Brown didn’t do as well.

Disappointing moderating. Alas as I feared, David Gregory mostly went for the silly gotcha questions instead of talking about issues of substance. And even I was surprised by how much he harped on the Native American ancestry faux issue, yet didn’t bother mentioning Brown’s staff’s racist video. The Afghanistan question was superficial. I longed for more detailed discussion on the use of U.S. military power. I wasn’t expecting Social Security or Medicare to be brought up in this one — this was at a university and students were in theory a focus — but something about education would have been nice instead of all the time wasted on the ridiculous gotchas.


39 Comments . Leave a comment below.
  1. Uncoached

    This was one of Brown’s few answers that wasn’t scripted, and we got a rare chance to see him say in public what he’s really thinking when he’s not coached and prepped by his handlers.

    You could totally see this! I just rewatched that clip (the clip that’ll go ’round the world??) and you see him pause, deer-in-headlights pause really, and hem, haw, “that’s a good question,” pause, BOOM Scalia…BOOOOOs, scrambled and started just naming half of the SCOTUS.

  2. What’s odd about Brown’s Scalia support is that in the previous debate he made clear that he wouldn’t vote to put anyone on the Court who would overturn Roe vs Wade. So, presumably he wouldn’t have voted for Scalia.

    • Of course,

      he was lying in the other debate. He wasn’t lying here.

      He is certainly a vote for someone who would overturn Roe v. Wade. He’s also certainly a fan of Scalia.

      RyansTake   @   Tue 2 Oct 1:00 AM
  3. First Choice

    My impression being there was that Scalia was his true answer. When the crowd groaned he realized that he had not given the right answer for a so-called Independent and so he started naming other Justices moving Left Left Left until he reached the end of the spectrum.

    The Boston Herald obviously also realized his mistake as they omitted any reference from their news article. Their fine independent journalists reported that he picked 4 justices including Robert and Sotomayor.

    • He whiffed big time on this one

      and in his stroll through the spectrum of SC ideology mispronounced “Sotomayor” to boot — “sotomayir” or similar

    • I almost wish the crowd hadn't groaned

      Leave him with Scalia and nobody else.

      Scalia is a dirty word to many of us, but I wonder how many of the undecideds out there will know much about him or care? It’s true the polls have suggested the undecided voters in this race are voting heavily for Obama.

      • I agree with your conclusion

        I would probably say that 100% of the undecideds couldn’t name a Supreme Court Justice, and like Palin in 2008, couldn’t name one Supreme Court case.

        Scalia was confirmed 98-0, so I assume Sen Kennedy voted for him.

        • Or so

          you are desperately hoping.

          Good luck with that.

          • not desparate. most people I work with can't, so making a good guess

            Good luck with whatever you do. By the way I enjoyed your city of Lowell last night, except for the poor air quality. Oh, sorry that was just all the union cigar smokers holding Warren signs.

        • Genuine bipartisanship

          The Senate was controlled by the GOP in August of 1986, when the confirmation vote was taken. Strom Thurmond was the chair of the Senate Judiciary Committee. Can you imagine every GOP Senator voting to confirm a Supreme Court nominee offered by Barack Obama?

          You are correct, Ted Kennedy (along with every other Democratic member of the Senate) voted to confirm Mr. Scalia. I note that, despite his strident claims of bipartisanship, Scott Brown voted against Justice Elena Kagan.

          Thanks for helping highlight what genuine bipartisanship looks like.

  4. Missed Opportunities

    First, I thought that David Gregory let Scott off the hook on “TheRealWarren” website. How could he just not say “Do you stand behind that website?” Do you think Ms. Warren is a “fake Indian?”

    Second, how come Elizabeth can’t say the right things on the union issue? “I’ve been endorsed…” is all she said. How about a simple three step: The middle class is getting hammered; unions help the middle class; the current law about union elections is weighted in favor of corporations and we need the card check law. Card check is the dog whistle of the union movement. Or line up with the SEIU janitors – no one’s idea of union hacks. And finally, remember Scott Brown rushing down to DC to stop the appointment of a labor lawyer to the NLRB.

  5. A Palin Moment

    the SCOTUS answer was more of a Palin moment than anything else. Brown literally could not think of a justice and he clearly stalled for time. Scalia was the first thing that came out of his mouth. It as pathetic. Gregory should have pressed on Scalia decisions he agreed with. Or when Brown said we have plenty of them up there – Gregory might have asked “how many?”. I bet Brown would have failed that test. But of course that was not to be. Gregory looked like he was prepped by the Brown campaign and I agree with this excellent analysis. The first two questions were the primary lines of attack from Brown (heritage and clients) and that Gregory never mentioned Brown’s staffers in the racist protest was astounding to me. And Brown’s rambling about not increasing oil cos taxes during a recession (applause line for the Brown supporters) was simply breathtaking ignorance and a huge miss for both Gregory and Warren frankly. But Warren had no time for rebuttal. I thought Gregory treated her rudely when she did try to rebut and was no allowed to do so. Meanwhile Brown did not take no for an answer and Gregory allowed Brown to filibuster. I plan to lodge my complaints directly to Gregory at NBC and hope others will as well. He did a terrible job last night and was simply looking to make news. Shame on him.

    • Agree that

      Warren was cut off way too much. Gregory either didn’t want to cut off Brown or was too intimidated to do so. Either way, not OK.

      I would have preferred to talk about real issues for the whole debate, but I don’t think the first twenty minutes on Native American heritage and Travelers/LTV helped Brown at all. He’d already shown his hand and Warren was ready with effective answers. Brown looked a little silly. If anything, it might have helped lay those issues to rest.

    • Total Palin moment

      I was watching with my daughter and her boyfriend – when he said “Scalia”, my daughter said “What newspapers do you read? All of them!” Same look in the yes as the half-term governor there.

      And I completely agree about Gregory – he was putrid, and did our commonwealth a disservice.

  6. The ad that comes from this.

    He was asked point blank about voting for majority or minority leader.

    He says he’s undecided.

    He’s told his out of state donors that control of the Senate is key for his race and that’s a reason to give him money.

    Voter vs. Donor.
    He’s lying to one of you.
    Who is he going to deliver for,… you or the people who pay him?

    • You hardly ever hear that in any campaign.

      One candidate accusing another candidate of being in the pay of donors.

      You basically are accusing them of being bribed. I think that there would be a strong backlash (and besides if you win you’re going to go to those same donors anyway).

      • He's either...

        … lying to you about his vote to look all ‘independenty’ for your vote,


        … he’s lying to donors to abscond with their money.

        Either way he just looks like someone who’ll say anything to get elected, and *that’s* the point.

    • yes, nationalize the race!

      The story just broke and it’s a great way for her to nationalize the race a little better than she has.

      He keeps talking about how bipartisan he was as soon as he got to Washington. What I remember was his post-election fundraising frenzy with the rising Tea Party.

      Now he’s naming Scalia as his model for the SJC and laughably saying he’s “undecided” about McConnell. He called himself an independent repeatedly during last night’s debate. But he’s not. He’s a Republican.

      I think they need to put the letters, the Tea Party, Scalia, Romney and McConnell/Ryan in an ad.

  7. Naturally the Globe says they both "stumbled"

    in this article.

    They dinged Brown on “not a student in your classroom” and “Scalia,” and called him out on saying he hasn’t decided on Mitch McConnell (“In two cases, his explanations strained credibility against the clear realities of party life in Washington…The truth…is that McConnell’s name will be the only one on his party’s ballot.”)

    They dinged Warren on the bipartisan thing and identifying Dick Lugar. She could have pointed out that the reason he won’t be there is that the primary voters of Senator Brown’s party prefer their nominees to be of the Tea Party variety.

    I think Warren was the better candidate at the debate this time, hands down (and some of you might recall I was critical last time). Why, oh why, does the Globe always feel the need to split the baby?

    • The Lugar loss was not because of the Tea Party

      The guy was old and had served a long time.

      There was some valid questions about whether he was from Indiana anymore. His real home is in DC.

      The guy that beat him has been in Indiana politics for years, long before the Tea Party. Did Tea Partiers help defeat him? Yes, but they are not a huge force in Indiana (I go there regularly). Most people were just tired of Lugar and wanted him to retire. He should have know when his time was up.

      • Yeah, OK

        Except the whole primary campaign was about his being too willing to work with Obama and not willing enough to push the Tea Party agenda.

        Mourdock victory speech in May:

        “Hoosier Republicans want to see the Republicans inside the United States Senate take a more conservative tack, and we’re looking forward to helping do that….Today we see the Obama White House and we see a Senate chaired by Harry Reid that’s doing everything it can — though perhaps not intentionally — to turn our dreams, to turn our great national hope and our dream into the nightmare of ever-growing government, to make us that … western European-style nation. Just yesterday, France elected a socialist. There are those I’m sure in the administration and in the left side of the Democratic Party that were cheering for that. But we’re not going to stand for that in Indiana because the supporters of Barack Obama are not going to win!

        So, yeah…

        • Too convoluted an argument

          I never said Murdock wasn’t more conservative and that he didn’t push that in the campaign. I want to see the quote where Murdock says Lugar was not willing to push the Tea Party agenda enough, as you imply above.

          Just saying “I’m more conservative” would not have been enough to beat Lugar. There were many other doubts about him. He also took it for granted and ran a lousy campaign.

          • OK, I'll bite this time

            From the Richard Mourdock wikipedia page, section 4.1 (I do not have time for more research on this):

            Tea Party support

            Mourdock has spoken at over two dozen local Tea Party gatherings across Indiana where he gained much name recognition and support in his primary contest against Richard Lugar. In 2011 at a Tea Party Convention in Greenfield, Indiana, where Mourdock spoke, a straw poll of local Tea Party members was taken where Mourdock received 96 of the 97 over Richard Lugar.

            In the week before the contested primary political action groups such as FreedomWorks, the NRA, National Right to Life, along with 45 local Tea Party groups got together at Veterans Memorial Plaza in downtown Indianapolis in what they called “a final 72-hour get out the vote rally ” to “Retire Lugar”. Over 500 Tea party members along with Reverend C.L. Bryant, Deneen Borelli, and FOX News political commentator Michelle Malkin attended the Mourdock rally. At the rally Mourdock said “the support of groups like FreedomWorks has been incredible. They have been from the very beginning helping us, going door to door, they’ve just been critical to all this.” Mourdock also said “There are so many people who wanted to issue the obituary on the Tea Party movement. And I’ll tell you what, the reports of the death have been greatly exaggerated. Because they’re not out waving the banners and standing under the ‘Don’t Tread On Me’ flags now. But what they’re doing is showing up to work for campaigns.” In an interview with FreedomWorks Mourdock said that he has been inspired by the people of the Tea Party movement who have put their hearts and souls in putting this country back on track.

            The Liberty News Network, and America ReFocused are among Tea Party backed organizations supporting Mourdock, the groups have campaigned door to door, sent out mailers and sponsored TV and Radio ads. Other Tea Party supported groups have played a major role in supporting Mourdock’s campaign finances. Mourdock’s largest contributor was the Club for Growth who accounted for 40% of all outside spending, contibuting $2.2 million to Mourdock. According to campaign finance records some of Mourdock’s other top donors are the NRA, who contributed $491,000, FreedomWorks For America; $437,000, Citizens United Political Victory Fund; $96,300, and FreedomWorks For America; $437,184.

            That he is the candidate of the Tea Party, and ran against Lugar from the right, are not controversial positions. This is pretty basic stuff.

            He was endorsed by the Tea Party, which called Lugar a “RINO,” in the primary.

    • I don't know

      I don’t think you should expect media to report who “won” a debate, which is far too subjective. They can highlight the significant exchanges, and that is about it.

  8. How many more of these?

    I watched only a little, and that little was tiresome.

    1. I thought she came out ahead, on demeanor alone.

    2. Enough with the Cherokee stuff. At this point, that seems to be like running a quarterback draw into the center of the line for no gain, repeatedly. I still think that this could have been used to great effect to question the 1990s liberal fetish with “respecting diversity” even when the “diversity” was only nominal. But from the beginning, Brown has been so artless and crude about it that I think it is surely costing more than it is gaining now. And there goes the running back right into the line again.

    3. That moderator sucked. I don’t care if you guys don’t like Keller or Dan Rea, or Emily Rooney, any of them could do better than that.

    4. You guys think “Scalia” was the big score of the evening? You’re going to dig into that big undecided pool with “Scalia”?

    • Two more...

      1. Yes, I agree, though Brown was certainly better in this debate than he was in the last one.

      2. Again, I agree – though much of the fault for this lies with David Gregory, the ghastly moderator, who thought it would be a great idea to talk about this stupid issue for almost 10 minutes of a 55-minute debate. Inexcusable.

      3. See #2. Keller would have been much better (and, in fact, was much better in round 1).

      4. I do think that “Scalia” was the news of the evening, in part because the rest of the debate was basically ruined by the moderator. It’s not huge news, but it was news. And I think Scalia is actually a reasonably powerful symbol, especially to people who care about choice and other “social issues.” It could move a few votes into Warren’s column, and it certainly won’t move any into Brown’s. So, that’s a plus for Team Warren, if a modest one.

      • That's fair enough

        It is hard for me to guage how “Scalia” will play among those who do not have work-related reasons to read the guy’s writing. I think of him as an extremely influential jurist who has made a handful of “political” decisions with which I disagree, and a great many others that brought us back from the brink of crazy town in a variety of legal rather than political matters. It seemed at one point there that we were going to find an implied private right of action in Rule 1 of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure, by applying a 156-point balancing test.

        You’re probably right, upon consideration, that any modest benefit on this probably goes to Warren.

        • Voters ONLY care

          about the Supreme Court’s “political” decisions. They are not interested in the arcane details of civil procedure. If there’s any Justice out there who has a reputation for being far to the right, obnoxious, divisive, it’s Scalia.

          Remember, the current Supreme Court is unanimous or near enough on plenty of cases. But they split 5-4 on the ones anyone cares about. It’s kind of like Brown’s 100 votes with the Democrats on commending a heroic firefighter in Dubuque and 100 votes with the Republicans on budget, abortion, health care, etc.

    • I mentioned in another thread

      I’m not sure the undecided voters know or care much about Scalia. But polls have suggested the undecideds are strongly for Obama, so it may get some traction.

    • Keller

      I have big big problems with the guy’s subjective views. But going back to 2006, he’s pretty damn OK at moderating a debate. I don’t mind him.

      Some of the things that do annoy me about his moderating are probably not really his fault. I would rather that he moderate a debate that’s two hours, so that the candidates can actually have an in-depth discussion.

    • Scalia opposes Roe v Wade

      Scalia said just a few months ago in a CNN interview that he thinks Roe v Wade should be overturned. That’s all you need to tell undecided voters who may have been misled into believing Scott Brown is a “pro-choice moderate.” It is simply not possible to be a pro-choice moderate and most admire Antonin Scalia among Supreme Court justices.

      • Be careful

        I just watched two clips where he made his argument. I suggest that we should be cautious about going after him for it. Whatever his personal views are, his arguments are cogent enough that attacks on him for making those arguments are likely to drive undecided voters away from
        the attacker. The argument Mr. Scalia presents against Roe v. Wade is a legal argument, and I suggest that if a response is needed, that response should be in similarly dispassionate legal tone.

        In my view, the “moderate” part of “pro-choice moderate” means that — especially at this time in this campaign — we need to be scrupulously careful about sounding dogmatic rather than rational.

        • Couldn't disagree more

          When I was in law school, there was much criticism of the legal reasoning behind Roe v. Wade, even from liberals who like the policy outcome. But undecided voters in the Massachusetts Senate race, I am quite confident, are not getting down in the weeds of constitutional theory like substantive due process, consitutionally protected liberty interest, it’s indistinguishable from Lochner, etc. They won’t pay enough attention to know if Scalia’s argument is “cogent.”

          My instinct is that Obama voters in Massachusetts (and that’s all we need – to win over a few more Obama voters who haven’t committed to Warren yet) will not be open to a Justice who calls Roe v. Wade “utterly ridiculous,” regardless of whether his argument is legal in nature.

          • I said "be careful", not "don't do it"

            Here’s what motivated my comment. I went to youtube and located the clips that oceandreams is referring to, and watched them. I was far more impressed with Mr. Scalia’s demeanor and argument than I expected to be.

            So I’m just saying “be careful”. The Scott Brown campaign has gone so far into right-wing crazy-land that these clips of Mr. Scalia look far better than you might expect. I suggest caution about making assumptions about what undecided voters will and will not be open to.

  9. I thought Warren

    did an excellent job at one point during the debate going vote by vote through Scott Brown’s record and how those votes have hurt Massachusetts families. Like the crowd at the debate I let out a little cheer when she also pointed out that he tells the voters of Massachusetts one thing but donors across the country something entirely different. Scott Brown’s only chance in this election is to continue to make voters believe he is an “independent” which is why he hammered home the (misleading) talking point of voting with both parties approximately 50 percent of the time.

    If Warren continues to drive the point home that what Scott Brown is saying about his voting record is not actually true then it is game over.

  10. Contact NBC

    If anyone were interested, I contacted NBC to comment on David Gregory’s moderating skills (negatively but politely) using this page:


  11. Who invited Gregory?

    Whose idea was it to have him moderate? The sponsors? The campaigns? You could have seen this coming a mile away.

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