Another day, another debate. This one was in Springfield, rescheduled from last Monday, which was of course the day of the Boston Marathon attack. It was the last debate before the primary on April 30, one week from today.
At yesterday’s debate Steve Lynch tried to paint Ed Markey as soft on homeland security and Markey, whose record shows otherwise, was slow to rise to the challenge. Tonight he was more prepared and the exchanges got testy, on that and other issues.
Here are my notes:
Markey came out swinging on the terrorism issue in the early going. He said (rightly in my view) Lynch’s performance last night was “a page from the Karl Rove Swift-Boat playbook.” He added that the 2002 vote against the Joint Task Force was because Bush put law enforcement into military hands for the first time in our history, and Lynch voted with the GOP and against the rest of the Massachusetts delegation on that.
Markey added that his votes on port security were because the bills did not contain provisions to screen cargo entering the U.S. for nuclear weapons (the record confirms this). Now it was Lynch saying Markey voted against the rest of the delegation and indeed almost the entire rest of the House. Markey said he would do it again, because a “port security” bill with no nuke screening is no good.
Lynch said Markey’s record made it a “mystery how you can call yourself a supporter of homeland security.” He then said Markey was “so far out on the left” that he couldn’t get behind “basic stuff like offering condolences to the families” after 9/11. He expressed the view that there was a repeated effort by “your side” (the “left?”) to skirt basic decency issues. “It’s about the people. You get hung up on policy.”
Markey said the Republican-sponsored resolution in question stated that, because of 9/11, we have to invade Iraq. If it had been just to praise those who responded and offer condolences to victims’ families, he would have voted for it. But there was no Al Qaeda in Iraq, the resolution suggested there was, and he wouldn’t be part of that deception. Again Lynch was with the GOP and Markey with the rest of the delegation.
On the Miranda exception applied to Tsarnaev:
Markey said he’ll defer to the decision of Obama and his DOJ on this issue. Lynch said he “absolutely” agrees with a limited opportunity to question without Miranda where we are not sure if there is a remaining risk of more bombs and bombers, then went back to hitting his port security point.
On North Korea:
Lynch: We’re doing it right, Obama has the right policy: caution but backed up with proper preparation. We have to be sure not to get in the way of Russia and China’s security interest, and to work with them. We have to reassure our friends in the region like Japan and South Korea. We are most effective in that region when collaborating with our international partners.
Markey: We are very fortunate to have John Kerry as Secretary of State, and I am impressed by his work on this. Everything Kerry is doing is carefully calibrated to elicit specific responses from the North Koreans. We are paying for our past error in thinking we could sell nuclear power plants to Iran and North Korea. Kerry is now saying to South Korea, “we have your back.” A strong message that must be heard: U.S. will not allow sociopaths with nukes to hold world hostage. China has to be more aggressive, North Korea completely dependent on China for resources. Get the rest of our coalition on board to ostracize North Korea and anyone who helps it.
Preventing Iran from getting nuclear bomb:
Markey: Nuclear non-proliferation is always paramount. A Iran nuclear bomb would threaten Israel, but also NYC, Boston, and DC. A real danger to us. Kerry doing an excellent job, again cleaning up the “residuum” of sale of nuclear materials to these regimes. We must build a coalition to impose the strongest possible sanctions in the history of the world to squeeze Iran, and we’ve done that. We must make it clear we won’t tolerate their having a nuclear weapon. We all have to stand with Obama and Kerry on this.
Lynch: Not a lot of difference in our positions on this. China and Russia have influence in this region as well, as do the EU, Turkey. Two-way system: I agree with Ed’s point of pressure on Iran, but also want to stress our support for Israel, the only true democracy in the region. Israel is not perfect, but neither are we. Still, there is a lot of love for Israel and its people in U.S. They are vulnerable. We must create consequences for Iran if they take that step.
Markey: When Israel attacked Iraq to destroy its nuclear program in 1981, they were condemned by world leaders, including Reagan, but I praised it. If Hezbollah and Hamas put down their weapons, there would be peace. If Israel did that, there’d be no more Israel. We must stand with Israel.
Lynch: Pakistan also is a nuclear power, and a shaky regime. At the point where civilian leadership is unstable, military still the big player. Need a wider perspective on how we approach non-proliferation in the region. It’s not just Iran.
Lynch: Social Security does not contribute to deficit, and is desperately needed by more and more seniors. Over half of them, 60% of them, rely on it for most of their income. I opposed payroll tax cut in 2010 and 2011 because it would drain Social Security funds and muddy waters on its funding. FDR was afraid of that, structured it to make workers pay into it so “no damn politician” will touch it. When we stopped paying in via the payroll tax cut, Lynch voted against it twice. It still passed, not sure how Markey voted. We just need to tweak it. We should raise the cap. A-Rod $40 million, pays very little. If you make 40K, you pay it on 100% of income.
Markey: These programs are called entitlements, but people have contributed throughout life. The GOP wants us to forget that, and forget that a big part of the current deficit is the Bush/GOP tax cuts, two wars not paid for, and the lost revenue from the GOP casino on Wall St. that led to collapse. The economy was saved only saved because Democrats were willing to take tough votes. Social Security is solvent to 2033. Let’s talk about other “entitlements,” like Big Oil’s $40 billion in tax breaks, the $100 billion the Pentagon wants for more nukes we don’t need, the $80 billion for NATO burden sharing, when there’s a zero chance Russia will invade Germany and France. GOP not talking about those, only cuts that wil hurt the poor and sick and elderly who had nothing to do with economic collapse.
Lynch: Don’t forget, the GOP tried to privatize Social Security not long ago. It would have been catastrophic if the crash came in 2007-08 and that had happened. Proud of Ed and myself, the Democrats, for stopping that.
Markey: We need to handle the deficit, but let’s not forget this ancient animosity of GOP toward Medicare and Social Security. The GOP voted against their origination. Paul Ryan’s budget again would voucherize Medicare. That would harm seniors seriously, Bush just tried to privatize Social Security. You can’t negotiate with people who don’t believe in the existence of these programs
Unemployment (Western Mass. specifically):
Markey: We have to complete the Boston-Springfield rail line. It will bring jobs out to Western Mass. and make it attractive for businesses. I will work with President Obama to create a manufacturing hub in Western Mass. It’s an ideal location. We need more broadband in rural areas. I fought for $45 million in the 2009 stimulus for Western Mass. to connect its schools, libraries to the internet. Also, keep funding for research at UMass and other colleges, and a legal pathway to citizenship for immigrants to make the most of the talents of people working out here already.
Lynch: I would repeal NAFTA, but Markey voted for it. They said it would not take jobs away but it did. Western Mass. hit hard by NAFTA, really all the way from Worcester to Pittsfield. Good manufacturing jobs were lost. Thank Ed Markey for that. I worked at the GM plant in Framingham, great job, but that region was hurt when Ed voted for NAFTA. His Telecommunications bill, he said it would create 1.5 million jobs. Instead we lost 500,000 jobs. There is no broadband in Western Mass. In Pittsfield the cable company won’t show NESN, they have them watching the Yankees. Duopoly: Verizon and Comcast. No other choices. It was a terrible bill.
Markey: Clinton said he’d enforce NAFTA labor and environmental safeguards. He couldn’t assure his successor, Bush, would as well. Lynch talks about auto plants but voted against the TARP auto bailout, which is the only reason that industry exists today in America.
Lynch: I don’t want to call you a liar, but you are. They were separate bills. I voted for the bailout of the auto industry. I voted against TARP, which was for banks, not manufacturing. TARP was a disgrace, you voted to take money from taxpayers in my district who don’t even have bank accounts so Goldman Sachs could pay bonuses after screwing up the economy.
Markey: I note that Steve is being inappropriately personally insulting. Steve voted against bill to bail out the auto industry, just 3 years ago. The UAW endorsed me for that reason. You can’t create your own truth.
Lynch: Fact checkers will sort it out, but TARP and auto bailouts separate. Markey is not a liar, just misinformed. I stood with regular people, taxpayers. You stepped up for Wall Street while they paid each other bonuses.
Markey: Steve is incorrigible.
Marijuana – How will you respond to DOJ’s oppostion to medical marijuana in states, like Massachusetts, that have legalized it?:
Lynch: I might lose some votes, but I thought the vote to legalize it was a terrible thing. I work in the recovery community, helped establish Cushing House for boys and another for girls. We had a cluster of suicides in South Boston – 14 young men over 18 months – due to drugs. I’ve spent a lot of time on that. I’m not saying all who smoke a joint will be heroin addicts, I smoked pot as a kid. But most addicts started with pot. I understand the medical values, but can we have a pill form? We’ll end up spending a billion on rehab because of legalizing marijuana.
Markey: I supported the referendum. Medicinal marijuana makes sense as long as standards are put in place to protect against abuse. People with cancer and other painful diseases need the help. If a physician acting properly prescribes it, it’s OK, but the dispensaries constructed must be carefully regulated to ensure it’s not a common dispensaton of marijuana onto the streets. It is important to work with the feds to ensure that they respect what we are doing here, and will not prosecute under federal law people participating in our state program. I hope the federal government will defer to us on this and we can help people.
Lynch: I understand those arguments, and they are well reasoned. But what we’ve seen in other states like Colorado, the average medical marijuana patient is a white male, aged 18-25, being treated for anxiety and migraines. So the evidence on this is not good.
Markey: Massachusetts has strong guidelines so this can be used for those who need it. Those with cancer and other specific diseases.
ACA: Isn’t Lynch vote against it understandable b/c of cost control rationale?
Markey: No. This was the dream of Truman, Ted Kennedy, Barack Obama. We needed to put it on books to ensure all children are ensured, that people are not denied coverage due to preexisting conditions, to stop them from going bankrupt due to illness. It was the proudest vote of my career. Just as Mass. was a model for the nation on universal access, we are trying to be a model, at the state level, for cost control. But we had to put the law on the books in the first place, and the whole delegation voted for it but Lynch. Obama, Vicki Kennedy, Kerry all asking him to vote yes, he voted no.
Lynch: Clinton tried to do welfare reform, Gingrich twice gave him an unacceptable bill, twice he vetoed it and they got it right the third time. Then he signed it. Here we didn’t fix the bill. It has three flaws: 1. it gives insurance companies an anti-trust exemption; 2. no public option; 3. it adds taxes on healthcare that are making employers run away. People are losing their doctors, and even their hospitals. The insurance and pharma industries got everything they wanted, 31 million new customers. We paid the ransom and let them keep the hostages. Now we have no leverage.
Markey: You were the only member of the delegation to vote no. You attacked me personally last night and tonight on erroneous facts. You were not standing up for everyday Americans with that vote. The ACA is what the Democratic Party is all about. There was one vote. You said no and I said yes.
Lynch: I was also the only member to read the bill. Not just one vote. Original House bill had a state-based public option, no antitrust exemption. I voted for that. I voted against the final conference bill that was flawed.
Lynch: Ed is great on policy, I’m great with people. I fought for people on crime and drugs in the projects. I fought export of good jobs via NAFTA. I’ll fight for Social Security for seniors, for decent broadband here in Western Mass. Ed and I differed on some things. He was for the banks, and I was for citizens. I was for the fishermen, Ed was for the fish. He was for NAFTA, I wasn’t. Like a lot of people in Springfield, I strapped on work boots for 18 years. You don’t see people like that in the U.S. Senate. Senator Warren great, but would be helped by having a ironworker there to help her.
Markey: Steve says he’s for people, not policy. Which people did he stand for on his healthcare vote? On a woman’s right to choose? On the sequester that is taking $3 billion out of homeland security funding? He didn’t vote for the auto bailout. I am running for U.S. Senate to stand up for ordinary families in our state. My father grew up in Lawrence in a 3-decker. When my aunt died, I met the people who live there now. They are Dominican immigrants with the same aspirations my family had, just different accents. Our job is to make opportunity and the American Dream available to all.