(UPDATE: David S. Bernstein has revised the transcript of his exchange with Gomez, expanding on Gomez’s last answer.)
I was busy tonight at a big debate watch party and watching the Bruins’ dramatic double-overtime win, putting them up 3-0 on the Pittsburgh Penguins in the Eastern Conference Finals, so I didn’t take any notes on tonight’s (last night’s?) first debate between Ed Markey and Gabriel Gomez. But I had to pass on David Bernstein’s piece about it.
Bernstein found the debate pretty boring, and thought Gomez was much improved from his primary debate performance. I personally thought the debate was OK and found Gomez quite off-putting and condescending (à la Scott Brown in 2012), starting from his opening line: “After 37 years in D.C., welcome back to Boston.”
Bernstein’s view, which I share, was that Gomez stumbled badly on abortion, saying straight up that he would vote in favor of a Supreme Court Justice who’d overturn Roe v. Wade if that person “would uphold the Constitution, and was ethical.” I can imagine a Markey ad showing Gomez saying he’d vote to confirm such a judge. Let’s not forget that there are four votes to overturn Roe on the current Supreme Court.
Markey was strong here. “You don’t have a litmus test to keep judges who would overturn Roe v. Wade off the Supreme Court. Well, Ted Kennedy had a litmus test. John Kerry had a litmus test. Elizabeth Warren has a litmus test. And I have a litmus test.” Particularly amusing was that Gomez repeatedly protested that he does not, as a U.S. Senator, plan to “change any laws” relating to reproductive rights. Markey finally pointed out the obvious: If Gomez votes in favor of a judge who provides that fifth vote against Roe, that’s a big change in the law in this area.
Bernstein made this interesting point:
But it was particularly striking to me, because it was almost verbatim the exact same thing Mitt Romney said when running for governor in 2002 — personally pro-life; politically pro-choice; promise to never change the law in any way. Pro-choice Bay Staters never forgave themselves for falling for it then, so it seems like a really bad idea to invoke the memory, especially while admitting that you don’t mean it.
Bernstein also gave Gomez poor marks for repeating the bogus claim that Markey has been ineffective as a Congressman:
The other bad moment came when Gomez accused Markey of ineffectiveness, citing the bizarre fiction that Markey has not sponsored a bill that became law in the last 20 years. This is utter nonsense, but has been a regular talking point among Republicans in this race for several months now. Gomez lobbed it at Markey, who took it as an opportunity to start citing some of the legislation he has crafted that is now law. Gomez, as he is wont to do, dismissed this as some sort of “slick lawyerly” twisting of the truth on Markey’s part. Even if Gomez was technically correct — and he wasn’t — the audience got a chance to hear about some of Markey’s legislative accomplishments while Gomez looked like a big doofus.
Gomez reiterated, almost verbatim, his same lame talking points in a post-debate exchange with Bernstein that is well worth clicking through to read in full. Here’s a highlight, after Gomez said Markey’s legislation passing as part of a larger bill is a “lawyerly explanation” (the same line he used in his “pond scum” interview on May 23):
Bernstein: I don’t understand – can you explain why is that a “lawyerly explanation”?Gomez: Because you can sit there and you can co-sponsor a bill, and you can put your name at the end and all that, I’m just saying, he’s been down there for 40 years, he can come up with the double-speak and all that, he can defend himself. I tell you in the private sector somebody does that? They don’t get a raise, they don’t get a promotion. It’s as simple as that. That’s why we should have, if you don’t pass a budget you don’t get paid, down in Congress. You don’t do your job, you shouldn’t get paid.
Bernstein: So, then would you not allow a bill of yours to be folded into other legislation to become law?
Gomez: Of course I would. But the bottom line is that you need, he needs to speak for himself and talk about what he’s done in a leadership position, and what he can stand and sit there and say “this is my bill, right there.”
Of course, thanks to Gomez’s ineptitude Markey spent about 15% of the debate doing just that.
Gomez’s statements are pure gibberish that reflect an astonishing level of ignorance (real or feigned) of the legislative process for someone who hopes to be a U.S. Senator in three weeks. Does Gomez really find “the legislation Markey wrote was folded into a larger bill, which passed and was signed by the President to become law” a difficult concept to grasp? Scary.
More importantly: Does Massachusetts want a U.S. Senator who finds basic legislative procedure unduly complicated, and can’t see how a vote to confirm the fifth vote on the Supreme Court against Roe v. Wade might kinda be a big deal? I don’t think so.