A Recap from the Dais

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cross posted from http://retiregarrett.com

Last evening, Bergen Grassroots and the Ethical Cultural Society of Bergen County hosted a debate for the candidates seeking the Democratic nomination for Congress in the 5th District.  The two candidates in attendance were Jason Castle and LaRouche Democrat Diane Sare.   The third candidate, Adam Gussen was not in attendance.  I was the “moderator” of the debate.  I say “moderator” because I did not ask the questions – in fact I only posed a single question to the candidates.  Rather it was my challenge to call on members of the audience so that they could ask their questions.  Why I make this distinction will become evident as I recap the events of the evening.

Both candidates had two minutes for opening remarks.  I’ve seen both of these candidates speak on several occasions and they both remained true to form.   Castle spoke about his military experience and that for him running for Congress was a natural extension of his desire to serve the country.  Sare then made her opening remarks.  She said that she was running to see some very specific things done in Washington.  She called for the restoration of Glass-Steagall which was repealed in 1999 (Glass-Steagall was legislation passed during the Great Depression which created a separation between investment and commercial banks).  She further called for the impeachment of President Obama for going to war in Libya without Congressional authorization and the implementation of NAWAPA – an idea conceived in the 1950′s to would bring water down from Alaska to the “lower 48.”

Sare’s supporters spread out among the packed audience in attendance and asked questions about Glass-Steagall every chance they got.  In my opinion one or two questions regarding the role the repeal of the legislation played on the financial collapse of 2007 was completely appropriate.  It gave Sare an opportunity to hammer home her support for re-authorizing the legislation and it got Castle on the record as to his position.  However, after those few questions, we needed to move on to other questions regarding serious issues facing the 5th District and the rest of the country.

By continuing to ask questions about Glass-Steagall, the LaRouche supporters ate up so much time that I finally cut one women off and said we would be taking no more questions on the subject.  I didn’t want to be rude, but enough was enough.  I then spent the rest of the evening searching for questions on other topics; Not as easy as it might sound.  As a side note, I called on Mark Quick, the Reform Party candidate who made the trip in from Sussex.  He asked about the upcoming debate in Washington surrounding interest rates on student loans and whether the candidates would join him in calling on Congressman Garrett to first support efforts to keep the rate at 3.4% and then later fight to reduce it to 1.7%.  The Reform candidate was moving the debate in a positive direction.

As a result of these “Glass-Steagall” tactics, we missed the opportunity to witness a substantive back-and-forth between the candidates on such topics as how to address immigration reform; how either candidate would propose we move forward if the Supreme Court strikes down the Affordable Care Act; what their thoughts are on Citizens United, etc., etc., etc.  Most importantly, because of this dog-with-a-bone Glass-Steagall obsession, we never got a true sense of how either of these candidates would campaign against Scott Garrett in the fall.

All of this is not to say we did not get an insight for what these two candidates believe on certain issues.  For example, Sare believes that human beings do not contribute to global warming.  She stated that it’s merely a naturally occurring event that takes place on all planets in our universe.   Castle agreed with one questioner who said the tax code was too big and complicated and he added that he thought while it should be simplified, it should also be made more fair and people making millions every year shouldn’t pay a 14% effective tax rate while people earning under $100,000 are paying an effective rate of around 28%.

From where I stood, this was an excellent first step.  I thank the participants and our hosts for making it happen.  I hope that in the debates to come and in future speeches all of the candidates will focus on the specific reasons why Scott Garrett is wrong for this district and what they would do in Washington to make our lives a little better.

The Bergen Record covered the debate.  To read their recap, click here.

Comment (1)

  1. Jeff Gardner

    You did a great job as moderator, particularly in light of the large engaged crowd. Nice work.

    The real problem with the debate, as I’m sure the organizers would attest, was the absence of Adam Gussen. Whether that was unavoidable as he maintains, or intentional as some have speculated, everyone can agree it was regrettable not having all the candidates in attendance.

    None of the candidates are well-known, so I hope there are additional opportunities for voters to learn more about them.


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