Tonight, I’m live-blogging the Massachusetts Senate debate between GOP Senator Scott Brown and Democratic challenger Elizabeth Warren. This is one of the closest-fought races in the country, and a very clear choice.
And we’re out of the gate. First question is on Brown’s contentions that Warren fibbed about her ancestry. And Brown’s Injun-hunt continues. He admits he has no evidence that Warren misled anyone at any point in her career about her DNA. And even if he did, says it wouldn’t disqualify her from her academic or political career. So why is this an issue, Scott? Warren won’t apologize for her Mom’s story about her family throughout her life.
David Gregory is a great moderator to cut through BS. He asks Warren if Brown is needling her by calling her “Professor.” She owns her career proudly. Which is funny because Brown comes off looking more like a petulant frat-boy interrupting Warren’s class with inappropriate personal questions.
As a consumer advocate, Warren protected asbestos victims. Brown is trying to argue that she made a lot of money off of it. She interrupts him about a factual point and he shakes his head and smirks uncomfortably.
“Senator Brown is making things up,” Warren says. She says everyone got paid. The unions and workers support her, she says. Brown argues against that by making a counterfactual. “If she had prevailed” they wouldn’t have gotten paid. Brown continues to try to make a technical point against a tapestry of Warren’s record she defends confidently.
Brown won’t say whether he would support Romney’s agenda. Gregory asks if he’s distancing himself from Romney (again, great moderator).
Brown: “I was honored to stand with President Obama” for blocking insider trading. Brown seems to connect with the audience on this point, that he’s compromising, gets applause on the deficit.
Warren makes the same point as Brown that she would look at each issue individually. She would compromise with the GOP on Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac. She goes into a lot more detail than Brown, who gave boilerplate talking points. She touts her experience taking on large vested interests.
Brown gets testy with Gregory, crowd seems to agree with Brown. Gregory is trying to keep both of them on task about answering his questions, but may be asserting himself a little too much.
Brown says no Dems cooperate with the GOP. Sounds like a two-way street, Senator. It would be very difficult to compromise with an agenda that consists entirely of the word “No.”
Warren: Brown doesn’t say the same bi-partisan message when goes around the country raising money. Huge applause! He tells people he wants to block and obstruct Obama’s agenda on creating jobs. “Senator Brown voted lock-step with the Republicans and voted ‘No.’” Warren has a fire in the belly here, saying he blocked jobs bills and unemployment insurance for people out of work.
Brown says “I’m not a student in your classroom.” He looks more like a student who failed the class trying to blame it on her.
Crowd is getting a little unruly. I don’t think this would happen in a presidential debate. It’s exciting to watch how raw this is getting.
Gregory asks Brown why he won’t say whether he would vote for Simpson-Bowles. Brown blames his non-position on Harry Reid. Warren looks like she wants to hand Brown the world’s smallest violin.
Brown claims taxes are being raised every day. What??? Brown says it’s like pigs at a trough. He promises never to raise taxes. I’m Grover Norquist and I approve this message.
Warren brings up Norquist like a champ! Great minds think alike, people. She says Brown has signed a pledge to never tax millionaires and billionaires. Brown would let taxes rise for middle class unless tax cuts are implemented for the top 2%.
Warren agrees with Simpson-Bowles on principle. Warren is building toward a point about economists’ analyses of their tax plans. Gregory interrupts her, hands it over to Brown.
Brown supports green energy, apparently. While also arguing for the Keystone Pipeline. Yes, oil pipeline right down the middle of the country that would line GOP coffers is a great idea.
Brown scoffs at the Buffet Rule. Taxing billionaires wouldn’t pay for anything and it wouldn’t be fair.
Here we are at half-time. Warren has gotten the biggest points in, but Brown has gotten a few smaller ones. Brown seems a bit smarmier and petulant. Warren’s sense of urgency must be endearing to her supporters, but I can’t help wondering if her detractors would see it as desperation. I give Warren an edge, because she seems far more on top of the facts and ready to debate real issues. Brown looks more like he’s primed with a few zingers and doesn’t really want to touch on too many specifics. The line about not being a student was obviously a pre-planned ambush line and the crowd both cheered and booed. I wonder how Massachusetts press will react to that in the morning.
Audience questions. If elected, what will you support to help college students find jobs after graduation.
Warren: short term and long term answer. Warren supports Obama’s jobs bills. It will create jobs and repair infrastructure. The money gets spent and that creates demand. Rock-solid Keynesian analysis. She gets a solid shot in on Brown, pointing out that he blocked the jobs bill. Invest in the future, she says. Crowd loves it. Massachusetts is on the cutting edge for the new economy and industries. We can invent it and build it.
Brown: I travel around Massachusetts and there are too many regulations. Less people are hiring. I met a woman on food-stamps who found that people are scared to hire. Brown tells people to Google “Crowd-funder.” I believe this entails private investors to pay for jobs. You can’t raise taxes when we have this much debt he argues.
Warren clearly dominates this question.
Audience question: Do you support the Dream Act? Gregory explains this means citizen path for undocumented migrants.
Brown doesn’t support Dream Act: “It’s a form of backdoor amnesty.” Brown propagates the myth that a person who is in the US illegally is an illegal person. He says Warren wants to give driver’s licenses to illegals, as though that were illegal.
Warren: I support Dream Act. We need comprehensive immigration reform.
Gregory asks about Afghanistan. What is an acceptable outcome?
Warren stakes a position left of Obama on this issue. We should pull out now. We can’t stay there forever and spend more money on unrealistic goals. We owe our military an obligation to have clear goals when we put them in harm’s way.
Brown points out that he’s a colonel in the reserves. Huh. Live and learn. Brown wants to defeat the Taliban and al Qaeda, scaremongers about nuclear Pakistan. He defers to presidential information on foreign policy and would debate facts as they come.
Gregory asks who is the best SCOTUS member.
Brown says Scalia AND Sotomayor. Audience laughs, Brown says he’s an independent. Spineless!
Warren says Kagan, leaves it at that.
Gregory asks why MA has never had a female Senator. Warren: “I don’t know, I’m trying to do something about that.” Crowd loves it.
Gregory: Can you say something you admire about each other?
Warren: Sen. Brown has a lovely family. I agree with him when he voted to get rid of Don’t Ask Don’t Tell.
Brown: She’s hard-working and accomplished prof. and very qualified. She’s such a good professor, I want her to keep that position. Churlish, but funny.
Last question: does Bobby Valentine deserve another year on the Red Sox?
Warren: I give him another year.
Brown: We need to do better next year. Won’t answer.
Brown: Thank you, and you, and you, and you, blah, blah, blah. I’m from Massachusetts. I’ve tried to read the bills and I’ve been a 50/50 independent for you. Rattles off list of issues. Crowd likes it.
Warren: I’m not a professional politician. I got in this to defend America’s middle class families and take on the lobbyists and lawyers who aren’t working for America’s families. Brown isn’t there for families, women or seniors. I’m not going to work for billionaires and big oil. I want to fight for families and small businesses.
While Brown ultimately looked a bit more respectable by the end, he started out a bit nasty and petty. Warren presented a clearer vision and did so with conviction. Brown seemed to be putting out fires and trying to fire little zingers most of the evening. Warren is an unapologetic champion of the middle class. Brown looks in over his head.
My concluding thought. I grew up in Massachusetts and it will always be my home no matter where life takes me. Elizabeth Warren offers our state a clear vision for defending the middle class in Washington. She is a great opportunity for our state, with a long track record of fighting for the middle class against powerful interests. This Autumn, as you watch the leaves change in the Berkshires or you grab a cup of Chowda at Fanieul Hall, please plan to send Ms. Warren down here to Washington, DC this November 6th.