Sunday, September 21, 2008

First Debate

TMB has it.

Unfortunately, the staid structure made it possible for Sen. Collins to gloss over her record on key issues.

But then, late in the game, things turned.

Roughly ten minutes before the event is over, it's as if a fog suddenly lifts: The last few exchanges give you some indication of what this race might look like if it ever turned to the records of the candidates.

So let's hope that future debates are a bit more freewheeling--more like the last 10 minutes than the first 50--and that the questions going forward are a bit more pointed.

Three highlights:

1. The contrast on health care, starting at about 36:00. Rep. Allen comes out, unambiguously, for universal health care. And the junior senator? It's all gobbledygook and more hearings. I still have no idea where she stands.

2. Allen gives a very strong answer on taxes at about 47:30. This kicks off the shift in the debate's tone.

Collins replies with a disingenuous riff that completely mischaracterizes what was at stake in the 2001, 2003 and 2006 tax cuts. And then she shifts into a defense (finally!) of her vote for the Cheney energy bill.

Only she doesn't offer up much of a defense--except to note that the bill was, yup, bipartisan. And that there were a bunch of good initiatives in it. (The Farm Bill had lots of good things in it too, Susan.)

Allen's response generated the only standout moment of the debate: "The 2005 energy bill was bipartisan and it was wrong. Just like the vote to go into Iraq was bipartisan and it was wrong."

3. At 53:45, the last question of the debate--on term limits . Allen said Collins should keep her promise to serve only two terms. And Collins trotted out a new defense for finking on her pledge: The world is a dangerous place. Maine needs knowledgeable, effective leaders like me.

(Maybe someone should tell Roll Call.)

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