Campaign Issues

Islamic Fascism in Pennsylvania; The Value of Earmarks in Montana

WASHINGTON--- Debates in Pennsylvania and Montana Thursday where the Senate races are close and where Republicans are fighting hard to stave off the Democratic attack illustrate just how different this fall's campaigning can be-where candidates have to decide whether to run with the President or somehow get away from him.

In Pennsylvania where Democratic challenger Bob Casey is holding a slender lead, Rick Santorum is aggressively trying to catch up, sticking with the Bush line on just about everything. This is one of the few races where the Republican is drawing closer to Bush, not trying to run from him.

A couple of excerpts from the debate held under the auspices of KDKA:

Has the Iraq war made Iran stronger?
Sen. Santorum: "I would say that that analysis is - compared to what?,'' asks Santorum. "Compared to had we done nothing? It's sort of a classic Monday morning quarterbacking, saying well because we're in Iraq, things are tougher. The question is what would have happened had we not gone to Iraq. We have now seen a third threat threat develop and that is Iran.. what that intelligence report sort of points out obviously, but nobody covers - we haven't been attacked in five years. That is not an accident. That's not a mistake. That happened because we aggressively went after both terrorist organizations and regimes that support them. we've improved our security here at home."

"I think the national intelligence estimate tells a good part of the story. that said very clearly that the war in Iraq has made it much tougher to take on the war against terrorism around the world,'' argues Casey. "There's no question about that. Senator Santorum just said that because of what happened in Iraq, we reduced the threat of terrorism. That's not the truth. The national intelligence estimate contradicts what he just said. We are not doing enough and the war in Iraq did not make us safer."

How to keep Medicare and Social Security solvent:
Sen. Santorum: "People who are at or near retirement, their benefits should not be affected Their benefits should be guaranteed and their cost of living increases should be guaranteed. The problem is not in the next few years, the problem is long term. What I've suggested that we need to do is guarantee the benefits now....give younger workers the opportunity to take a portion of their Social Security tax and invest it at better than the one-percent rate of return that the Social Security trust fund gives them."

Bob Casey: "Part of the answer is making sure that the economy here in Pennsylvania and across the country is strong. The crisis in Social Security right now is privatization. What that is very simply is taking away part of the guaranteed benefit for older Americans and replacing that with a guaranteed fee for Wall Street."

In a room at the Helena,Montana airport,he money for which came from a Conrad Burns earmark, Democatic challenger Jon Tester was in pretty clear command of this umpteenth re-run in a debate series where both candidates are obviously getting tired of one another and for the people's sake, the show ought to shutdown.

Burns campaigns openly on pork, how as a senior and experienced politician in Washington he can bring home the pork. "An earmark will not bust the budget.'' There is nothing wrong with lobbyists,he says.They "are just part of government.'' He denies any illegality in taking money in the Abramoff scandal ("I broke no law,''). Burns is picking up on the Bush campaign themes-Booming economy,tax cuts,an energy bill that works,(i.e. selective drilling on the Rocky Mountain front) and national security. On North Korea-get China to tell North Korea to knock it off, or apply curbs to trade with China, and in the end run, "We've still got missiles in the ground.We can still deal with a country with nuclear bombs." Tester runs against war in Iran and Iraq, for stem cell research, affordable health care-apparently alone the lines of the federal government employees plans which guarantee the right to choose one's own doctor.He says Social Security works well. As for being one of the worst 5 senators in Time's ranking, Burns says that's not so bad considering Teddy Kennedy ranks in the top 5. This race appears to be Tester's to lose.