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.

  • James Ridgeway is a former senior correspondent at Mother Jones and a 2012 Soros Justice Media Fellow. For more of his stories, click here.

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