A free thinker in the Heartland...

Wednesday, October 04, 2006

More On Donnelly/Chocola Debate

I have two articles from the Rochester Sentinel. The first article has quotes from the debate:

Quotes from Tuesday's U.S. 2nd District Congressional debate at Rochester High School between Republican incumbent Chris Chocola and Democrat challenger Joe Donnelly:

On the war on terror:

"The first thing I want to give to our troops is a letter grade, and that grade is A-plus." - Donnelly.

"I agree with you that we need to give the troops an A-plus." - Chocola.

"We need leaders in Washington as good as our troops." - Donnelly.

"The war on terror started long before Sept. 11." - Chocola.

"We will not win with guns and bullets. We will win with education and economic

growth." - Chocola.

Brief pause for my Post Collapse software...

"We need to find him, and we need to kill him." - Donnelly, on Osama bin Laden.

On Fulton County landfills:

"I have never heard anyone bring up these out-of-state

garbage issues except in these debates ... I would be more than happy to work with local officials." - Chocola.

"Bill, I'm glad you asked. How big an issue is it that the trash from Chicago is put in our backyard ... Interstate trash is not interstate commerce." - Donnelly, addressing Sentinel Editor W.S. Wilson.

On economic policy:

"First, we have an obligation to balance the budget." - Donnelly.

"We have given a tax cut to every single American who is a taxpayer." - Chocola, addressing a question that suggested that only rich Americans have received tax cuts.

On ethanol plants

in Fulton County:

"We can make this district the energy center of America." - Donnelly.

"When the time came to vote for 12 new ethanol plants, including one in Fulton County, you said you would have voted no." - Chocola, toward Donnelly.

On immigration:

"I think immigration reform is a process, and I think you start by securing the border." - Chocola.

"There is one pathway to citizenship: get in line behind those who have already gotten in line." - Donnelly.

On term limits:

"That's why I look forward to coming home for good, just not quite yet." - Chocola.

"I think they're a good idea, but I don't think there is any need to put that in the Constitution." - Donnelly.

On prescription drug prices:

"We could have knocked off half the price of prescription drugs by negotiating with the drug companies, but we sold out." - Donnelly.

"Can anyone remember when the federal government negotiated things more effectively than private companies? Remember toilet seats and hammers?" - Chocola.

On family support:

"Dad, if you don't win, you're going to spend much more time at home." - Chocola, repeating what his son told him after his son said he had to win the election.

"My son and daughter, they love me too." - Donnelly.

Here is the second article:

Negative campaigning, management of the war on terror, seniors prescription benefits, immigration and ethanol topped Tuesday's debate between U.S. Rep. Chris Chocola, R-2nd Dist., and Democratic challenger Joe Donnelly.

Chocola and Donnelly re-

sponded to questions from Sentinel Editor W.S. Wilson and Rochester High School students Philippa Kindig, Caitlin Stoops, Melinda Stamberger, Marc Paff, Meagan Morrison.

Other students of RHS government teacher Mike Whirledge served as time keepers and moderators.

It was the fourth Sentinel-RHS debate. Chocola squared off against Jill Long Thompson and, two years ago, Donnelly. Rochester Mayor Phil Thompson debated the late Ed Fansler.

By virtue of the flip of a coin Donnelly went first.

Two years ago, he said, he talked about the need for change in Washington, D.C. He reiterated that theme throughout the debate. "It's even more apparent now our country needs to go in a different direction," he said.

The weekend news about U.S. Rep. Mark Foley's inappropriate e-mails to congressional pages was "horrifying," Donnelly said, adding, "Lobbyists have run wild in Washington," and the people of the 2nd District don't need a rubber stamp for President Bush.

Turning to face the students, he said the federal deficit and cost of the war in Iraq will land in their laps one day.

Chocola said 38 million senior citizens now have prescription drug coverage, that the nation's border with Mexico needs to be secure and the nation's dependence on foreign oil needs to be reduced.

Both candidates said they do not believe in restricting U.S. citizens' right to bear arms, they support stem cell research as long as it does not harm embryos and they support amendments to prevent flag burning. Both believe in term limits for congressmen.

Chocola said he's pro life and accused Donnelly of taking money from a pro-choice organization. Donnelly said that was years ago during a race for state senate and the check was promptly returned. "You're better than that, Chris," he said.

Chocola later said the $3,000 contribution was this election cycle and came from the Committee For An Effective Congress, which is a pro-choice organization.

Donnelly said a Chocola advertisement with a Mexican flag waving behind him was unfair: "That's just the latest ethnic group we've decided to beat up on television."

Donnelly said that contrary to Chocola's advertising, he does not support amnesty. He said he believes existing employment law should be enforced. In 2005, across the U.S., there were only three legal cases brought against employers of illegal immigrants and anyone wanting to be a citizen should stand in line.

Chocola said he won't reward those who sneak into the country and avoid the legal immigration process. He believes securing the U.S.-Mexican border is a priority and voted for the Secure Fence Act, which will place more than 700 miles of fence along the Mexican border.

Student Meagan Morrison asked the candidates about their tactics.

"Wouldn't a clean campaign make the voters feel better," she asked.

"After I've been hit on the head with a baseball bat I either respond, or I lose," Donnelly said.

Chocola said all of his television advertising has been accurate and noted two Donnelly ads placed by Moveon.org have been pulled from the air by television stations because of inaccuracies. "That shows his willingness to cross the line," Chocola said. "It says a lot about what he'd do if he went to Washington."

The war in Iraq was the subject of several questions and was brought up several other times by the candidates.

Donnelly repeatedly said tougher questions need to be asked of the nation's top officials and troops have better leadership in the field than military leaders have in Washington.

Wilson asked the candidates to give the Bush administration a letter grade for its management of the war in Iraq. Neither did, but both gave American troops serving there an A+.

"We need leadership in Washington as good as our troops have," Donnelly said, adding he wouldn't be a rubber stamp for George Bush and that he'd ask the tough questions. "We have to have the Iraqi troops stand up so we can stand down," he said.

Chocola said he does not agree that the U.S. presence in Iraq causes more terrorism, he believes Iraq is part of the larger war on terror and that the letter grade for the war will come from history.

Chocola said he agrees with U.S. Sen. Bill Frist the war against the Taliban in Afghanistan "can't be won with guns and bullets." Education and economics will be the key, he said, recalling a group of little boys happily running toward U.S. soldiers in Afghanistan when he visited there. The U.S. has to make sure those little boys grow up to see Americans as their friends who built them schools and helped their parents' businesses, he said.

Donnelly, raising his voice, said the Taliban in Afghanistan shielded Osama bin Laden. "We have to go after him hard. We need to find him and we need to kill him," he said, adding 95 percent of the world's poppy crop is in Afghanistan and the U.S. should be willing to go after it.

They were asked what they would do about the flow of out-of-state trash into Fulton County landfills over the last 30 years.

Donnelly offered, if elected, to help Fulton County by sponsoring legislation; Chocola said he doesn't believe there's a concern about the garbage here because nobody but Wilson has asked him about it. Chocola said he's been to more than 150 town hall meetings in the district and visited Fulton County at least 100 times and nobody else has raised the out-of-state garbage issue.

County Line Landfill provides $2.3 million of revenue to Fulton County governments so the community should decide if it wants out-of-state garbage, he said. He'd work with local officials on the issue if they raised it.

Donnelly said his opponent should visit the neighbors of the landfills and ask them how they feel. "Fulton County people can tell us how much it's worth to sell their land, their water, their heritage," he said. "You can't put a dollar value on clean water, clean air," he said.

Other questions:

• Do you agree with President Bush that stem cell research is immoral and should be illegal? This from Wilson.

Donnelly - Embryonic stem cell research has "incredible potential" but there must be care taken in making moral choices. He agrees to push the envelope as long as the embryo is not damaged.

Chocola - There's very promising stem cell research. He does not believe the federal government should pay for embryonic research, however.

• There's been a wave of corruption in Washington, D.C. How do you react when approached by lobbyists? - Marc Paff

Chocola - There have been some bad apples in Washington. Those should be legal issues not political. "People who betray the trust of the voters should go to jail," he said.

He believes in a citizen legislature and has come home to Indiana every weekend since elected. "I learn how to vote and I do my job right here in central Indiana," he said, adding term limits are the best method of cleaning up Congress.

Donnelly - "It's time to take a broom and clean out the barn." He called for the resignation of House Speaker Dennis Hastert and said lobbyists should be kept out of Congress.

• What can be done to reform and protect the Social Security program for future generations? - Melinda Stamberger

Donnelly - The first step should be segregating Social Security funds so they aren't used to pay for general obligations. His opponent and the GOP are in favor of privatization, which he believes the American public wants nothing to do with because Social Security also is an insurance program for families who lose parents and spouses.

Chocola - People now retired and close to retiring are safe, but by 2040 the Social Security system will be bankrupt. Politics have to be set aside to solve that problem. He's an original co-sponsor of legislation that would "wall up" the Social Security trust fund and restrict its use, he said.

• The U.S. has a $500 billion deficit and $10 trillion national debt, but the rich gets tax cuts. How would you prevent that from being placed in the lap of my generation? - Caitlin Stoops

Chocola - Every American has received a tax cut during his tenure. Unemployment is at 4.7 percent compared to 6 percent when he took office and the deficit has dropped from $412 billion to $260 billion. The U.S. government had its highest level of tax receipts ever this year.

"Spending is not the only measure of success," Chocola said. He's sponsored amendments to bills that eliminated millions of dollars of spending.

An old Chocola theme surfaced: "You spend your money better than anyone else does," he said.

Donnelly - Chocola approved of $2.6 billion of tax breaks to big oil companies and he did not approve of negotiating drug prices for the Medicare Part B program. "There's a youth tax being put on all of you," he said. The budget needs to be balanced before renewing a tax credit for the top 1 percent of America's wealthy.

• What would be the benefits of an ethanol plant in Fulton County? - Phillipa Kindig.

Donnelly - Jobs and putting money in the pockets of farmers. He supports ethanol but is opposed to big oil tax breaks.

Chocola - The energy bill he voted for included ethanol incentives, alternative energy and increased refinery capacity in the U.S.