I'm in the control room right now getting ready for the debate to start. The tension's so thick you could it with a knife (translation: the Webb team is calm, cool, confident and loaded for bear.)
Note: An official close to the Webb campaign reports seeing an Allen staffer using the restroom and not washing his hands. Gross, huh? Just kidding...4 hours of driving at 5:30 AM will do that to you. :)
I'm going to attempt to live blog this things as well as possible. Wish me luck!
Candidates enter. First, Jim Webb. Next, George Allen (cue Darth Vader theme song).
George Allen: "Patriots all." Pays tribute to his "bride" Susan and his kids. His kids don't necessarily think this is much fun. [Note: Allen seems visibly and audibly nervous]. "We're facing challenges right now." Three important missions: protecting and securing our freedom, America is a land of opportunity for all, preserve our foundational values. Record of performance based on fact not fiction. You all know me. Have advocatge policies that have made it safer for us to live, learn and work.
Jim Webb: Thank you to VBA and to his wife. She's a practicing attorney and probably a lot more comfortable than me at this. Are you better off than you were 4 years ago? Is this country better off than it was 6 years ago? Are we more well respected around the world? Is our economy fairer...is your job secure?
Are you comfortable with these tactics of slash and burn that have invaded our political process? People in Congress not afraid to question the President. I'm not a political figure, but I do have a wide ange of experience that I bring. Marines, 16 years of federal service, commmittee counsel, member of Reagan Administration. We need a fresh set of eyes on the problems that confront us. There are many problems, and that is why I want to run for Senate.
Question to Webb from Jay Warren (reporter for WSLS - Roanoke): Aside from opposing the invasion of Iraq, how do you differ from George Allen?
*Iraq was not the reason I decided to affiliate with the Democratic Party. That took place as I was writing the book, "Born Fighting," and realized that the Democrats have a better record of dealing with the problems of the regular American.
*I was an early voice with Scowcroft and Zinni opposing the Iraq war.
*I am an American patriot. I would like to see the Administration have a plan. What would allow us to leave Iraq? We've got 4 permanent bases in Iraq; what would their uses be? We need more cooperation with countries in the region.
*Sec. Of State now in Saudi Arabi to bring the countries into the solution to the problem. We should have done that much earlier with the Iraq situation.
*The situation in the Middle Eaast would be a lot different if we hadn't invaded Iraq.
Allen: It's good to write novels, but in the real world we got hit on 9/11. All the nations saw Saddam as a threat. The reality is that if we hadn't gone in there, Saddam would still be in his palaces, paying parents to send their children into Israel as suicide bombers. What we're doing in Iraq is to make sure the Iraqis are trained up. [General George] Casey says that by the end of the year, as many as 3/4 of military operations in Iraq will be led by Iraqis. The 4 bases, that is a smart thing to do. They OUGHT to be on 4 bases; good operationally, safer. Ultimately, they will be turned over to the Iraqis. They will not be permanent bases. The Senate has voted twice that these bases won't be permeant bases.
Webb: We've never heard that there's no desire by this Administration that there's an end to our involvement in Iraq.
We could have fought war on terrorism without going into Iraq and allowing the emergence of Iran. There will never be security in that region until American forces leave.
Allen: We shouldn't pull out. We shouldn't tuck tail and run. There was a 70% turnout in last election in Iraq. We won't get that in an election here. It's a tough road, but they are grateful to America for liberating their country. But it's hard to stand up a government. We should not tuck our tail, run, and surrender. Jim was opposed to the military action to get Saddam out of Kuwait in 1991.
Webb: Gulf War I - I was the only member of the Reagan Administration who opposed the tilt towards Iraq. The United States does not belong as an occupying force in that part of the world. I supported containing Saddam Hussein. I opposed the SAME group of people arguing that we should go to Baghdad. We were very lucky in Gulf War I that we had Brent Scowcroft as National Security Advisor insisting that we exile Saddam from Kuwait and then go home.
Boots on the ground? 2 years ago I was in Afghanistan as a journalist, not as a politician. I've got a son in the Marine Corps. The fiance of my daughter is in the Marine Corps. According to a survey a few months ago, 70% of American troops said we should be out of Iraq within a year. We can't do it precipitously.
Allen: We do not care to be an occupying force in Iraq. We can not WAIT to welcome back Virginia troops home safely, but we need to accomplish the mission. We have facilities all over the world - Kuwait, Japan, Korea, German, and we still have one in Cuba.
Question to Webb on Affirmative Action: I have always supported Affirmative Action for African Americans. When that changed from a 13th amendment program to a wider program, it created difficulties for many people including poor whites. The 13th Amendment was SPECIFICALLY for African Americans. Today, 25% of African Americans are still in poverty. Many poor whites have suffered a double disadvantage. Current structure is, in many ways, state-sponsored discrimination against whites. Affirmative Action is specifically for African Americans.
Allen: Not going to get into Webb's various "treatises" on this subject. Appalachian School of Law (huh?). Until about 40 years ago, segregation. I was an original sponsor of Voting Rights Act renewal. Education is power. Efforts and funding to help minority serving institutions - historically black colleges and universities. Upgrade their technology infrastructure. Skills and knowledge to apply for jobs that require that talent. Remedies that make good sense...equality of opportunity.
Webb: Program was expanded beyond its original intent. Program was designed to help African Americans remove the badges of slavery. My wife is Asian...we could go and set up a set-aside company right now. That's not the direction we wanted to go.
Question to Allen ("You have notably shifted on positions, and have your presidential aspirations forced you to shift?"): I'm sticking exactly to my principles and ideals. I have always believed that a marriage is between a man and a woman. I'm for the constitutional amendment in Virginia. Hate crimes - when I was governor we added race as a category that you could get an enhanced punishment for certain crimes. I was for adding sexual orientation...so long as it didn't make sexual orientation a civil right. I'm not going to stand by and let peoples' right to freedom of religion be infringed. Ethanol, soy diesel - we're far too dependent on foreign oil. It makes economic sense to support Ethanol now that oil is so expensive.
Webb: I'm constantly asked about Allen's Presidential aspirations. I will never run for President. Look at a # of George's votes; is he being pulled to the more extremist base, the nominating base, of the Republican Party?
On stem cells, John Warner voted a different way, Nancy Reagan has been very strong on it. We can save people from a great deal of pain turning around some serious diseases.
I'm a Christian. I read the Bible almost every night. I believe that marriage is between a man and woman. But read the rest of the amendment. I think that anyone should have a serious problem with the language of this bill. This amendment could affect heterosexual and gay relationships.
Allen: The constituional amendment that is being put to the people of Virginia simply states that defination of marriage is that between a man and a woman. Webb is out of touch with the values of Virginia... They may be the values of Hollywood, but they are not the values of Virginia.
I am very much in favor of stem cell research, but not the kind that destroys a human embryo.
Question by Tyler Whitley to Webb about his own shifts ("Speaking of inconsistenicies, you supported Allen in 2000"):
I like George Allen...not particularly fond of some of the people who work for them. Ths country has changed a lot since 2000. I expected strong leadership [from George Allen], and I didn't get it. I also talked about Sen. Robb's long history of service. No exit strategy in Iraq; the answer that he just gave about the 4 bases and comparing them to Cuba in 1898 indicates that the Bush Administration DO want to be an occupying power in Iraq. The Senate would be a better place with Robb than Allen.
Allen: I wish Jim were still endorsing me, I'd buy you a beer. Jim's changed his position on a variety of things. Think back to pre-9/11. It seems like a short time ago. But it changed everything. We were hit here in Virginia at the Pentagon. What do you do? Sit back and do nothing? That would only embolden the terrorists. Saddam was a state sponsor of terrorism. I wish diplomacy would have worked, but the UN had 17 resolutions that he defied. Saddam was beligerent. He could have passed on chem/bio weapons to a terrorist group. Joe Lieberman...Hizbollah is a terrorist organization. Our country has come back from 9/11 with 4.5 million new jobs created. Need education..make sure this country is competitive, strong, prosperous, secure.
Webb: Beer on Nov. 8, one way or the other. 3 separate issues with respect to 9/11: Israel, international terrrosism, Iraq. I'm strongly in favor of focusing on international terrorism. "Find them and take them out." The problem was when we made the strategic mistake of occupying a country in that part of the world. We conflated all three issues. Hizbollah is a direct result of empowerment of Iran. Lack of foresight on the part of people making these decisions.
Question to Allen on fiscal conservatism even though we have huge deficits:
I support tax cuts. I think they are a great idea...that people keep more of what they earn. The marriage penalty is ludicrous. Increase per child tax credit. Supported education savings accounts. "Death tax" makes no sense. Death shouldn't be a taxable event. Reduce taxes on capital gains and dividends. Revenues are not the problem; federal government is spending too much. A lot of this has to do with war on Islamic terrorists, homeland security, and the war We need fiscal discipline in Washington. Lineitem veto. Voted against bridge to nowhere. Balanced budget requirement. If Congress doesn't get appropriations done ont time, then they should go without pay.
Webb: Calling me a Hollywood liberal; was Ronald Reagan a Hollywood liberal? I was holding up the values of the Marine Corps on that film.
Allen has voted many times against "pay as you go." I support "pay as you go." Every American family has to go by "pay as you go." That's how you bring fiscal discipline back.
The greatest concern I have right now is the breakup of our society along economic lines. Taxes may have been reduced in some ways for the middle class, but real income continues to decline. After tax corporate profits are at the highest percentage in our national history, wages and salaries at lowest levels. Stop the bleeding, the outsourcing of American jobs.
Allen: People are paying lower taxes. Remember the shock of 9/11 and what that did to our economy? Tax cuts have helped economy be resilient. We're on a path to reducing the deficits. Best way to get more jobs is with less taxation and less litigation. Spending discipline. Better jobs from less taxation and legistlation and better education.
Webb question to Allen: You're a Jeffersonian. Thomas Jefferson came out of retirment to run for office because he was so concerned that the country was heading towards corporate aristocracy. You voted 4 times to raise your own pay, and 4 times against raising the minimum wages ($5.15 per hour). How does that fit with your philosophy?
Allen: I am a common sense Thomas Jefferson conservative. I don't like meddling nanny government. Ronald Reagan was a modern day Thomas Jefferson. Barbary Pirates - Jefferson sent the Navy. I have voted several times to raise min. wage and to help small businesses by giving them tax relief. Neither of these passed. Some of the tax breaks have been for small businesses. People upgrade their equipment; most jobs are created by small businesses.
Webb: I'm still trying to figure out why you voted 4 times for your own pay increase and 4 times against raising the minimum wage. Your pay increase is 3 times what someone making the min. wage would make in a year.
Allen: Several issues that matter. Health care affordability. Would you support expansion of health savings accounts, medical liability reform, small businesses pooling together?
Webb: HSA's - There have been a million more people that have signed up for that since you started advocating it. That still leaves about 45 million peole that are not covered by any form of health insurance. More than a million here in Virginia. Even the people that have health insurace have since their premiums go up sharply. Huge issue for the American people. The target is the doughnut hole. Lower income, but wage earners, that cannot get health insurance from their employers.
My friend Mac's son owns a restaurant in Nashiville. He has no medical insurance, got cancer, came out with $65,000 bill on a salarly of $25,000 per year. It's not perfect, but I approve of the Massachusetts plan. Everyone has some form of medical insurance. We need to move to the point that every American has some form of preventive medical care.
Allen: HSA's - a third were previously uninsured. Medical liability; OBGYN's increasingly unaccessible to women. Small businesses ought to be accorded the same as big corporations.
Webb: Let me take a moment to talk to you about heroes. I like football, but football is not life. My heros are those who step up and risk loosing their lives. Heros like Mac and those that served with him and me in Vietnam. I believe that the young men and women who are serving today deserve something better. Do you support the idea of a World War II GI Bill for these people, and if so, why haven't you introduced it?
Allen: You're right. Those that serve are genuine heros. We are so greatful and thankful for those that are serving their country. Hardest thing I have to do is read about someone losing their life by an IED. I have worked to get Guard and Reserve on Tricare. Improved benefits for military to get tuition assistance. Support the families as well with health care benefits they deserve. Can it be better? Yes. I will continue to stand strong for those that are standing strong for our military.
Webb: I worked on veterans issues for 4 years. The Montgomery GI Bill is a peactime bill. It might seem like a small thing to a lot of people but it's not. It's the greatest thing we can do...just like WWII veterans: full tuition, monthly stipends. That is well within your power right now. Do it next week.
Allen: If the Senate didn't move at the pace of a wounded sea slug, I would.
Allen: Jim, what's your position on Craney Island? Where we put our dredge material?
Webb: What's Craney Island?
Allen: It's in Virginia. Where we put our dredge materials.
Webb: I'm not a career politician, I'm not going to make stuff up. I am a leader, will sit down with people like Tim Kaine and come up with a solution.
Allen: This is part of how people makes decisions on who to vote for. This is a long standing issue. It is important that a senator from Virginia understand these long standing issues. And this is a very important issue.
Webb: You didn't know about the peacetime GI bill either.
Question to Allen about Jeffersonian conservatism, military tribunals, wiretapping ("How does the modern days conservative support the modern day alien and seditions act?"). Not an accurate characterization. Intercepting communications is part of prosecuting the war. I think the authorization for use of force was adequate authorization. Roosevelt in WWII didn't ask if we could intercept Japanese or Nazy communications.
As far as Guantanamo Bay is concerned, he Supreme Court has made it's decision. The vast majority of those at Gitmo are detainees; never in a time of war would a detainee be releaed. 90% of those folks are enemey combatants. Given half a second, would love to hit America. We are going to comply with the Constituion, wer are a nation of laws.
Webb: I wrote a novel on unconstitutional tribunal/Japanese general being put to death after WWII. Did a lot of research on that issue. I would agree with Allen to the extent that if these people have been identified as operatives they should be detained until such time as to get them repatriatriated. But at the same time, we have to be very conscious that the rest of the world watches what we do. We must be careful of what we do, so we can retain the moral imperative. We can't expect one sort of treatment when OUR people are taken prisoner or hostage and a different one for foreign nationals.
Wiretapping - concern is that we are not only a nation of laws,we are a federal system that has checks and balances within our system. There is always a potential within the system for abuse.
Allen: Guantanamo they are clearly following the spirit of Geneva. It is important that we are perceived as following the spirit of Geneva.
Question to Webb on outsourcing: I believe opposition to outsourcing is consistent with moving Virginia forward economically. Consistent with societal fairness. We're over the barrel with regard to outsourcing, particularly with regard to China. Strategic vulnerbality vis-a-vis China. China is financing a huge portion of our national debt. WTO - no provisions to protect American workers. If international laws were put in place, 70% differential would exist in our favor. Add 40% differential with overvalued currency. American worker has to compete with 100% differential. Corporate profits up, Americans losing their jobs.
Allen: China cheats. Currency, intellectual property. Need to enforce trade agreements. Lots of prodding to get this done. Noone is worse than China; you're right about their threat military. Can't put up barriers. We have to have educated work force, right tax policies. I want America to be the magnet for the best minds in the world. When I came in as governor, there wasn't a single semiconductor plant. Last year, #1 export from Virginia was semiconductors.
Webb: Corporations are encouraged to take money and keep it overseas due to tax loophole you voted twice against repealing.
Allen: I do support scientific research. H1-B visas vitally important to our tech sector in Virginia. For us to compete, we need to do it with more than 40% of our population.
I'm for stem cell research, but not the kind that destroys a human embryo. Dozens of diseases being treated with adult stem cells. I'm very much in favor of that research. Embryonic stem cell research - I don't think the Federal government ought to fund it. If California or the private sector wants to fund it, that's fine.
Webb: Allen supported it in '01, no longer supports it. Vast majority of scientific community supports it. I wouldn't want to replace my logic with theirs. This is an approach to serious medical deficiencies that can be put into place now. These embryos are already scheduled to be destroyed. Nancy Reagan, John Warner understand this.
Allen: Advance science without moral or ethical controversy. Private sector not prohibited from doing this. Science is wonderful; our knees will get regenerated in the future.
Question to Webb about Supreme Court: From the information that I had, I know I would have voted for Justice Roberts. I believe I would have supported filibuster against Alito, because there was not enough info on the table. Rush to get business done rather than carefully held considerations of all different aspects. I've gone through 2 confirmation hearings; these are extensive proceses. We've fallen into the rhetoric of character assassination, slash and burn campaigning and governing. Accusations of raw political motivation instead of sorting these things out. We need to show respect to Administrations of both parties. I do support Roe v. Wade but I don't have litmus tests.
Senatorial courtesy should take place when leadership of one party asks for more time to consider a candidate.
Allen: Confirmation of federal judges is critically important...preserving our values. Federal judges strike down the pledge of allegiance...say you can desecrate the flag. They define marriage, allow the Boy Scouts to be attacked, allow the government to take peoples' homes (New London). Amending the Bill of Rights by judicial decree. What is the person's judicial philosophy. Will they fairly adjudicate disputes? Need to look at individuals on their merits, not on partisanship. Roger Gregory.
Webb: Your so-called buddy Dick Cheney - bring him in to campaign for you. I refused to shake John Kerry's hand for 30 years. This is a party process. I will work with John Kerry, as well as Republicans like Chuck Hagel, John McCain...
Question to Allen on Bush Administration: I've agreed with President on a variety of issues (laughter by audience). You can all second guess. I disagree with the President on immigration reform We need a real fence, more detention capacity, stop-gap use of Guard forces. I very much disagree with President on this. I agree with the President on cutting taxes. I very much agree with the President on energy policy. Deep sea offshore Virginia exploration for natural gas. Biofuels. On most of the issues, we agree.
Webb: When 2 people agree with each other 97% of the time, one of them doesn't need a job. Allen received large campaign contributions from oil companies; supported tax breaks for those companies.
We need to regain control of our borders. Corporations' employment of illegals ia a big problem. We must return to the rule of law. We need to sort out illegals who are here in a way that is humane but also effective.
Driving down wages of people already here. We don't need guest workers.
Allen: With regard to Bush, it's easy to kick someone when they're down. We're going to use the acronym R2-D2 on you for changing your positions on illegal immmigration.
Webb: I'm a writer with 2 million words out there. I am an opposition researchers' dream when you can take this phrase and that phrase. I was a Democrat...my family believed in the principles of Andrew Jackson and FDR. I left the Democratic Party on issues of national security. Watching what happened after 9/11, an extremist fringe took over the Republican Party on foreign policy.
An administration that really works - the Reagan Administration. Ronald Reagan was a leader; set basic principles out. He was not someone who would have tolerated the slash and burn politicking the last few years.
I give the Clinton Admin. a great deal of credit on economic policy. My criticisms of the Clinton Administration were based on anger over Vietnam. That anger fell away after 9/11.
Allen: Reagan inspired me to get involved in politics. Reagan would come to Rams football practices. As Governor, I wanted to bring forth a renaissance like Reagan did. Strong national defense, strong economic security, high academic standards. Reagan was criticized for calling the Soviet Union the Evil Empire. Yet millions today are tasting the "sweet nectar of liberty."
Webb: Ronald Reagan didn't bring down the Soviet Union by invading Czechoslovakia. I have another Presidential hero - Andrew Jackson. Jackson's precept was that you measure the health of a society not at its apex but at its base. I think Ronald Reagan would be wondering what's happening to the average American worker today.
Allen: Thanks for this competition of ideas. Susan and I have worked for people of Virginia. This campaign should be positive and constructive. We do need to be unified to secure our freedom. We are facing challenges all around the world. Essential that Virginians and Americans stand strong for freedom. Allow Susan and me to keep working for you.
Webb: Thanks. It's been an experience to be up here with you. There are ideological and other differences; need to keep talking about issues. Ronald Reagan speech in 1964, right after he switched parties, we shouldn't have to choose between left and right. In America, weshould choose between up and down. The old labels of liberal and conservative no longer apply. Don't allow slick consultants to drive wedges between us. Not class warfare to say that economic differences are growing. I would like to see a Congress where people with independent spirit work to solve these problems together.
Lowell Feld is Netroots Coordinator for the Jim Webb for US Senate Campaign. The ideas expressed here belong to Lowell Feld alone, and do not necessarily represent those of Jim Webb, his advisors, staff, or supporters.
[UPDATE: From the Webb campaign...
Webb Wins First Debate Against Allen
(Hot Springs, VA)--Democratic candidate for U.S. Senate Jim Webb today proved without a doubt that he deserves to replace George Felix Allen and represent Virginia in the U.S. Senate. Jim Webb and George Allen faced each other in their first debate this morning in Hot Springs, VA.
"Today's debate only confirms that George Allen is not only bored representing everyday Virginians but he is tremendously out of touch with the issues they care about," said Webb spokesperson Kristian Denny Todd. "Jim Webb has proven he has the leadership, experience and background to effectively lead Virginia into a new era of government effectiveness and accountability."
Jim Webb and George Allen faced off in an a hour and a half long debate sponsored by the Virginia Bar Association at The Homestead in Bath County, VA.
"Today, we re-issue our challenge to George Allen to debate once a month until November," said Denny Todd. "We have many issues we want to discuss that are important to this country and to Virginia.
Today's debate will be posted in its entirety on www.webbforsenate.com later this weekend.