This photo is from the Sierra Vista Herald's article
about Monday evening's debate. They didn't look much different tonight, I promise.
Tucson voters got to watch Gabrielle Giffords, Randy Graf, and David Nolan square off again this evening in number four of the six scheduled debates. The Temple prepared for a crowd of 260 and got it, almost every seat full. Nolan showed up first virtually unnoticed. When Giffords walked to the front of the room at 7:20, her supporters clapped and cheered, but remained seated, and five minutes later as Randy came forward, his folks made sure their ruckus was louder, predictably prompting Rabbi Cohon to admonish the crowd on behavior for "those who wish to remain in the room."
Before getting to the debate, must comment on the Temple’s requirement that folks surrender all buttons and campaign materials upon entering the room. This task required some effort, and must comment on one woman, the one with the bright red GOP cowboy hat, a hat that caused event staff considerable angst, first insisting that it come off, then requesting that the campaign button come off the hat, and I’m telling you, this woman was into her hat. I noticed she had Graf and Kyl stickers stuck to the INSIDE of the hat, so they could press against her head while she had it on.
At one point Rabbi Cohen looked at the hat, now de-buttoned but still adorned with glittering flag pins and a gold pin that I swear looked like the confederate flag, looked at the woman, and decided to choose his battles. The hat stayed on.
When the debate was over and the general mayhem of the crowd’s disbursement began, GOP cowboy hat woman went to the back tables, promptly decked herself out with stickers galore, grabbed a sign for Graf, and trounced right back into the room, holding the sign high.
The Temple had made a simple request, and of course this is not about Randy. I will say, however, that some of the people who support him are, well, different.
Giffords wasted no time cutting into Graf by including in her opening statement the mention of his vote against a bipartisan bill she supported regarding survivors of the holocaust (remember we are in a synagogue). Graf went next and used this as launch point to declare "You are going to hear a lot of false assertions from my opponent tonight" and listed several likely hits (e.g. stem cell research) as if to inoculate himself against the future blows. He then hit back with his list (see his flyer—the stuff about prayer, aliens, amnesty, and a shocker, that she was somehow soft on sex offenders(?)). In a preview of coming attractions, David Nolan then stood, "So those two are going to end partisan bickering in Washington!"
The sparring continued with Iraq and Healthcare. Giffords returned fire to Graf’s earlier hits on her record, reframing that she is pro-choice, supports separation of church and state, and probably provoked by his sex offender language, she played the card on his prior manager, a convicted sex offender. The Graf crowd was not pleased and made the corresponding sounds. I couldn’t catch it, but with his next opportunity to speak, Graf ended with a hit, I believe about the reference to his prior Christian camp teenager molesting manager, as a cheap shot based on a blog.
The sparks continued with Giffords to Graf, clear that he was next to speak, "Please point out in my record where I have supported cutting social security benefits." He nodded and said he would, and when the mike transferred to his control he pointed to the raising of the age as a cut in benefits.
I have no clue about this one in terms of her record or position.
It is around this point that the energy started to shift from the sparks to the zingers, with David Nolan’s fabulous distinction of the "Wonderful X."
Something is wonderful. Call it X. X is wonderful. X is great. Therefore, we should federalize it, in which case we will 1) slow it down, 2) make it expensive, and 3) turn it into a political football.
In the context of Medicare Part D and the football, Nolan wrapped the room around his mike with, "Of course the pharmaceutical companies got their fingers into the pie, why wouldn’t they?"
The distinction "political football" would gain traction for the rest of the evening. Like "cut and run" last week, Nolan ridiculed "No Child Left Behind" as another cute phrase to kick around, "Why don’t we call it, ‘No kid left alone and unmeddled with?’"
Nolan zingered further and captured the Rabbi himself during the discussion of gay marriage, another political football
, noting that "if two people, or more than two people
want to engage in a committed relationship, what business is this of the federal government?"
More than two people? Even the Rabbi could not resist, "And who said politics was dull?"
The libertarian Nolan had the freedom to operate outside certain constraints, and tonight more than any night I saw him use this freedom, blasting Bush and the republican party as being the most irresponsible spenders in perhaps the history of the country, blasting the war in Iraq, while also having the freedom to assault government support of many programs Giffords favors, including stem cell research, the Department of Education, promoting of alternative energy sources, and others.
Graf’s seemingly blind acceptance of the Bush/Cheney/Rumsfeld view of Iraq and the war on terror, and his utter dismissal of global warming appalled at least half the room. More shocking was Nolan’s dismissal of global warming as the "Easter Bunny."
My jaw damn near broke on the floor. How in the world can a guy as intelligent as David Nolan not get global warming? What does it take? The distinguished scientists and experts, the data in many forms including numbers, countless photos, and what do you call entire chunks of Antarctica melting?
Nolan affirmed the concerns of some of us bloggers that the Bush administration’s suspension of habeas corpus has pushed us dangerously close to a "pascal fascism" and that we are to be afraid, very afraid, as we drift perilously close to a totalitarian regime.At the end of this thing, I assert not one single vote changed.
As Graf spoke, you could feel the Giffords camp tank south of south, appalled and shaking heads. As Giffords spoke, ditto from his team. Nolan got to entertain, but occasionally slipped.
I honestly cannot understand the blindness that continues to exist regarding the need for an energy strategy that addresses globalization and global warming, for education and workforce development programs that understand the knowledge economy and what it is going to take to have prosperity for the majority of Americans.Graf lacks global awareness.
Nolan is smarter, but there is an academic purity that will not translate to pragmatic progress. Giffords is demonstrating a long term and far reaching perspective, and while we may take issue with this particular view or that, she is the only candidate for Arizona Congressional District 8 that appears to be grasping the SCOPE of what Washington really needs to start considering.