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Tuesday, September 14, 2010

Debate à Trois: Dent Answers, Callahan Evades, Towne Unrealistic

When I attended Friday night's LV Tea Party meeting in Palmer Township, what surprised me most were the 300+ other morons who skipped a night of high school football and bar-hopping to listen to - ugh - politics. Well last night, a similarly large crowd was on hand for the three-for-all among LV Congressional candidates at Lafayette's Oechsle Hall. Although an "overflow room" accommodated many of the people who simply were unable to squeeze into the auditorium, the video failed for all but the last 15 minutes of the debate. Amazingly, many of them stayed anyway for this exchange, sponsored by the LV League of Women Voters and the College Hill Neighborhood Association.

Thankfully, instead of subjecting hopefuls to irrelevant queries posed by some officious know-it-all, the LWV actually posed questions prepared by the vox populi. If the tenor of those questions is any indication of how other voters feel, Callahan is in trouble. Questions focused on items like the budget, tax cut extensions, bail outs and national debt. Callahan was asked whether he'd vote for Pelosi as Speaker. Candidates were even asked to explain "why Americans are so disaffected?" Obama was never mentioned. Only one question was posed about the situation in Iraq and Afghanistan, our forgotten war. Those were mostly Republican questions.

All three candidates seemed comfortable in this small room, and much of the tone was conversational instead of rhetorical. In fact, Congressman Dent was asked to speak up. He was clearly the best informed of the three, which is no surprise because he's the incumbent. He spoke off the cuff, rattling statistics with ease while Callahan looked at prepared notes and tried to answer every question with his five-point jobs plan. Dent embraced his controversial votes, while Callahan never addressed his own deficit problems in Bethlehem. One leads from the front. The other takes up the rear.

Despite looking like a mortician in search of a cadaver, independent Jake Towne was very well-informed ... I think. He sounded good, but his solutions are completely unworkable. For example, when asked about extending Bush tax cuts, Towne answered he'd just abolish the income tax. That's nice, but he's running for Congressman, not King.

Now I'm a Charlie Dent supporter, but I'll let you in on asecret. I expected him to lose tonight. Callahan is a smooth talkin; man. Dent, for all his brilliance, tends to talk too fast and goes into so much detail that he can and has lost people. But tonight, he was relaxed, spoke more slowly, and only sounded like a wonk once. He tagged Callahan when the Bethlehem Mayor ducked a question about Speaker Pelosi, and ripped into him pretty effectively over Bethlehem's $8.5 million budget deficit last year. Callahan, who kept falling back on his five-point jobs plan, really blew it at the end of the night, confusing different items on what he called a "real simple plan." I have a separate video of that above this post.

That might come back to haunt him.

Dent & Callahan Agree the Race is About Jobs
Dent: "The issue in this election is going to be jobs. Absolutely, jobs. The question is, who has the right approach to creating jobs. Do we want the policies that we've seen coming out of Washington, policies that he [referring to Callahan] supports? Stimulus, health care, that are taking us in the opposite direction? A stimulus plan that borrowed too much, spent too much, created too few jobs, promised an 8% unemployment rate that is now 10%? Health care laws that provide incentives for people to cut payroll ... ? Fundamentally, this is going to be about - do we want the private sector to drive this recovery or do we think that more federal spending, more government, will drive this recovery? And that is really the fundamental difference between myself and my principal opponent. ... "

Will Callahan Vote for Pelosi as Speaker?

Instead of answering, he plays dodgeball.

"I don't know who's going to be running for Speaker of the House when I'm elected to Congress."

Dent tags Callahan for ducking yet another question.

Dent: "That's the most important vote that's gonna' be put up in the new Congress. Who's going to be the next Speaker? That is the most important vote. And he wouldn't tell you how he's going to vote. I will tell you I will vote for John Boehner. ... That's a very critical vote. I think we've had enough of the Pelosi-led Congress. $4.4 trillion in base-line spending. That is simply outrageous. You vote for Nancy Pelosi, I guess that means you vote for card check, taking away the rights of workers. I guess it means you vote for Stimulus. It means health care. She's contributed money to your campaign. I mean, please, this is a very big deal. This is the biggest vote and my opponent has been refusing to take positions on some of the biggest issues of the day. I thought that was a softball question. There should be an answer. Yes or no, not this obfuscation. I think that's outrageous."

Callahan Hammers Dent Over Bailout Vote, Insisting Dent is a Tool of Wall Street

Callahan: "What you gotta' realize here is the bailout was bad enough, an $850 billion, no-strings attached, bailout. When it was $700 billion, I'm going to read a quote from Congressman Dent when it was $700 billion. He said, 'This bailout plan would have exposed taxpayers to a risk of $700 billion to buy toxic assets at inflated prices. Wall Street would benefit at the expense of the taxpayer, and that's not acceptable.' So if he felt that way about a $700 billion bailout, what made him vote for the $850 billion bailout? I don't know the answer to that. But what I do know is that Congressman Dent was part of the Congress that deregulated Wall Street, that led to the need for an $850 billion bailout, and then, every opportunity Congressman Dent has had to put any curbs, any kind of safeguards, and kind of transparency on how those TARP funds were spent, to curb CEO bonuses, millions of dollars of your taxpaying dollars, going to failed CEO bonuses, he said No to that. But he's also accepted over $300 thousand from Wall Street and banking interests. So perhaps that may have something to do with the $850 billion, no-strings attached, bailout."

Dent explains his vote in support of a bailout, a vote that incidentally was also cast by then Senator Barack Obama.

Dent: "You have to look at it this way. In September and October of 2008, our economy was on the brink. Many major financial institutions were on the brink. It was creating such a problem that people were calling me, running to their local community bank, pulling money out, because they were afraid of what they were reading about the major institutions. We had to stop the panic. The credit markets were contracting. It was creating very real issues for the economy and for real people, very real people. My opponent here - his campaign said he was for the troubled asset recovery program - this was 18 months after the law was enacted. Then he said he was for one version, then he was completely against it.

"Now, you have to make decisions, and I have to make them before the votes.

"The bottom line is the financial services infrastructure of this country was at risk. We could not allow runs on banks. We could not allow for that type of collapse.

"Look at it this way. If the electric infrastructure of this country were to fail, you would expect the utilities to restore power but you would also expect the federal government to step in because if we lose power, we're all out of business. Good operators. Bad operators.

"If people can't get money out of the bank with their ATM card, we're in big trouble.

"Bottom line is, that was a loan. That money is being repaid ... . Every last cent of that TARP should be used to pay down the deficit. My opponent has supported a second stimulus, or son of stimulus bill, that would take repaid ... monies and use it for stimulus. That is an enormous mistake. That money should be used as promised for deficit reduction."

Callahan can only smile while Dent talks about Bethlehem's budget woes.

Dent: "I'm glad we're being instructed by Mayor Callahan on deficits given the sad state of fiscal affairs in Bethlehem right now with an $8.5 million deficit that their auditors - their independent auditors - have revealed for all of us to see. It's so bad that one Democratic City Councilman has said this is a financial disaster. Don Cunningham has said the City is operating in the red and with 0 cash reserves. So I don't think we need to be instructed by the Mayor on how to fix the deficit given his mismanagement of the City's finances.

Towne was there, too.

It's hard for me to give Jake Towne much emphasis. He knows he'll be losing this race. His solutions are unrealistic. But it's hard to disagree with his closing remarks.

Towne: "Your parties have betrayed you. Your parties have lied to you. Your parties have let you all down."

Let's all jump off a bridge.

Dent claims Bethlehem Mayor John Callahan has been one of his supporters.

Dent: "One of the nicest compliments I received about my services is from John Callahan. He said, in 2005, 'Anyone who doesn't think a freshman Congressman can deliver for his district, has never meant Charlie Dent.' Thank you, John, I appreciate that."

Callahan: (as people laugh) "That was a long time ago." (More laughter).

Easton Mayor Sal Panto and Northampton County Exec John Stoffa were in the audience. Lehigh County Exec Don Cunningham was sweeping out the government center while Allentown Mayor Ed Pawloski was relaxing in his mancave with a nonalcoholic beverage.
Updated 11:00 AM - Coverage around the blogosphere. - There's Noel Jones, Chris Casey and Jon Geeting. I'm unsure whether Geeting was even at last night's debate. But he nevertheless calls Dent, who has agreed to five separate debates with Callahan, a "coward" because last night's affair only lasted an hour. That reminds me of the fight between King Arthur and the Black Knight in Monty Python and the Holy Grail. The Black Knight insists on figthing after both his arms are cut off. "Look, you stupid Bastard. You've got no arms left." That's pretty much what happened last night, while Geeting insists, "It's just a flesh wound."


Anonymous said...

Bernie O'Hare said:

"That might come back to haunt him (Callahan)."


You're right, at least for the small group that attended the debate or reads/hears about it.

Luckily, the other 99.9% of our voters will be blissfully ignorant.

Lehigh Valley Democrat Voter

Anonymous said...

I think either of these gentlemen would serve with honor. I personally cannot vote to return to the Bush-era policies that got us into this mess. And with that, I will vote to change our representation in Congress and vote for Callahan.

Anonymous said...

Callahan looked like an empty suit last night. Totally slimey on the Pelosi question. His foreign policy knowledge seems lacking, to say the least.

Anonymous said...

They learn. Think Dent knew anything when he was elected? At least Callahan has actually run a city.

Anonymous said...

I think saying you thought Callahan would win after the fact is kinda BS. If you do a pre-debate post and put out some expectations maybe that would fly, but lowering expectations after the fact for your boy Dent is pretty weak.

Bernie O'Hare said...

"At least Callahan has actually run a city."

I'm not sure running a city into the ground qualifies as running a City. Putting the City $8.5 million in the hole is pretty bad, especially when he can count on $5.3 million in casino revenue.

On a national level, we don't need guys who learn by making those kinds of mistakes.

Bernie O'Hare said...

"lowering expectations after the fact for your boy Dent is pretty weak."

If I had done a pre-debate post, then I would be lowering expectations.

I was pleasantly surprised last night bc Dent was relaxed, took his time answering, spoke off the cuff and had very detailed answers. He nailed Callahan effectively on Pelosi (1), Bethlehem finances (1)and even got a zinger in at the end about Callahan's 2005 support (1). Callahan, who kept referring to his 5-point jobs plan, mucked it up when he described it (1). I'd say he made a point against Dent on the bailout (1), but that was it. On points, I'd give it to Charlie 4-1. It was not that lopsided, but Charlie was clearly the winner. Had Callahan won, the gloaters would be here today.

Anonymous said...

11:19 - You might want to wake up and look around at other cities like Bethlehem and how they are doing in this awful recession. Bethlehem doesn't just skyrocket taxes like Easton or other so-called healthy cities do.

Bernie O'Hare said...

No, instead, Callahan steals EIT from Easton and the other cities so Bethlehem can still pay its bills. Callahan spends money borrowed for capital items like firetrucks and police cruisers, which then sit in a garage while Bethlehem pays its workers. Callahan misses a scheduled $2 MM payment for the workforce's opensions fund. he announces a hiring freeze, and then claims to have a jobs plan.

This guy does not belong in the office he holds, to say nothing of Congress.

Anonymous said...

I just wish Charlie and other republicans would emphasize that the bailout was because of Freddie and Fanny approvals for people that could not afford to pay. I would like to hear Callahan answer the results of that action.
Charlie excelled in the debate. Mr Towne should get out of race. His ideas may have some appeal, but they are simply rhetoric not actionable.
Mayor Callahan should be held accountable for the mess he has created in Bethlehem. Still "playing" at the Sand's Mr. Mayor.
Bob Romancheck

Anonymous said...

I know that Dent had international knowledge. He has a degree in those very areas and was a State Senator so I think he had some serious experience and knowdge.

You are right though Callahan is a mayor who ran a city into millions of dollars in debt! That is some expereince we don't need in Washington.

maverick said...

Bernie, Callahan is "slick?" he's been a feckless mayor- i thought he would have learned more from cunningham. his campaign is pathetic- he hid for months from important issues; underscored last night by his response to the pelosi question. I'd call this race by now, but i remember what happened a few years ago when the area's worst politician- your friend charlie- i mean charles, almost beat him.

Anonymous said...

Bernie O'Hare said:

"what surprised me most were the 300+ other morons who skipped a night of high school football and bar-hopping to listen to - ugh - politics."

The members of the Lehigh Valley TP group are far from morons... I take exception that you would think that they are. These are people who care about their country and the direction that it has taken. You once again, Bernie, show your ignorance.

Anonymous said...

So the big question is...will Charlie Dent push for tax cuts for those making > $250K better known as the Club for Growth....OR will he follow Callahans lead and support tax credits for small business who create jobs?

Conserviatives like you to think that every one that makes $250K is a small business owner that creates jobs, however that is not necessarily the case.

My solution is to let the tax breaks for those making >250K lapse and invest that money into small businesses who actually create jobs. That way if you happen to be one of the $250K'ers who creates jobs, you are rewarded.

People, lets not forget these tax breaks are borrowed money. It is a spending program that is not paid for. Lets get some real benefit for the investment

Bernie O'Hare said...

No that is not necessarly the case, but the fact remains that many of the small mom-and-pop shops have incomes in excess of $250k, and Callahan wants to roll back the Bush tax cut on small businesses like that. This could be a corner grocer, an auto mechanic, a baker.

Anonymous said...

All incumbents out. Dent was there for the disaster and voted for bailouts. He can't be trusted and has no clue about economics. All incumbents out.

Anonymous said...

@ 6:14 - So you are saying we should massively raise taxes on Small Businesses and then give tax breaks to small businesses? Definitely sounds like a Callahan economic plan.


Anonymous said...

My previous link appears to be broken. For a good article on the $250k Bush tax cut BS, read the article titled, "The Small Business Tax Hike and the 97% Fallacy" from the Wall Street Journal. Very interesting.

eckville press said...

So Callahan would rather have seen the banks and wall street fail?

Well there goes the public funded pension fund.

Anonymous said...

"Luckily, the other 99.9% of our voters will be blissfully ignorant.

Lehigh Valley Democrat Voter"

Well, I guess you have to know your constituents.

Anonymous said...

O'Hare 6:29 and Anonymous 6:55.

Nice twist. You both want to conclude that every one that makes more the $250K is a small business owner that creates jobs.

I say lets make sure the tax incentives and financing go to true small business for the purpose of creating jobs.

Let's not give another Charlie-horse to the taxpayer by reward CEOs who got >$250K in bonuses from the same failed institutions that took taxpayer funded TARP money.

Bernie O'Hare said...

I'm not saying that at all. Nor am I saying that every person who makes over $250k is some fatcat. As things stand,the Obama administration is disincentivizing small business from creating more jobs. They are going to be burdened by higher health care costs, more paperwork, hidden taxes, and now, higher taxes. That's why this is, in my opinion, a follish idea at this time. If the economy were going gangbusters, I'd have a different attitude.

Anonymous said...

1128, Thanks for your civil comments. I think we both agree we want the money to go to job creation, especially if it is borrowed money. People seem to forget the Bush tax cuts were not matched with budget cuts and a substantial part of our current deficit is a result of the unpaid tax cuts.

As for healthcare, our costs have gone up year after year for as long as I can remember. The pros and cons of Obama healthcare reform will not be seen for a few more years.

It does not pay to get sick unless of course you are going golfing.

noel jones said...

Bernie, I would rate the contest at 3-2-1 Dent/Callahan/Towne, rather than your 4-1 Dent/Callahan--here's why:

I look at these contests in two ways: 1) points made, and 2) ease of points made. On #2 Dent was the clear winner--he was smooth and natural in his delivery, quick at thinking on his feet--especially when on the defensive (Callahan came out swinging from the beginning, during opening comments), he (Dent) seemed to rebut naturally, off the cuff, but most of all he was able to maintain eye contact with the audience and not consult notes. He made it look easy, while still somehow managing to come across as humble. That's an expert--I was impressed, having never seen him speak live before.

But when it comes to #1 (points made), you left out a key point that Callahan made about Dent's record, and one that Americans need to be paying very close attention to--Dent voted against the bill proposed recently by Democrats designed to close the tax loophole for corporations sending jobs overseas and give that tax break instead to American businesses at home who hire Americans going forward. Republicans have skated by for a very long time self-defining as the pro-business party--and the pro-tax cut party--when what is actually happening in Congress LATELY is that Democrats are proposing to close tax loopholes for outsourcing and give tax incentives to small businesses (and large businesses at home who hire Americans). I watched this whole thing go down on CSPAN and couldn't believe my eyes. Each time a Republican got up to speak, he obfuscated by saying, "this is no time to be raising taxes on Americans during a down economy!" Very, very, savvy sound bite work. The Democrats need to get much better at their sound bite offerings. They (cont.)

noel jones said...

get out-played almost every time. Regardless what really happened in that room (on CSPAN), all the average American heard that night on the news from Republicans was "this is no time to be raising taxes!" making them seem like they are still the pro-small business entrepreneur party, when they are really representing their corporate supporters and driving small business out of the competition. Dent's answer last night to this charge was even more obfuscation, saying something along the lines of "we can't ask companies to create jobs and then tax them so that they can't"--this makes no sense considering the jobs in question on this bill are all OVERSEAS. Deliberate obfuscation. Obfuscation is my pet-peeve.

On almost all other questions, though, Dent answered directly--which I respect--because even if I disagree (the idea of Boehner as Speaker of the House is enough to make me want to find the highest bridge and jump) it's nice to know exactly where a candidate stands. I did dodge the Pelosi question (the favorite ammo of Republicans right now) but I was even more disappointed that he hedged on the hydrofracking question. The question was are you or are you not in favor of a MORATORIUM on hydraulic fracturing for natural gas while environmental studies can be completed to determine safety standards for our drinking water? Callahan did not answer the question. Dent didn't either, although he did at least use the word "moratorium" in his answer, when he said that he is very disturbed about the moratorium in the Gulf--which pretty much tells us where he stands.

In the end, it was only Jake Towne that answered every question earnestly and directly (he supports a moratorium while studies are completed). Of course, he had the least to lose politically (and everything to gain by finally being given a forum), which makes it easier to be honest. Regardless of whether some of his solutions seemed far-fetched or loose in their logic, he was the most intriguing candidate by far for the audience, simply by virtue of the fact that he says what he really thinks without hedging, and as you mentioned, his closing statement captures the way a lot of Americans are feeling--that both parties have failed this country. Many people that I spoke to after the forum found him refreshing and thought-provoking, and most of the conversation revolved around his statements, rather than the political play of Dent vs. Callahan. I'm not sure though, whether that will translate into votes for the Independent or not, as most generally get scared of voting for a "spoiler" in a close election.

The other day I flipped on the TV and caught Jim Carey in "Liar, Liar"--the movie where he is a lawyer and a chronic liar, and his young son gets his birthday wish that his dad can't lie for a day. I couldn't help thinking it would be so great if that kid could make the same wish about all our candidates nationwide as they head into the general election this November. Jim Carey is one of a kind, but there would be some comic relief to this campaign season for sure!

Bernie O'Hare said...

Noel, Excellent analysis. Your report on your own blog today was the best I read, including my own.

The debate was closer than my 4-1 score. I'd say on most questions they tied. So the score on 12 questions is actually something like 16-13. But I like your rating system, too. And you were there, with your inhaler!! I'm sorry I missed you.

Anonymous said...

underscored last night by his response to the pelosi question

The only people that care about Nancy Pelosi in this race are those who would never vote for a Democrat to begin with. Stop.

Anonymous said...

"The only people that care about Nancy Pelosi in this race are those who would never vote for a Democrat to begin with."

Callahan was obviously VERY concerned about Pelosi when he babbled on trying to avoid answering the question. If your premise is true, why didnt he say he would vote for her?

Anonymous said...

He said he didn't know who would be running. Perhaps he'd prefer a different Speaker and didn't want to be disrespectful?

Pelosi has been extremely effective as Speaker. Anyone who follows the House closely knows this. That's why Repubs hate her so much (well and they generally have a problem with women in authority roles, but I digress.). Most of the Dems are ambivalent.

Anonymous said...

"He said he didn't know who would be running."

I call BS on this. He didnt want to say the sentence, "I will support Nancy Pelosi as Speaker." If she was so effective, and Dems are ambivalent, then why wouldnt he say that he supports her?

Anonymous said...

Why should he blow the Repub dog whistle?

Anonymous said...

"Why should he blow the Repub dog whistle?"

You mean, why wouldnt he answer a question posed by someone in the audience? I thought that was the purpose of the debate. If he didnt plan on answering questions, why does Callahan continue to whine about debate time and numbers?

noel jones said...

Bernie, thanks for the compliment, however your analysis is complete with actual flip cam footage--far more complete than my cliff notes, and I ran out of the house without my camera--still waiting for a photographer friend to send me a photo from the event, so until then, the three cowboys image will stay!