WFMZ-TV69's Business Matters on Tuesday. It included Democrat Susan Wild, Republican Marty Nothstein and Libertarian Tim Silfies. I nearly missed it because I was given directions to Coney Island in Scranton for some reason. I arrived just as the crew was getting the 175-person audience fired up to applaud wildly at the beginning of the show.
This was a show. That's my main problem with it. A few weeks ago, I listened to a Pa-7 Congressional forum at WDIY's "Lehigh Valley Discourse," i.e. Lehigh Valley Elitists. Now that's the worst show, not just at WDIY, but perhaps in all of radiodom. It is so bad that it has included disgusting guests like me. But when Alan Jennings hosted the three Congressional candidates, he let them provide detailed answers to well-considered questions. The result is that all three candidates sounded great. There were no gotcha' moments or pretend arguments.
This pattern continued at the CACLV annual luncheon, in which all three Congressional candidates were given ten minutes to explain what each would do to lessen poverty.
A debate format is different. A TV debate is one in which the candidates are more or less limited to sound bites and gotcha' moments. In a country and congressional district that is already incredibly divided, a debate can drive us further apart
What made things worse is that all three candidates were blinded by Tony Iannelli's socks.
I hope they recover.
Tony made a point, at the beginning of each segment, of complimenting the candidates for putting themselves out there. He also should have insisted on civility from the audience.
Throughout the debate, I was appalled to see Lehigh County Comm'r Amy Zannelli and two female friends cheer loudly just about every time Wild opened her mouth. They loudly booed Marty Nothstein a few times, too.
I came to this debate to hear the candidates, not Citizen Amy Zannelli and her mini-gang. If we really do care about civility in public dialogue, audience members should have the basic decency to let the contenders speak.
If I had to call this, I'd say none of them looked very good, but none of them looked very bad.
It's hard for me to buy into Wild's claim that her top priority would be campaign finance reform when most of her money comes from special interests in California, New York and Massachusetts. Nothstein said candidates should be limited to money from their district. That's the very point made eons ago by Democrat Russ Shade when he ran against Julie Harhart.
Last week, Nothstein issued a news release claiming he wants to be known as the education congressman, and will raise private funds for after school activities in Allentown. He failed to mention this even once during his debate. That was a missed opportunity.
Silfies constantly pointed out that the parties represented by Nothstein and Wild are dysfunctional and have led to gridlock. He's right, but did a poor job of explaining to Tony how he'd make a difference all by his lonesome. At one point, he actually claimed we need to be more that bipartisan. We should be nonpartisan. Then why the hell is he running as a Libertarian?
The zingers of the debate, at least for me, came when Wild was arguing she'd be great in Congress because, as a lawyer, "I have to work with a lot of very difficult people."
Nothstein responded, "We have a lot of lawyers in Washington now. It hasn't been working."
Wild came right back and said those lawyers are needed because "Congress makes laws."
They do, but they also appropriate money. A lot of it.
If I had a question, I'd ask Wild and Nothstein to state where they differ with their own parties. I'd ask Silfies to explain where he agrees with the mainstream parties.
(I took a lot of pics, but they are all terrible. So I leave you with Tony's sock.)