Let me kick off by saying that I've been away for awhile. It's been a busy semester, but I'm back because I just sat through the US 9th District Republican Primary debate sponsored by the Bedford Gazette and the Penn State Altoona Political Science Department. It was...I'd say there are no words, but there are. There are just...so many words.
To begin with, let me paint a scene for you. The debate took place at the auditorium of the Devorris Downtown Center in Altoona. This debate featured incumbent Congressman Bill Shuster and Tea Party Republicans Travis Schooley and Art Halvorson.
The debate began, as all do with the candidates taking two minutes each to introduce themselves. We began with Travis Schooley who rambled incoherently about how our country used to be so much better and he wanted to make a better country for his children. We then moved on to Rep. Shuster who said "I've got my family here...they're my biggest critics." No, Bill. They are definitely not your biggest critics. Then Bill goes on to brag about voting to defund or repeal "Obamacare" 50 times. Moving on, Art Halvorson was in the military, he knows some conservative platitudes and then my notes say "blah blah Bengazi blah blah Fast and Furious"...so that's how things kicked off and I think you'll agree it can only possibly get better from there.
Let's take all the questions in turn. Please know that I am paraphrasing the questions and that they were all very clear and well worded.
Question 1 - The Affordable Care Act has helped tons of people to have heath insurance, but you all don't like it. How would you replace it and what would you do about people with preexisting conditions?
Schooley - He rambles incoherently some more, moves off topic and then says that people should be able to buy their insurance on a market place. Hm...where have I heard that before? Insurance marketplace...nope. Not ringing any bells at all.
Shuster - He desperately wants to repeal the ACA and then claims that he has proposed an alternative to the ACA. Do you remember when that happened? I don't.
Halvorson - He disputes the numbers that the moderator used which came from the Congressional Budget Office. Halvorson said that the numbers just didn't sound right and basically said that he didn't believe them. He then said that, although the CBO has said that the ACA will shrink the budget deficit, that "Obamacare" was the biggest tax ever levied. If you can't understand why the two halves of the previous sentence went together then you can now understand my frame of mind listening to this crap. Oh but wait! Then Halvorson said that people should be able to buy their own insurance and choose whether they want a cheap insurance or a "Cadillac" type plan. Again...how could we possibly manage that?
At this point the moderator called bullshit, saying that neither Schooley nor Halvorson had actually answered his question. Schooley rambled again and Halvorson addressed the preexisting condition issue saying that insurance companies shouldn't have to cover people with preexisting conditions. The government should handle those people in a separate pool. Go ahead and soak that in for a minute.
Question 2 - The minimum wage, living on it is impossible. Would you raise it?
Schooley - Wait, I have to answer a question first again? That's not fair, I don't wanna.
Halvorson - He says that the minimum wage wasn't intended to be a living wage. He called it "reimbursement" and said that we need to "get the economy going".
Shuster - Basically, no. Again "get the economy going".
Schooley - He doesn't agree with raising the minimum wage because then prices of things would go up and we'd all have to pay. Let's "get the economy going".
Question 3 - Foreign policy. Should we be the world police or what?
Shuster - His buzz lines were "smart involvement" and then he quoted Reagan's "peace through strength" line. He also then said that China spends three times as much on their military as we do (noticeable pause) by GDP. Just, so we're clear, that was Bill Shuster using a really manipulative line to make people believe something patently false.
Schooley - I'm going to be really honest with you. This guy made Bill Shuster look like a genius. He was in the military and he thinks that we shouldn't be involved with the U.N.
Halvorson - Yes. Let's blow it all up.
Question 4 - Coal v. Natural Gas. Which do you support?
Schooley - Is apparently basically a geologist. He thinks that people need property protection because people can't possibly afford to accurately test their groundwater. Also the government should stop its war on coal.
Shuster - He wants to use all the resources. Although, let's keep using lots of coal. I mean, some people say it's not good for the environment but China and India are doing it so we might as well too.
Halvorson - If only Art Halvorson could go to Washington he would "shake things up" and tell Obama to get those gas prices under control (did this guy go to the Donald Trump school of running for political office?) He said that he hoped when Bill Shuster said he'd support all energy sources that he didn't mean wind power because as we all know wind power is totally dumb. Also, the Obama administration should give more permits for drilling on federal lands. ...wait...didn't we settle this six years ago with Sarah Palin? Oil companies aren't drilling on the federal land they're allowed to and until they do there is no point in giving them new permits. Does "conservative" mean they conserve their talking points for as long as possible? If Bengazi is any indication I'm guessing yes.
Question 5 - Student Loans: they're growing out of control, what do we do about it?
Halvorson - This man seriously thinks that it's too easy to get a student loan and that kids are living high on the hog on federal student loans. He thinks federal student loans are like the mortgage industry and they're ruining our economy because people are just getting student loans willy nilly even when they maybe shouldn't be in college. And sure, if you work and go to school that's okay, but some kids just take out more student loans instead of working.
Shuster - We need to fix the economy. Tuition is to high. His son is about to graduate college and already had a good job lined up? No, seriously. A Congressman's son has managed to find a job right out of college? You don't say. Maybe you don't want to go on about how you managed to scrape together the money to manage the skyrocketing cost of tuition...no you're gonna do that? Oh, okay.
Schooley - I just started to feel bad for him. He was so out of his depth it was really pretty sad.
Final Question - Abortion! Would you make exceptions for any of the following: rape, incest, life of the mother.
Shuster - He's 100% pro-life, except when he's not. He would make all of those exceptions. How very generous of him.
Schooley - He says if you're "viscously raped" then sure you should take precautions against getting pregnant or you know I guess then after that if you didn't go to the hospital right away like if you were "held in captivity" then maybe an abortion would be okay. I no longer felt bad for him.
Halvorson - Let me sum up Halvorsons point of view by telling you that he equated pregnancy from rape to unplanned pregnancy.
And now the wrap-up:
- Shuster talks about how great I-99 is.
- Halvorson blathers on about crony capitalism.
- Schooley's closing went something like this: middle class, America, country in jeopardy, freedom, George Orwell, surveillance, my ancestors fought in the American Revolution
I'm not really sure how to follow that except: wow. At least one spectator I heard felt that the questions weren't very Republican and that Bill Shuster got to rebut personal attacks too much. I guess maybe if Art Halvorson hadn't attacked him personally so often he wouldn't have had to have so much rebuttal. As a student of political science, this was a magical night. As a Democrat, it was a nightmare. Nevertheless, I felt it was important to pass on.