A Wasted Evening
Seeing Bob Turner and David Weprin in debate is one of those rare exercises in democracy which subtracts from the sum total of the world’s knowledge.
I’ve already posted my post-debate thought piece on Weprin, and will finish my Turner piece as soon as the headache he causes me each time I think of him subsides.
Meanwhile, a few stray observations about what, besides the candidates themselves, made last night’s debate such an especially empty experience.
The Manhattan Beach Civic Association’s format, with seemingly unscreened and often ridiculous or irrelevant questions (does anyone care about a Boeing plant in South Carolina?) read off index cards by a sing-songy school-marmish moderator who could often not to be heard, and who frequently posed questions only to one candidate and not the other (and cut off attempts by the other candidate to use their time to respond), was not a conducive learning atmosphere.
This was not helped by the audience. If one subtracted the event organizers, the press, the certifiably insane and the partisans brought in by each side (including one Turner campaign thug who earlier had tried to break up Weprin press conference), one could have not achieved a minyan in the room, even using Reform standards.
The low point came at the end, courtesy of Yussel Numbnuts, AKA Joel Garson, the Fredo of the Garson Crime Family.
Though not a debate organizer, Garson, who publishes a “newspaper” in Gerritsen Beach (he may be the only man alive to have written more articles than he’s read) and whose wife works for Marty Golden, is arguably a member of three of the other four categories which comprised most of the audience.
When the scheduled time for end of the debate came, Garson stood up and furiously shouted that the question he submitted (which seemed to involve some incoherent conspiracy theory) he not been asked. When told the debate was over, he screamed about “censorship,” which seemed a more apt description of the moderator’s stopping the candidates from responding to attacks made by the other.
The principal of the school where the debate was being held came up to Garson, holding his arm, looking like nothing so much as the head of a sanitarium trying to calm a lunatic while orderlies snuck up on him and fitted him with a straightjacket.
In a way though, it’s hard to blame Joel, since we did have to endure the two stiffs on stage delivering the most pedestrian answers possible to who their heroes were (both said daddy, which in Weprin’s case was at least a public figure), what movies they best liked (Turner’s Casablanca easily beating Weprin’s Gone With the Wind), favorite leisure activities (nothing of interest), and what they were proudest of (someone with a wicked sense of humor shouted “Jerry, Jerry!” at Turner, who, to his credit, broke up).
No one threw a changeup, say by following up an avoided answer, or by asking Turner how far from Ground Zero was far enough or whether he opposed the proposed mosque in Sheepshead Bay.
Both candidates were allowed to spew their pre-chewed and unenlightening talking points without follow-up, so that Weprin could proclaim himself opposed to the Medicare cost saving in Health Care Reform, and Turner could support more infrastructure spending (while cutting the budget 35% without increasing taxes, or touching Social Security, Medicare or Medicaid) without anyone calling foul.
The worst part of the night might have been foreign policy.
A question about the Arab Spring found Weprin posturing about more cooperation with Israeli intelligence (which clearly seems to be strong and ongoing already).
Though it is clear from other contexts that Weprin supports a quick end to both wars, but is no McGovernite left-isolationist, one would not have learned anything about his positions on defense and foreign policy, outside of Israel, from last night’s debate. In fact, he was not even asked to answer a question on military spending and foreign aid posed to Turner.
Meanwhile, in an age when Republicans are rapidly turning into Buchananite isolationists, Turner revealed himself instead to be a hardline neo-con, albeit a not very well informed one, going on a rant about supporting democratic forces against the Muslim Brotherhood that ignored the fact that they are sometimes allies of convenience, and sometimes hard to discern from one another.
Turner quickly changed the subject when asked about whether military or foreign aid spending should be cut back for budgetary reasons, but made clear he thought we must spend what was necessary, and by his other answers made clear that his view of necessary was expansive. It seemed clear that after 35% was cut and Social Security, Medicare, Medicaid, defense and foreign aid taken care of at Turner’s preferred levels, there wouldn’t be much (if anything), left for infrastructure or anything else.
Turner seemed to be calling for action, whenever, wherever, criticizing the administration’s lack of support for Iran’s Green revolution, as if foreign policy and defense decisions were strictly a matter of right or wrong, without any regard for whether our resources would better be deployed primarily in the service of achievable goals.
Turner lives in some sort of black and white alternative reality, calling for more action in more places, screaming about the administration’s inaction anywhere, seemingly unaware that the Obama administration that had just helped overthrow a Libyan despot.
At one point, Turner rhetorically asked, in reference to the Islamic world, what the administration had been doing.
I could no longer hold back. “We’ve been killing Bin Laden” I shouted.
"That was Good," Turner replied.
But the debate surely was not.
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