Last week’s debate between former Governors Tim Kaine (D) and George Allen (R), produced few fireworks, but demonstrated clear differences between the two candidates for the United States Senate. The debate was sponsored by the Fairfax County Chamber of Commerce, and conducted by NBC’s David Gregory, moderator of Meet the Press. The debate was televised live on NBC-4, giving curious gaps in the debate as time checks and a commercial break were required by the camera operators, unlike previous debates taped for later broadcast.
Governor Kaine began his remarks with an appeal to end congressional gridlock, grow the economy, and take a balanced approach to the federal budget, in both the short and long term. In answer to the moderator’s question, Kaine said that he deeply disagreed with what he called “condescending” remarks of Mitt Romney about Americans that receive some type of government assistance, reported a few days before. He said that the remarks were divisive at a time when we need to pull together. Governor/Senator Allen focused on job creation in his opening remarks. He said that the best social program of all is a job, a theme he reiterated throughout the debate. When asked the same question about Mitt Romney’s remarks, Allen refused to say whether he disagreed with the Republican presidential candidate.
In response to a question about sequestration, or the “fiscal cliff” facing us in January, Kaine outlined his specific plan: let the tax cuts expire, fix Medicare, and take away subsidies to the Big 5 oil companies. Allen said he would repeal and replace “Obamacare” as he called it, reduce the size of government, pass a balanced budget amendment, and create 500,000 jobs a year. He proposed reducing business taxes from 35 percent to 20 percent, and giving taxpayers the freedom to choose a flat tax instead of deductions and exclusions. In a clever retort, Kaine noted that Allen had “more sides than a Rubik’s cube.”
A same sex marriage question elicited a personal reflection when Kaine said he hoped everyone in a committed long-term relationship, gay or straight, would find the kind of emotional support from family and friends that he has with his wife, Anne Holton. Relationships should be equal, he said, but the true test is legal equality. Allen ducked the question, noting that he looked at capabilities and skills of people, and how they could have more job opportunities. Asked about a well-publicized verbal gaffe in the 2006 campaign, which he lost, Allen again didn’t answer the question, regrouping for another jobs message.
Allen was consistent on message – nearly every answer was about jobs, whether it was a jobs question or not. Kaine had thoughtful, intelligent responses, and demonstrated a keen grasp of the intellectual, policy, and political implications of each inquiry. In his closing statement, Allen said the choice was clear. I would agree. The choice is clear. Tim Kaine is the best candidate for the job.
Penny Gross is the Mason District Supervisor in the Fairfax County Board of Supervisors. She may be e-mailed at [email protected]