Thursday, May 10, 2007

Elendil’s Journal Analyzes Debate

Fortunately, this debate will only be an hour in length. That will make the whole process much more tolerable than the two hour debacle that the first Democratic debate was. So here comes the opening statements.

Harper - He opens up by talking about leadership and where the state is heading. He has signed a no tax pledge and is for smaller government. Ok he said he signed the no tax pledge twice. That was weird.

Northup - She is opening talking about the main issue four years ago was ethics reform. (Ok, I don't remember that but it might have been) Now she has saying the Fletcher hasn't lived up to his promise and she could change the culture. (Nice attack right out of the gate)

Fletcher - He remembers four years ago when the state had deficits, prisoners were being released early, and elderly were booted out of nursing homes. Now the deficits are gone, a record funding of education, innovative ideas to stabilize medicare, and built more roads in Kentucky. Fletcher equates leadership with results as he points to his accomplishments. (What a strong opening. He did a good job rebutting Northup.) Ok, now to the first question by a Courier Reporter.

Q1 - Did you are did you not sign a no new taxes pledge and if so why or why not? (Good solid question) Harper signed it and said we don't need more revenue, but we need to re-prioritize spending so we can grow the economy and generate more revenue. (Good answer, but I get the feeling he doesn't belong on this stage) Northup says she isn't going to let some small group dictate policy in Kentucky. (Nice slam on a conservative group - Lame) She then goes on to say that she has a long record of not voting for tax increases. (True, I don't remember her voting for a tax increase while in Congress)

Fletcher says while he hasn't signed it this time, he signed it last time and has lived up to his pledge. He says he has lowered taxes for nearly everyone and hasn't raised taxes. His modernization plan was more business friendly. Thus he plans to continue not raising taxes. He believes lower taxes stimulate the economy. (At this point it seems Fletcher has a good grasp of all of the issues. More so than any other candidate. As to the fact that he didn't raise taxes. That is hard to say for sure. He has lowered taxes for many, but others are paying for it. I know my small business hasn't had any rate changes. The only increase we saw was an increase in the yearly filing fee by like $50)

Harper says that business taxes collected are at an all time high. (Is that from growth or higher taxes. Really hard to say, but a nice attack) Northup goes on to bash the AMT and laughs at the idea that Fletcher didn't raise taxes. didn't her running mate support the AMT when it was introduced) Ouch, Fletcher stings Northup by saying that Northup voted for the largest tax increase in state history when she was a state legislature (Good point). Fletcher maintains that the AMT is business friendly. (Ok, that might be a stretch. I don't know about business friendly, but it isn't the catastrophe that Northup and Harper are saying it is)

Question 2 comes from the Lexington Herald guy. He starts by talking about how Northup supported Bush while in congress. Then he asks, how can a Republican in a primarily Democratic state hope to get the Democratic votes necessary to win. (Ok, who is this person? This has to be one of the dumbest questions I have ever heard. Way to waste my time by asking a totally imbecilic question. How did McConnell, Bunning, and Fletcher all win? How did he get to ask questions? A first grader could have come up with a better question. Also a nice editorial about Northup. Geesh) Northup says that Democrats in this state tend to be conservative (no duh. I feel sorry for these candidates having to answer such an obvious and stupid question) and will give Republicans a chance if they have a strong ethical leader (I guess that is going to be her mantra for the night. Northup is doing well although I don't think she does well as a public speaker in general.)

Fletcher talks about Dems and Republicans have the same concerns and then goes on his mantra that leadership == results and he list his results, surplus, increased educational funding, single digit cost increases in health care, new roads, more broadband. (Ok, we got Fletcher's mantra. I could probably stop watching now, but I will continue onward. I do like the way Fletcher handles himself. He seems confident and sure of himself. He is the best speaker on the stage)

Harper now is droning on about people not liking to pay taxes and how he is going to repeal the AMT and spend the money wisely. (I guess this is going to be his mantra - taxes and spending. Seems almost as if he is a single issue candidate. He looks stiff up there and is sticking out like a soar thumb compared to Northup and Fletcher) Follow up question from the journalistic hack. "Has Fletcher exaggerated his accomplishments?" ( Nice question. Give me a break. I don't think I could have come up with a more loaded question if I tried.)

At this point I have to give Fletcher some credit. He just took a slam against him and turned it around by quoting the Herald Leader about the deficits he faced when taking office. Touche! Gee, I wonder what Northup and Harper are going to say. Surprise! Northup thinks Fletcher has embellished his record. Now Harper is going off on some tangent about borrowing to spend and how we need a balanced budget. (Where did that come from? Why is he here?)

Question 3 (back to the reasonable CJ guy) - Should the state change ethics to cover personal gifts? (What is this question. It seems out of place) Fletcher clarifies the question by saying that the journalist is refering to Fletcher's Legal Defense Fund. Fletcher says he has followed the law, but won't release the names because he doesn't want them to suffer retribution from an out of control AG (Although I believe the AG is to lazy to act, I wouldn't put it passed him) He then claims he has been open beyond the law with other things like his tax returns. He challenges his opponents to open their tax returns.

Harper doesn't see the need for more ethics laws. He thinks the current ones should be enforced. Now he is talking about those who get state contracts shouldn't be allowed to donate to campaigns (Um, Harper - ever heard of the 1st amendment?) Northup comes out swinging again. Ug, she is talking about changing the culture. We need stronger ethics, blah blah blah. Fletcher responds by saying they have responded to more open records request than any other administration and he will continue to follow the law. But he won't release the Legal Defense Fund contributors until after Stumbo leaves the AG office.

Harper believes he should release the list. Northup does as well and then adds on that we can do better. It is time for a fresh start. (I have a new drinking game. While watching a debate you should take a drink every time a candidate states their mantra for the night. Between these three, I would be feeling pretty tipsy right now. Plus you would have the added bonus of being drunk while watching it)

Oh great we are back to the Lex Herald guy who asked the dumb question last time. No way, he asked a dumber and more meaningless question than last time if that is possible. Let me try to paraphrase because the question was so imbecilic that I forgot it. "Fletcher talked about intelligent design in the classroom in his state of the union speech. Do you think it belongs in the classroom?" (Why is the question of "Intelligent Design" in this debate?) Harper is lost on this question. He is stumbling around for an answer and says that it is a local decision. Northup says that it is another theory and should be left to the local school systems to decide. She then attacks the governor for not focusing on math and science instead of intelligent design.

Fletcher stumbles pointing out that he has taken more science than anyone in the room (Who cares and what is the point?I am sure he was still searching for an answer to such a stupid question) He quickly recovers and talks creation and Gods plan provides self evident truths and that many of the beliefs form the basic tenets of democracy. Thus they should be taught along with Darwinism. Plus he isn't mandating it, he just wants schools to look at it. (I didn't do it justice, but this was the best answer from anyone in the debate so far) Northup responds with yet more attacks and says we should focus more on math and science.

Fletcher notes that his wife Glenna has been working on literacy rates and has recently focused on Math and Science skills and setting up programs to help students to do better in those areas. Northup says we need to overhaul testing and we have lacked leadership in this area. (yeah, more attacks - drink) Fletcher comes back with the endorsement from the Jefferson County teacher's union. He then goes on to list the stuff he did. (I must say, Fletcher seems to have a great command of all of the issues. Oh yeah, drink)

Question 5 - ok, we are bound to be back to better questions. "Do you see cuts in benefits for future state workers?". Way to frame the question in the worst possible light. No editorializing here. Northup starts off by talking about securing the current and previous workers pension plan. Then she talks about how that is going to take 240 years under the current plan. (She lost me on that one. No one currently working for government will be alive then.) More attacks! Saying Fletcher hasn't done anything about it(drink) Now she is talking about modernization of the plan where everyone gets a private account they can fund and it is their money. ( This sounds similar to the senate's plan)

Fletcher reiterates the need to protect current and retired workers while addressing future concerns. He talks about how he has already set aside funds for current and retired pensioners and has set up a committee to look at the best way to address this issue for future workers. He is going to wait on that until he decides (Nice duck on the issue. I am waiting to hear back from the panel. Bah, you have an idea what they are going to say or at least come up with some ideas of your own. Don't kick the can.)

Harper says it shouldn't have happened (Thank you captain obvious, but it has happened). He thinks government workers should have a similar system to private industry. Northup thinks the retirement should be in private hands. That way it is a better guarantee. (Good point) Now she is talking about need for new leadership again (drink).

Fletcher goes off and talks about how self insuring the state has saved millions of dollars. And that came from a blue ribbon commission so he is going to wait and see what this panel comes up with before he backs a solution (duck, duck, goose) Ok, now the CJ guy is giving the LH guy a run for his money on loaded questions. "Governor, are you campaigning on the public's dime?" Nice question. Geesh, they should get bloggers from around the state to come in and ask the questions. Heck I could have come up with a zillion better questions than these hacks.

Fletcher declares he is not going to stop being governor now that he is campaigning. He continues to talk about what he has done as governor(drink). Harper doesn't see the need to hand out checks to local governments (huh? he has now completely lost me)

Northup goes on the attack again accusing Fletcher of using bonds to blacktop the state, photo ops, fund raisers (drink, drink, drink) Fletcher claims it is efficiency in traveling uh, why not do both at one time. How else can you travel to all of the counties in the state. This seems to me to be the most bogus wrap against Fletcher of any of them. I would do the same thing if I was in his shoes. It is just good time management!)

Harper responds with something. (I have no idea what he said. Is this debate almost over?) I wonder how Northup is going to handle this question. I would be shocked if she went negative. Well what do you know. I am shocked. Northup talks about congress and the delineation between congressional duties and campaign events. (Ok, but Governorships are executive while congressional are legislative. It seems to me that the congressional lines are a wee bit clearer than executive. This is a lame comparison). She then talks about a need for someone ethical in the Governor's mansion (drink).

Ahh, thankfully the closing! Fletcher is once again talking about how leadership == results (drink), and he is once again listing his accomplishments (drink). Northup is a mother of six and she can bring a new honest culture to Frankfort (drink). Hey what do you now more attacks (drink). Ok, that is the funniest thing I have heard all night. I actually laughed out loud when Northup claimed her campaign was full of optimism. If I had been drinking anything at that moment it would have come out of my nose.

Harper is closing the debate, and I don't care enough to write anything about it but it has something to do with AMT and such (drink). If I were to grade this debate, I would have to say that Fletcher won it. He was under constant attack, and he did a good job defending himself and remained positive throughout. His demeanor was good and was the best spoken of the candidates. I do think Northup did very well, she made her points while pressing the attack and came across as a credible candidate. She just isn't a good public speaker. Harper on the other hand finished a distant third. He just insn't in the same league as either Northup or Fletcher.

What have I learned from the debate? Never ask main stream journalists to ask questions at a Republican debate. I also learned a new drinking game that is bound to get you drunk. Other than that, I gained no new information from the candidates and nothing that will change the direction of this campaign. Bottom line is Harper doesn't really belong, Northup is still negative, and Fletcher is still talking about his accomplishments. Nothing new here, move along now.

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