Thursday, October 16, 2008

PCN Replay of 8th District Debate at Bristol Riverside Theater

Someone emailed to let me know that yesterday's 8th congressional district debate, with Thomas Lingenfelter, Tom Manion, and Patrick Murphy, was being replayed on PCN. The debate was sponsored by the Bucks County Courier Times and the Doylestown Intelligencer (the phillyburbs people). It was held at the Bristol Riverside Theater.

The liveliest part of the debate came in the closing statements. If you want issues go through the whole thing. If you want drama, skip to the end.

As always, keep in mind that I am typing while watching and this is not intended to be, and not represented as, a complete or accurate transcript. It is the rough notes of what I could catch as the candidates talked. If you have any questions about anything that was said, please contact the relevant campaigns for clarification. Apologies in advance for any errors or misconceptions.

Dale Larson, publisher of the Bucks county Courier Times, introduces the debate. Thanks Susan Atkinson of the Bristol Riverside Theater. Guy Petroziello will be the moderator. Lanny Morgnanesi, of the Intelligencer, and Gary Weckselblatt, political reporter for both papers, will ask questions. Thanks PCN. Paper will be publishing endorsement. A separate decision from daily reporting. Invite people to send letters to the editor. Timekeeper is executive editor Patricia Walker.

Incumbent Democrat Patrick Murphy (red striped tie),
Republican Tom Manion (yellow tie)
Independent Thomas Lingenfelter (yellow tie)

Format: 2 minute opening statements, questions 90 second responses, 45-60 second rebuttal. 2 minute closing statements.

Opening Statements

TL: I believe personal freedom is the top priority. Anything else is bad government. decrease taxes and spending. Fair trade not free trade. Enforce immigration laws. Personal freedom. Government overly intrusive in personal lives. Government should prevent problems not cause them. Education should be local. Abolish income tax. Government too intrusive in other countries’ governments. Preparing for war is the best assurance of peace. Right to bear arms. Freedom implies responsibility.

PM: Thanks everyone. [Gives boundaries of district.] I live down the street. I went to Bucks County Community College, Kings College, earned a law degree, joined the Judge Adjutant Generals Corp in the Army, rose through ranks to become a professor at West Point. When 9/11 happened I volunteered and was deployed twice for our county, Bosnia under Petraeus, later to Baghdad part of 82nd Airborne. 19 men in my unit did not come home. Two years ago I stood here and said I would fight for district, vote my conscience. Military fighting two wars. No challenge we cannot meet if we work together. Worked in bipartisan fashion.

TM: Thanks everyone. Challenges facing nation. Election will impact us, our children and our grandchildren. Grew up in Philly area, went to Widener. 19 years in Marines, 11 in Reserves. Worked at Johnson & Johnson for 18 years. Daughter lives in the community. Son Travis did two tours of Iraq and gave his life. He’s my inspiration. Leadership in DC is broken. Deserve more than they are getting. Try to make a different. Infuse something besides politics as usual. Anxious to be here and share my views. Hoping you decide in Nov. where we will take our county.

Q: policy position on current fix on fiscal crisis, do you support current fix, ensure accountability.

TL: No one can seem to answer that question. Must understand what is the problem. Budget is out of control. Cut taxes and spending, that will be a great stimulus. The two political parties have put us in this fix and now we are asking them to solve the problem. First they will cover up what they did and blame someone else. Would not have voted for the first or second plan. Already changes on second plan. Must understand the problem first.

PM: Economy in crisis. We have a struggling economy and are a nation at war and a nation in debt. Three pieces of legislation that Bush and Paulson put forward. I support the last one and did not like having to support it. The provisions I fought for were in the legislation. Taxpayers would become equity taxpayers. Make sure this would never happen again. Cap on executive pay for top 5 exec, no golden parachutes if government had to put money into their industry. Prosecute people who got us into this mess.

TM: Talked to a financial expert the other day. Greed was everywhere. We count on our leaders in congress to provide the oversight and our current leadership didn’t do their job. Legislation pushed through quickly, did not deal with what was systemically wrong. Did not deal with risky loans. Look at Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac. Privatize them. Understand what is right level of oversight. Need checks and balances. Still a lot of work to do. Look at how Congress handled this crisis. Put together a bill. Not good enough. Senate had to put a bill together quickly.

TL: You must know what the problem is before you can solve it. Two party system. Cannot cooperate, always fighting for power. Allowed special interests to call the shots. Have the wrong people in there. More of the same. These two guys might be good guys but they work for their party. They are bought and paid for. Have to do what they are told. I am an independent.

PM: There was need to act. Cannot play Russian roulette with the American economy. Talk to small businesses in Bucks. Couldn’t get credit to pay for inventory and have to lay off people. Manion said he would vote for the bill that passed. Greed was responsible. Lack of oversight. I fought for the proper legislation and oversight.

TM: clearly not put together in the right way because we have so much work to do. Washington doesn’t work on an effective way. Time to act was years ago. Time to act was when took office. Waited to last minute to address it.

Q: NYT gives updated cost of bailout as $2.25T up from original. Increased debt. When it is time to fix medicare and social security will there be any money left.

PM: Proud to be a Blue Dog Democrat, fiscal conservatives, cut fraud and waste, protect seniors. The relief bill I voted for made sure we would get our taxpayer money back. Improper Payments Act – took the floor and spoke on it. A doctor in NY charge government for over 900 operations in one day. Clear fraud. Voted against Dem budget because it didn’t do enough to rein in spending. When you spend $3T in Iraq that is money that can’t go to property tax relief, social security and medicare. Voted to protect lock box.

TM: Great to call yourself a Blue Dog Dem but if that is fiscal conservatism the results don’t show it. Raised debt ceiling three times. The facts just don’t bear out. Costs are out of control. No discipline on priorities. Need balanced budget. Strengthen dollar. Work across the aisle. Just not happening right now. All sorts of opportunities to look at inefficiencies in government. would put a freeze on spending down there to put house in order. Using my experience in business. Always balanced budget in Marines, Johnson & Johnson and at home.

TL: have my own business so I understand importance of balanced budget. Go back to problem, politicians spending money to buy votes to maintain their power to get more money for the special interest. You’re going to hire one of these two guys who work for a company and they have to do what they are told or they will lose their job.

Q: follow up. In your hearts when it comes time to fix social security and medicare do you think the money will be there?

PM: It will be there if we do what needs to be done. Actions speaking louder than words. Co-sponsor of balanced budget amendment. In my first floor speech in the house I talked about how if small businesses in Bucks have to balance their budget, government should too. Every American owes $30,000 as part of debt. Social security, thank goodness 8 years ago we didn’t privatize it which George Bush tried to do. Do everything in my power to make sure it is there. Republican opponent says he is open to privatization. That isn’t a good idea.

TM: I’ve never said anything about privatization, I said we need to set up a sustainable program. 170% increase in deficit. In 2006 during the campaign all the discussion about social security but nothing has been done. They don’t want to touch it. Important issues aren’t being dealt with. Need to look at earmark process. Another key topic in 2006. Murphy signed a bill for 9,000 earmarks. Approved Charlie Rangel’s library, approved Murtha’s [something – security organization?] that was a duplicate organization.

[The moderator forgot TL and was reminded]

TL: Used to getting forgotten or ignored. No, the money won’t be there. It is impossible under the current situation. Needs to restore the situation to where it belongs. How long have you heard talk about the lockbox. When will they do it.

Q: regarding social security, would you vote to increase the retirement age or lower monetary benefits, what should congress do to protect the program for future generations.

TM: I wouldn’t support that approach. We need to keep social security for parents, children and grandchildren. Need a sustainable program. A lot of waste, fraud, and abuse. In favor of sitting down in bipartisan way to develop a sustainable program.

TL: No, it will probably happen because money won’t be there. Another example of politicians promising something and then not doing it. Needs to be nonpartisan not bipartisan. They go from two extremes. Only get sides from special interests, R and D. both trying to distance themselves from their own party.

PM: I’m Patrick Murphy. Please vote for me because I’m a Dem. If you’re an R vote for me because my wife is an R. One of my first pieces of legislation as a cosponsor was lockbox. Voted to cut $3B in overall budget of wasteful spending. I want to make sure we answered and did everything we can. Rangel earmark was for a public university and a public service library. Public service is how I was raised, father a police office, brother just came back from overseas. Sister a schoolteacher. Washington is broken but I’m trying to solve it.

TM: I guess the whole answer is stop what we are doing in Iraq and that will solve our economic problems. But I don’t think so. We are in global war on terror. Need to look at what is happening in Afghanistan. We know what happened when 9/11 hit and we have young men and women overseas. Murphy talks about not supporting budget. That’s a plan. He doesn’t have discipline when it comes to the checkbook. Constantly signs on or doesn’t vote against spending cuts.

Q: epidemic of corruption in dc, would you not take earmarks?

TL: would not go along with any earmarks. Job of congressmen is to provide earmarks, bring money home. Will vote for no earmarks.

PM: we have to lead by example. Lead by example. Voted against payraise. Donated money to charity. Wife not happy with me. Cut earmarks by $7M, now transparent process. In Yardley borough R manager, 3 floods, went to congressman, went to fema. I was able to get Yardley over $1M. Look at Neshaminy Creek we got $2.5M to elevate homes. Stood there with Cawley, R county commissioner. We need to do more. Not going to apologize for fighting for my district. [blogger’s note: the tv froze for a second so I may have missed something]

TM: absolute denial. Talk transparency all you want but earmarks broken. Your money goes to pay for earmarks all over the country. No oversight. We need to make sure that your tax money that goes outside your district is for good projects.

TL: If Murphy is fighting for money for you it is coming from someone else who needs it. By the time it comes to you it probably costs 3 times as much. We have local and state government. it would be more efficient to go through state and local. We have to realize the money comes from someone else. Why should they pay your bills because your congressman made you like him by getting money.

PM: Flooding is an interstate problem, a federal problem, because of development and water management. Proud to have brought money back and process transparent. We can’t talk just about budget and earmark we have to look at the bigger picture. We are spending $3T in Iraq and the Iraqi government is not spending their money. They need to spend their own money.

TM: We are talking about the earmark process and not the Iraq War. Would call for a moratorium on the earmark process until get proper oversight. Iraq is not an earmark.

Q: Lobbyists spend over $2M a year to influence Congress. What does that get them. How much is at expense of taxpayers.

PM: In my office they aren’t getting their money’s worth. I listen to everyone, lobbyists, constituents, R, D, everyone. Number of lobbyists doubled under Bush. I am transparent, let you know who I meet with. I vote my conscience even at political costs.

TM: Again, the problem is not just the Bush administration, the problem is congress and the administration. We need to look to have a time line whether they work on the hill and then go into a lobbying role. There’s some oversight there and we need to continue looking at the problem. Find a way so they don’t influence the situation. Look at Chris Dodd and the money he is getting through those organizations. Even if there is no intent there it is a bad atmosphere. Good examples in the bailout. Need course correction.

TL: First order of business of special interests is to co-opt parties. If coopted at the beginning how can you fix it? How can they solve their own problems. Control of government, control of money. We live in a totalitarian system, control the government while we are distracted by issues.

PM: Underdog in my party. Too many lobbyists in DC. We passed most sweeping ethics legislation in a generation. Closed loophole allowing people to go from government to lobbying. [Tells story about buying Phillies tickets at the window.]

TM: Fact is most of us pay for our tickets at the window. We really do need to do something further. Legislation isn’t enough. Rules in place and still have situation with Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac.

TL: American people don’t believe the problem has been solved. Only 9% approve of congress’s work. Talk is cheap. You are being distracted. Nothing has changed. Two parties fighting each other. Need a third party or a third voice. Political parties shouldn’t even exist. George Washington, Benjamin Franklin, James Madison warned against formation of political parties.

Q: Can anything can be done to make health care costs more affordable and insure more people?

TM: Clearly we’ve got major challenges. Sense of urgency. We need to do that now. More government intervention is not the way to go. Address challenges in open market way. Patient centric, physician centric way. Tax credits, allow patients to own their own decisions, allow insurance to work across states. Health savings accounts. Quality and cost. Look for opportunities for more preventive care. Newer technologies. Electronic records. Do not bring down system like in Canada.

TL: Lobbyists are why we have trouble in health care. Too many middlemen between doctor and patient. Need to simplify it. Get rid of middleman. Lobbyists want government to control it because they can control government. we cannot change it by putting more regulation in. Create a level playing field and watch – that is government’s job.

PM: We do need to have health care reform. Not advocating single payer system. But not advocating staying where we are. Small businesses in Bucks having trouble providing employees with health insurance. We passed children’s health insurance three times, vetoed by president. What we are doing at Doylestown Hospital. They are doing a fantastic job with electronic medical records. Need to bring everyone together, doctors, patients, insurance co, hospitals, trial attorneys. Shared sacrifice. If an attorney files three frivolous lawsuits he or she should be disbarred.

TM: Also for tort reform. Need to look at small business community. Would also work closely with them. Much more portability. Tax incentive to own their own insurance. Allows a lot more freedom for individual.

TL: Mr. Murphy wants everyone to cooperate with each other to solve the problem. Everyone is going to agree to sacrifice? Not going to happen. Government must be referee. Can’t ask them to do the right thing. They won’t do it.

PM: We have to solve this problem in a bipartisan way. We need to move the ball forward for our communities. We are losing jobs because our employers need some relief. Look at VA, group pharmaceutical buys.

Q: Need a strong industrial base. Higher tariffs?

TL: Problem is we have free trade but we are the only ones practicing it. If another country wants to disadvantage us with tariffs we need to do the same.

PM: Putting tariffs on other countries is protectionism. Not a good idea. Need a fair way not a free way. Child labor standards and environmental standards – other countries don’t have. They don’t have to have the same standards we do but need comparable standards. Voted against trade agreement with Peru, going against party. Look at Jones Apparel – used to manufacture clothes here. Building 4th largest solar field in the US, green jobs at old U.S. Steel plant. Increase in minimum wage.

TM: For making sure we have the right type of regulatory oversight. We know that part of the trade agreement is not only imports but exports. Need to create an environment that has more exports. Canada has 40% of GDP is exports. Need to create more jobs locally. Need to put more resources in this. All too often at the lower end of the stick. Would work closely with trade community to make sure have more scrutiny on what we are doing.

TL: One of our greatest problems is we are in an economic war. Special interests that control our government. our government should not support exporting of American jobs. Should not put our people at a disadvantage. Return to basic free market system.

PM: Partner with business community. Sponsored more than 2 dozen bills for tax relief for small businesses. Believe in free trade but we need to invest in education. Our graduates are competing with jobs in China, India, and Japan. That has been my record.

TM: What I’m hearing in community is too many jobs are leaving the area. Put tax incentives in place to make sure jobs stay here at home. We are not now educating our students for challenges ahead.

Q: About 25,000 public schools labeled failing because of No Child Left Behind. Do we need to keep this law, change it or repeal it.

PM: Absolutely need to make sure we change the law. Do not teach to the test. Unfunded mandates. So many seniors that are having a hard time staying in their own home because of property tax. Hill Murphy tax bill allows their tax bills to be above the line. 60% of our national debt is to foreign countries. We spend $21B a month to pay off debt, only 5B on education. Part of our national security.

TM: Our education system ranks 17th in the world. We should be ranked #1. NCLB is not getting us to where we need to be. Teachers do teach to the test. Three most important things for our future. Leaders of tomorrow need problem solving skills. Need upfront technical skills. I see this at J&J, workers not prepared. Local educators don’t believe NCLB works. We need to sit down and think about where we are going with this.

TL: Education is local not national. Education has gotten worse with involvement of government. Everybody wants somebody else to pay for it. Why do teachers and superintendents need a government bureaucrat telling them what to do. Everyone lobbying for money from Harrisburg and DC. We carry places that can’t pay anything. Too many middlemen. In 1840 we had a better education than we do today.

PM: I am a former west point professor. Sister teaches 6th grade social studies. Agree with TL. Money should go to teachers. We need to focus on educating future workers.

TM: another important area for us. Hasn’t been adequately addressed for our community. Do nothing congress. Need people to go down to DC to deal with it. 110th congress hasn’t done anything. Look at social security, education, health care. Got to get some leadership down there and get started.

Q: What would do in the next 2 years for Bucks?

TM: Jobs jobs and jobs. Need to create more jobs. Have so much to offer. So many knowledge workers. Our infrastructure is outstanding, port, railways, roads. These opportunities will appear if we do the right thing. Partner with ideas like green jobs. Partner with state and local level, attract small businesses to our area. No. 1 would be there for jobs, education.

TL: Steal as much money as I can from anyone else and bring it back here. Oh, someone else said that. That’s what they’re supposed to do. Get government out of our lives as much as possible. Mr. Murphy keeps pushing bipartisan solutions. Nonpartisan is the solution. This country was founded on nonpartisan solutions. Make political parties illegal. They are organizations that have been taken over by special interests.

PM: I’m going to steal nothing. When I was blessed to win two years ago, I sat down with Mike Fitzpatrick, Jim Greenwood, and Pete Kostmeyer [blogger’s note: former 8th district congressional representatives] asked what they would do if they were starting out in congress. They said to focus on two or three things. Focused on green jobs. AE Polysilicon, Gamesa – 3 year backorder, at about 50% capacity, second focus is veterans, fight for veterans, treat with dignity and respect. Passed increase in veterans benefits, veterans cemetery in Bucks, flooding issue.

TM: Great to hear that we have some of these alternative energy companies. They were here before the congressman took office. Want to do new things not take credit for things that were well underway before he showed up on the scene.

TL: Interesting he brought up Jim Greenwood. Where is he now? Making big bucks. Same old problem. Bipartisan. I want no partisan. If Ds and Rs have their special interests. Where are you. I’m not there to please anyone. I’m there looking for the truth. I take no money. A true independent.

PM: correct the record. August 2007 we broke the ground on solar field. Broke ground on AE Polysilicon. Worked with local officials. Worked with Arlen Specter on veterans cemetery. Talked about education and what we have done in this congress. Put in a piece of legislation to create green jobs in Bucks.

Closing statements

TM: thanks again. Great opportunity for us to come here and talk about where I am and where I stand on the issues. Not part of the local R party but running as an R. broken system in DC. Need a change. 30 years in Marines, 18 years at Johnson & Johnson. I want to build relationships at this critical time. Get country on track. Do nothing congress. Passed lowest number of bills in history. Many of them renaming post offices. Talk about run away spending and earmarks. Leadership is broken. Patrick talks about bipartisanship down there. Votes 93% with party leadership. I’ve been down there and they aren’t working across the aisle. Our country can’t afford that any longer.

PM: Proud that one of those post offices was named for Bucks County’s Nate DeTample who was killed in Iraq

[TM breaks in and says his son died in Iraq and tells Murphy “Watch yourself!” and points at him. Says this and jabs his finger at Murphy two or three times.]

I respect your son’s service. Respect your service. [blogger’s note: Manion was talking over Murphy and I may have missed some of Murphy’s remarks.] I am for stem cell research. Proud of my record. Vote my conscience.

TL: Military service seems to be very important. I served in military. Counter intelligence. Top secret clearance. In charge of getting top clearances for other people. I realize how important it is to have good security. We all served. We should all be part of that. Should not be used as a political issue but if you want to do that. I served too. Having an election. Free and fair elections. Does anyone think we will have a free and fair election in Bucks. I have circumstantial evidence that they can be tampered with. With this system you cannot have a recount. That is illegal. Filed a lawsuit so we can have a recount.

Moderator: thanks everyone.

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