We’re here to provide you the synopsis of the Lee Terry – Jim Esch debate that you will find NO WHERE ELSE. (Well, KPTM Fox 42 has 30 minutes of the debate on their web-site, here, for which they should be commended — especially since this is where we’re getting all our info and screen-shots.)
First let’s get out of the way all the stuff you are actually interested in:
The debate was held at the Omaha “Press” Club. We put “Press’ in “air quotes”, because for such an important forum, they had lousy lighting and apparently no mote-box for the local media (namely KPTM) to get decent sound.
Our local moderator for the debate is the Walter Cronkite of Omaha TV, the lovable Gary Kerr! Unfortunately, we only got Bigfoot-esque fuzzy shots of Gary in his captain’s chair between the candidates. However we can note that Gary has said “screw you!” to his white shirts and blue blazers in favor of the Philbinian dark jacket, dark shirt look. Gary seemed to do a good job of reading the questions, yadda yadda yadda.
Now the candidates:
Dammit Jim! Tighten up the tie, button your jacket and stand up straight! Look the part! Geezz… And maybe it’s just your personality, but put some oomph into your responses. You sounded like you pulled an all-nighter cramming for this. Just a little enthusiasm? And then while thanking Gary, the League of Women Voters, everyone for coming, good…but pointing out Mom and Dad had a very junior-high debate contest sound to it, that you just didn’t need.
Lee, we just don’t get your hair. Are you and Ben Nelson sharing barbers? While Ben’s has sort of a bread-loaf quality to it, yours is almost like a giant layer cake plopped onto your scalp. It’s a good four inches high! It should be iced and sold at Ferd’s Bakery!
Ok, on to the debate itself.
For their intros, Gary asked how the candidates would differentiate themselves based on their governing philosophies. Each candidate was given a minute and a half, to pretty much talk about whatever they wanted, build a theme, whatever. Esch used 47 seconds. Terry used 57 seconds. Now we don’t want to get hyper-critical, but if you’re given the time to pretty much riff on anything you want, use it! You’ve had to have given this stump speech a million times, here’s your big chance! Brevity has its place, just not here.
Noteworthy comment: Esch saying, “I have no problem with the private sector, but…” Nice endorsement of the free enterprise system there, Jim…
Next was Iraq. Both guys gave their standard party-line positions, whichever of those floats your boat. Terry followed up by pointing three different positions Esch has taken – then stopped there. In probably his best follow-up, Esch pointed out that his position has evolved, and that’s o.k. Esch very well could have or should have pointed out that Congress should be doing the same, etc. etc. It would seem that he should have really come out guns blazing on this point, since it’s pretty much the basis of his entire campaign. Instead he kind of let if off easy, almost apologetically.
From this point, it was pretty much all Lee Terry.
From questions on Terrorism, North Korea, Farm Subsidies, No Child Left Behind, and Immigration, Terry hammered home bills that he had written, voted for or ideas that he’s pushing. Numerous times, Esch would give his position on one of these, and then Terry would point out that he’d written, passed or supported a bill on that specific point.
And we’re not being trite about this. This happened regarding the questions on:
- Oil conservation – Esch suggested needing other energy sources; Terry said he wrote the bill to expand natural gas usage and for additional hydrogen and methane research.
- Farm Subsidies – Esch suggested that young farmers needed more support; Terry pointed to his “Young Farmers and Ranchers” bill.
- No Child Left Behind – Esch suggested reform; Terry pointed out his bill to reform NCLB.
- Immigration and the Mexican Fence; Esch suggested needing a more comprehensive job done, and said (his best line of the debate) that the U.S. would probably end up with illegal aliens building the fence; Terry pointed out that an Omaha company, 21st Century Solutions, is working on (or is bidding to) aspects of a virtual fence.
Terry killed on each one of these (and he may or may not have continued like this, but KPTM only had 30 minutes worth of video…). He was in command, gesturing all over the place, and at times left Esch mumbling that he was happy Terry was supporting these things.
That’s not to say that Esch came off as a bumbling fool. He was well composed (if a little unenthusiastic) and came off as intelligent and well versed on his positions. It was just that Terry, living these issues day-in and day-out, knew the issues up and down and knocked each one out of the park.
In a debate like this, the incumbent always has the edge. It’s the challenger’s job to knock him down. A tie goes to the incumbent. Unfortunately for Esch, this was not a tie. Terry was the clear winner (if a winner has to be chosen). If there were more debates, we’re sure Esch would do a better job.
We’d suggest to Jim, that the DNC talking points just aren’t enough for a big-league race like this. In a next go-around, he should consider spending a little more of his campaign cash on opposition research, instead of a forty thousand dollar website. We know this little harsh, but this is the big time and that’s the reality.
We listened to the second half of the debate on KIOS, and have no reason to change our opinion based on the whole thing. Some other issues that were brought up were Congressional ethics and tax cuts (Esch twice stated his support of raising taxes…). Esch accused Terry of being on the House Ethics Committee, yet doing nothing and then directly asked Terry, “If all the bad things happened while you were there, why should the people send you back?”
As Esch’s Creighton Law School Trial Practice professor (Colin Mangrum or Mike Fenner?) would tell you, you NEVER ask a question to which you do not already know the answer. So, Esch allowed Terry to correct him that first, he is NOT on the Ethics Committee, and has, again, introduced the Public Trust and Accountability act, and Terry claimed that makes him part of the solution and not part of the problem.