Lee Terry vs Jim Esch: The Debate

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.


The Omaha Press Dungeon…er, Club

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.


The elusive Gary Kerr

Now the candidates:

Jim Esch

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 Terry

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.

**Follow Up**

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?”

Well.

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.

Ah well…

29 comments

  1. Eric says:

    On Lee Terry’s website, it says:

    “Congressman Terry is one of just twelve Representatives appointed to serve on a “pool” of Members who review and resolve complaints relating to House ethics issues. This sensitive appointment speaks to the Congressman’s ability to impartially judge potential accusations of impropriety against his colleagues.”

    So if he isn’t on the House Ethics Committee, what is he talking about here?

  2. Street Sweeper says:

    Personally, I don’t to know the ins and outs, but he’s not a member of the Ethics Committee. As I understand it, he’s part of a “pool” of Members who are available to be on investigations subcommittees. Sort of like being available for Jury Duty, as opposed to being a Judge.

  3. Don Kuhns says:

    Oh please, Street Sweeper. The word that kept entering my mind as I listened to Lee Terry debate was “buffoon”. He sounds more like his deranged papa every time I hear him. He was practically yelling throughout half the debate. I can only guess that this was part of his strategy going in. he probably wanted to intimidate like Bill O’Reilly, but he came off more like one of those idiots who speaks LOUDER and SSSLOWER when they talk to foreigners. Except these were members of Nebraska’s press corps, not immigrants from Botswana. Maybe Lee had one too many of those Amber Bocks he was rambling about.

    Jim Esch could have been a bit more polished, but his answers were excellent and based on reality, not bulls**t pulled right out of Karl Rove’s fat, pasty buttocks. Compared to Lee’s bumbling bombast, Esch came across as an informed, articulate, clear-headed moderate.

    None of those bills that Terry wrote has been passed into law. That’s why Esch said “Well, that’s good. I’m glad that after 8 years you have a bill that’s maybe going to be effective.”

    Esch’s closing statement, with its comparison to Hal Daub, brutalized Terry’s pathetic record in the House. It was a knockdown.

  4. Street Sweeper says:

    Now Don, gimme a break. Esch was devastated at each answer Terry gave. He clearly had not researched any of Terry’s positions, and his “let’s get lots of people together to solve Health Care” “solution” was pathetic.

    Some day your boy might be prepared for a big-time race, but today ain’t that day.

  5. NebraskaWonk says:

    FYI, if you have Cox Digital Cable you can watch the entire debate for free by turning to the “On Demand” channel (999) and selecting the “Community” option. It’s located under the “Election 2006” category.

    And no, I do not work for, nor have I ever been associated with, that creepy “Digital Max” guy.

  6. Anonymous says:

    SS–

    I think you need to see WOWT weatherman Jeff Jensen….in his ‘intro’ on newscasts, the guy has a striking resemblance to Jeff Fortenberry. Might we have a new separated at birth??

  7. Street Sweeper says:

    Well done on the Fort SAB, Anonymous. We’re still looking for SABs for Esch and Terry (and Moul), so any input you can give is greatly appreciated!

  8. Anonymous says:

    Me thinks Street Sweeper has a chrome dome….you are focused way too much on candidates’s hair.

    Did Esch Jim wear one of those zip-up ties from the Gap? If this kid went to Prep and wore a clip-on, it would get flushed down the toilet.

  9. Daily Bulldog says:

    I think a good SAB for Moul could be Dr. Ruth Westheimer, or Yearling Smith of Simpsons voice and “Herman’s Head” fame…or maybe half of the elderly women who attend mass at St. Stan’s in south Omaha.

  10. Anonymous says:

    This is the most partisian site I have ever seen. I was hoping you would have an honest assessment but both you and this Don guy are clearly party peeps. I watched it on in demand this morning and Jim Esch won. At one point Terry (who does not speak or conduct himself with the polish of an 8 year incumbent congressman) even had to liken Esch to Rangle because Esch’s response was better than Terry’s. A non-partisian person w/o a dog in this race picks Esch off of that debate 10 times out of 10.

  11. Street Sweeper says:

    Well, a few responses to that comment:

    1) if you think this is the most partisan site you’ve ever seen, you obviously don’t click around much.

    2) we were fair and critical of both candidates, and spelled out the reasons for our opinions of the debate

    3) in the end, Terry was much more specific and detailed in all of his responses and refuted nearly every Esch attack. In our view, that means he won the debate.

    Now head back to Jim Esch’s site if you’re looking for something more to your liking…

  12. Dan says:

    This is by no means the most biased web site out there. However, it does have some conservative bias. This is understandable, as the people who run it are conservatives. Their opinions often anger me, and I often think they are very, very wrong. BUT I do not they they go over the line, tragically mistaken though they may be.

    On to the debate. Clearly, each made good points. The biggest problem with Lee is that of all the bills he mentioned, he was not the writer. He was not the original sponsor. His “Accomplishments” page on his web site lists votes he’s made. Sorry Lee, but voting for a bill, or being one of 150 cosponsors is NOT an achievement.

    It is hard for Jim to list concrete accomplishments in the world of politics, since he has never been a part of that world before. However, your criticism of his business stance is unfair, the man was director of a major program at the Omaha Chamber of Commerce.

    In terms of who won, yes, Jim could have struck Terry harder on certain points, but for 8 years of experience in Congress, Lee has very little to show.

    The best thing to do is to look at the footage of the debate, and decide for yourself. It can be seen at several places, which brings me to my very last point.

    The Esch campaign put the debate on its website, the Terry campaign did not. Esch wants antoher debate, and after the first debate, Lee has backed out of the previously-agreed-upon second debate. That speaks volumes, because no matter what we say, it seems pretty clear that if we asked both candidates and their staffs who won, the score would be Esch 2, Terry 0.

  13. Street Sweeper says:

    Well, we can certainly differ on who won and lost. We spelled out why we think Terry won handily. But you are tragically mistaken if you really believe Terry’s people think he lost.

  14. mom at home says:

    One of many fatal errors Jimbo has made. Never underestimate your opponent. You don’t have to be a politico to know this one, it’s actually Life 101.

  15. dan says:

    Then why is Terry’s camp so vehemently opposed to a second debate, or to meeting Jim publicly at all? Lee was invited to speak to Central’s AP Government class. He accepted. Jim was invited as well. Jim accepted. Lee found out Jim was coming, and then refused to come.

    If Lee and his people think he won, why is he hiding? Why is there no link to the performance on his web site?

    Street Sweeper, do YOU find it appropriate that Lee agreed to two debates, and is now backing out?

  16. Street Sweeper says:

    To “Anonymous” that sent the excellent links for the Moul SAB, we’re going to hold off posting your links, to instead run your suggested shots on a separate SAB post. If you want to email separately, we’ll be happy to credit you, otherwise we’ll give credit to “Anonymous”.
    Thanks!

  17. dan says:

    Come on Street Sweeper. Its a simple question. Do you find it appropriate or not that Lee Terry is backing out of the second debate?

  18. Street Sweeper says:

    Ok, here’s my understanding of the “2nd debate” issue. A while back, Esch and Terry agreed to two debates: 1) moderated by the LWV (which they did at the Press Club) and 2) one moderated by Joe Jordan on KMTV.

    At this point, it’s my understanding that Joe Jordan has told the campaigns that KMTV3 is now not interested in holding a debate (not enough interest, not good ratings, a combo, who knows).

    So the agreed upon site of a second debate is no longer there and neither campaign has “backed out” of anything.

  19. mom at home says:

    Maybe Lee did not want to be associated with a hypocrite in front of a group of Honor student-do you see the irony that Jimbo would be permitted to speak to this group?

  20. Anonymous says:

    DAN SAID:
    On to the debate. Clearly, each made good points. The biggest problem with Lee is that of all the bills he mentioned, he was not the writer. He was not the original sponsor. His “Accomplishments” page on his web site lists votes he’s made. Sorry Lee, but voting for a bill, or being one of 150 cosponsors is NOT an achievement.

    ————————

    Just so you know, Dan. You are completely wrong. Every bill that Congressman terry mentioned was a bill he WROTE himself. the NLCB bill, Beginning Farmer’s and Rancher’s Act, the PTA Act, USF Reform Act, the intellectual property bill… all written and introduced by Congressman Terry. There are other sources to look up bills besides a member’s campaign website. I suggest Thomas through LOC. It’s pretty easy to navigate and it’ll help you understand the the second district has a rep that is doing good things for the people of the district. good luck getting informed.

    BJB

  21. Street Sweeper says:

    Or how about that guy you saw at the Homey that one time. He totally looked like him. Or maybe it was that other guy. One of ’em.

  22. Dan says:

    BJB–

    Thank you for taking the time to help teach me how to use the internet to do research. I took your advice, and watching the debate again, paying careful attention, and then using the Library of Congres (LOC) site that you suggested (I used google as well, of course), I learned a few things.

    All of the bills that Lee mentioned fall into one of either two categories:

    1) The Bill passed, but Lee was not the original sponsor.

    2) Lee was the original sponsor, but the bill was never passed.

    So, technically you are right, but I still say that writing a bill, but then failing to pass it, still doesn’t count as an achievement.

    However, good idea to check out LOC via Thomas. I found some interesting things there. For instance, Lee Terry has been the original sponsor of 40 bills or amendments this congress. Only one passed. It was an amendment to a major spending bill which provided that the funds in said spending bill could not be used in violation of federal law. This was not, I’m sure, controversial, as it passed by voice vote.

    14 of the 40 bills of which Lee was the original sponsor were bills to temporarily lower the taxes on some interesting chemicals. All of these bills were introduced on May 24th, 2005.

    These chemicals include:

    Azoxystrobin
    Cypermethrin
    Pinoxaden
    Difenoconazole/Mefenoxam
    Fludioxonil
    Clodinafop-propargyl
    Emamectin Benzoate
    Cloquintocet
    Mefenoxam
    Cyproconazole
    Pinoxaden
    Tralkoxydim
    Propiconazole
    Permethrin

    What do all of these chemicals have in common, other than Lee Terry’s efforts to temporarily lower import taxes on them? They are all main, or secondary-main, ingredients in herbicides, pesticides, or fertilizers produced by Novartis. (Again, I used google here).

    On May 24th, 2005, Lee Terry proposes to lower the taxes on 14 chemicals used by Novarits in chemical production. On May 26th 2005, Lee Terry received a check for $1,000 from the Novartis PAC. (I decided to use opensecrets.org in addition to the LOC for my research, i hope that was OK).

    I’m not going to contend that Lee Terry was paid by a company to introduce bills directly beneficial to that company, but it does seem a little fishy, don’t you think? Especially since Novartis PAC is not a regular contributor to Terry (they once gave him $500, 8 years ago).

    Anyway, thank you again for your suggestion to use LOC via Thomas. I have learned a lot about Lee Terry from this experience.

  23. Anonymous says:

    Dear Danny Boy. Yes, I do support Lee Terry. I have known him for years. If you honestly think that he could be bought and paid for, then that is yet another fatal error that your candidate’s campaign is making. Someone who is a self made man through hard work is not going to damage his reputation that easily. It’s kind of like the lucky 16 year old that mommy and daddy buy a new car for and the 16 year old who has to save all of his birthday money and work for a year sacking groceries to get his first clunker, the new car is usually wrecked within the first year. The truly “lucky” kid is the one whose parents took the time to teach their kid the value of hard work.

    As for the chemicals, are you sure that no other fertilizer company needed those items to develop the best product at a reasonable rate for your candidates family “family farm”?

    While we’re on the subject of the “family farm”, Jimmy referenced the farm subsidies his family received during his debate rant. How much of that evil government money did his family get. I assume this is how he put $100,000 of his own money in. It couldn’t possibly have come from a family member, I think there are rules about that-too bad “Barney Fife” isn’t around to make a “citizens arrest!”.

  24. Anonymous says:

    Im just wandering….mom at home, what has Jim said that makes him a hypocrite? I think Jim Esch is very smart and can do a better job in Washington than Lee Terry can.

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