Archive for the ‘Abortion’ Category



Planned Parenthood and the War Against Women

Saturday, February 26th, 2011

By Susan Rose
Special to Calbuzz

The memorable and courageous speech that California Representative Jackie Speier delivered on the House floor last week, challenging the Republican effort to defund Planned Parenthood by sharing her personal experience of having an abortion for medical reasons, captured the frustration and anger of millions of American women.

At a time when the world watches the rippling revolutions in the Mideast, there is another war being conducted at home – a political war being waged against women.

Let’s be clear: what is at stake in the battle to eliminate Title X funding for Planned Parenthood is nothing less than an attempt to deny equality to women, an effort to restrict our social freedom and economic independence by taking away our right to determine when and if we will have a family.

The Republican war on women is not new, of course. Most recently, in  November 2009, the Republicans prevented coverage for abortions in the health care reform bill, a deal that Democrats accepted to get the legislation passed.

The right to control her own body, and thus to determine her course in life, is among the most powerful issues affecting a woman. Now that the Republicans hold a majority in the House, and have increased their overall numbers in Congress, they have ramped up their attacks on institutions that empower women to exercise this right, starting with Planned Parenthood and the range of health and family planning services the group provides.

The Pence Amendment that was passed by the House on Feb. 18th eliminates $327 million in national family planning programs.  Title X does not fund abortions; it does, however, provide a range of preventive health care such as contraception, pre-and post-natal care, cancer screenings and other health services for women, men and infants.

For every dollar spent on family planning the federal government saves four dollars in additional spending. The loss of Title X funding would prove particularly costly for California, where a Guttmacher Institute study shows these programs saved $581,890,000 in public funds in 2008.

As California Congresswoman Lois Capps put it on the floor of the House, the Pence Amendment is an “all-out Republican assault on women’s health.”

“By helping women and couples plan and space their pregnancies, family planning services have led to healthier mothers and children and have been instrumental in the long struggle for women’s equality in education, the workforce, and society.”

Other outrageous legislation pending in the House of Representatives would deny Title X funding if a clinic uses non-tax dollars for an abortion (HR217); allow a hospital to refuse to save a pregnant woman’s life if there was a threat to the fetus (HR358); impose penalties on private employers who offer health plans that would fund abortions (HR3).

The war against women is being waged on many fronts. In other states, legislatures are attempting to redefine rape victims as accusers, make it legal to murder a doctor who provides abortions, and cut food and services for low-income women and their families as well as services for poor seniors, two-thirds of whom are women.

Planned Parenthood has issued a challenge to the U.S. Senate to stand with them, and to preserve the services provided by the 800 health centers funded by Title X.  Feminist organizations are sending email blasts and have activated their phone banks.  The call has gone out to save family planning heath care for women.

Vulnerable women has long been targets for the right wing. Women in America have fought for equality for two centuries. Suffragists went to jail to win the right to vote in 1918; despite progress made since then, it has been a slow advance. Violence, lack of affordable childcare, unequal pay and representation are among the problems many women face daily.

We have an obligation to our mothers and our daughters to keep fighting. We owe it to them to keep women out of the back alleys. We will not give in and we will not go back.

Susan Rose is a former Santa Barbara County Supervisor.  She previously served as the Executive Director of the Los Angeles City Commission on the Status of Women and was a founding member of the Santa Barbara Women’s Political Committee.

Memo to CA GOP: Time to Do Something Different

Wednesday, November 17th, 2010

After watching the California Republican Party implode in the 2010 election – spectacularly in the cases of Meg Whitman’s campaign for governor and Carly Fiorina’s run for U.S. Senate – Calbuzz has some unsolicited advice for the state’s Grand Old Party.

Just as Democrats in Washington are being urged to re-calibrate after the spanking their party got in some parts of the country, Republicans in California need to do a little re-calibrating themselves.

Before we offer our pearls of wisdom, however, let’s dispense of the howling response we expect from some of our friends in the right-wing peanut gallery (we name no names, Flash) who will surely hurl the “liberals” canard at Calbuzz and say we just want the Republicans to become Democrats.

Not true. We don’t want Republicans to become Democrats — we want Republicans to become relevant.

So that there is a vigorous contest of ideas in California politics. Right now, Republicans are so trapped in their ideological hall of mirrors that they have become a distorted caricature of themselves. They can thump their chests and win big attaboys at the California Republican Assembly convention. But they utterly  fail to reflect the impulses of the vast majority of California voters who tend to be fiscally conservative and socially moderate.

Republicans believe in smaller government, lower taxes, reduced regulation, economic growth, individual freedom and law and order, to name a few GOP values.

They should continue to stand and fight for all of those. But they need to build all that into a platform that begins with a realistic growth agenda. Investments in roads, bridges, dams and/or levees, water projects, schools and universities, redevelopment projects, ports – all these things and more – are wholly consistent with their philosophical world view. Their fixation on opposing everything the Democrats propose is hurting them more than it is helping them.

Republicans could become leading advocates of an economic rebound strategy that relies on Silicon Valley innovation, green jobs, high-tech research and development. They could integrate this with increased exports for a growing agricultural sector and a healthy and expanding service economy.

They don’t have to continually serve the interests of the wealthiest 2% of California families – they can focus of the struggling middle class. And they need to remember that California is not Kentucky or Alaska or any other state where the so-called “tea party” is a big deal. In California, tea party ideology is a non-starter.

It’s time for leaders of the California Republican Party to rethink their general strategy and the specifics of their agenda. Here’s where they should start:

1.  Change your position on a “path to citizenship.” You can and should strongly favor securing the borders against illegal immigration. That’s a matter of defending our sovereignty and integrity as a nation.

The political reason you fear changing on citizenship is that you’re afraid that if all those illegal Mexicans and other Latinos become U.S. citizens, they will bolster the Democratic Party. And that’s certainly a valid fear of a potential outcome.

But it needn’t be that way.

Just as the Republican Party was the Northern standard-bearer for the abolition of slavery in the 1850s and 1860s, so could the California Republican Party become the advocate for citizenship for honest working men and women who have come to the U.S. to make better lives for themselves and their families.

Nine in 10 Latinos in California — and a healthy majority of independent voters — support a path to citizenship for people who have been working here illegally for two years or more. Get on their side. Make them your allies.

You know who will be unhappy? Big labor, pro-choice forces and culturally liberal Democrats who want to keep Latino voters in their corner. Latino Catholic culture is quite conservative on family issues. You don’t have to moderate on too many of these. But you drive Latinos away with your anti-immigrant policies and rhetoric. Your current policy just panders to the politics of resentment and makes you look bad. Time to move on.

2. Get on board with green jobs and environmental conservation. By arguing that people must pick either environment or economic development, you’re creating a false choice. And voters know it.

Plenty of Republicans – from the late David Packard to George Schultz – have proved that you can be a rock-ribbed Republican and also in favor of preserving and enhancing the environment. Of course environmentalism has to be balanced against other competing interests – like healthy agriculture, water supplies to cities and reasonable, controlled growth in and around urban areas.

But you have made fighting environmental regulation a cause. Your political calculation is that the business forces in your camp cannot tolerate stepped-up regulation and enforcement. But that’s old-school thinking. Only retrograde – and politically poisonous – corporations are afraid of the New Environmental World Order. You should make this part of some sort of 21st Century capitalism project, or something. Don’t let old school enviros control this vote rich sector.

3.  Develop your bench. Start grooming young, bright, articulate Republicans in cities, counties, Assembly districts and elsewhere.

Send them off to advanced management training at Harvard or Stanford. Introduce them to business leaders, venture capitalists, university presidents, foundation chiefs, leading journalists and party funders. Get them involved in key issues and causes.

Teach them about practical politics and polling and other insider skills as well. Train them in how to talk to reporters. Help them learn to think on their feet, to answer questions without betraying their ignorance and how to talk with ordinary people without sounding like they’re preaching or talking just from a list of talking points. Do what big-time college athletic programs do – recruit district by district.

4.  Reconsider your stance on abortion. There’s got to be a way to move to the center on this question where you support a woman’s right to choose in line with Roe vs Wade without endorsing or even supporting abortion.

Don’t give up your commitment to the idea that abortion is a moral choice. But recognize that it’s a moral choice that individuals have to make – not one that can be legislatively controlled.

You can be in favor of life and in favor of reducing the number of abortions. Be for, not against, family planning, like Barry Goldwater was. In a sense, become libertarian on the issue. You may never get the endorsement of the most ardent pro-choice groups, but you can neutralize the power of the issue. And if you can recruit pro-choice Republicans, all the better.

Your goal should be to build a coalition based on the overarching goal of reducing the number of abortions, but without all the wasted breath on  abstinence and all the hysterical opposition to teen sex education.

5. Sound sensible, not strident. The problem with the tea party rhetoric that some of you find so attractive is that it sounds like the ravings of a crazy old uncle who really ought to be locked in the attic.

The vast majority of California voters are moderate, independent-minded, pragmatic people. They don’t much care if an idea comes from a Democrat or a Republican. They just want it to make sense.

They’re not against government; they just want government to work on their behalf. They’re not opposed to all taxes; they’re opposed to taxes that seem unfair, onerous or overly broad. They want to control the borders but they also want to be fair to people who have worked hard to make a living, no matter where they come from.

They’re not pro-abortion but they want women and their doctors — not Assembly members and state senators — to make choices about the life and death of fetuses. California voters are tired of people running for office who sound like they think they know everything and whose answers are purely ideological.

You need to have a hard head. But you also need to demonstrate a soft heart. And maybe a touch of humility.

What Tsunami? Only 3 House Districts in Play

Sunday, October 17th, 2010

By Mackenzie Weinger
Special to Calbuzz

Beltway prognosticators sound ever more certain about Republicans seizing control of the House in a national electoral tsunami, but in California, only three of 53 congressional districts feature competitive races.

While today’s conventional wisdom suggests a GOP pick up of perhaps 50 seats nationally, which would end the reign of Speaker Nancy Pelosi of San Francisco, California Democrats are not expected to lose more than a seat or two, if that, from their current 34-to-19 majority in the state’s House delegation.

National attention remains focused on the close race between incumbent Senator Barbara Boxer and Republican challenger Carly Fiorina, of course, but the House partisan breakdown is unlikely to change much, because of a combination of California’s Democrat-trending demographics and the incumbent-friendly reapportionment that followed the 2000 census.

“We’re a Dem-leaning state and President Obama’s approval ratings are a bit higher here than they are elsewhere, and in some ways that insulates us from that backlash,” said UC San Diego political science professor Thad Kousser. “And secondly, the post-2000 redistricting means there are a lot less competitive seats.”

The races in play: Perhaps the most surprising race, given the national political atmosphere is the Third Congressional District in Northern California. It’s here that the Democrats may be able to snatch a seat from a Republican incumbent.

As one of the few races going against the Republican trend this year, the contest  between Rep. Dan Lungren (R) and physician Ami Bera (D) is one of the Democrats’ few pickup opportunities of this cycle.

Bera — who has consistently outraised Lungren, raked in $550,000 in the third quarter, giving him $2.1 million this cycle, while Lungren brought in $480,000, for a total of $1.7 million. Pres. Obama eked out a win here in 2008, giving Democrats hope for a potential midterm success.

Even as it goes against this year’s pro-Republican tide, this campaign shares the same overall narrative of many GOP-leaning races around the country: a political newbie taking on an entrenched career politician.

“Lungren has been around politics his whole life,” Bera said. “He’s certainly not from this district. It’s a clear contrast. Lungren is representing corporate America… And our narrative has always been on rebuilding the middle class.”

Bera traced his campaign’s ability to buck the anti-Democratic trend to his ground-up organization and his background as a physician.

“There’s a couple reasons why this race is moving against the current,” Bera said. “We built this campaign from the very beginning from the grassroots, holding house parties where neighbors opened up their living rooms. We’ve literally done hundreds of these conversations. We’ve had a lot of individual donors and built on word of mouth. That insulated us a little bit. It’s certainly a perfect year to be a doctor running for Congress.”

Bera, who noted his campaign has over 3,000 volunteers, insisted Democrats could still use the final weeks before the election to make a successful push to hold the House: “The House of Representatives isn’t lost,” Bera said.

Also in Northern California, Rep. Jerry McNerney (D), faces a threat from attorney David Harmer (R) one of the National Republican Campaign Committee’s “Young Guns” in the 11th Congressional District. CQ-Roll Call, RealClearPolitics and Cook Political Report all have this race as a toss-up.

Somewhat less competitive is Rep. Loretta Sanchez’s (D) seat in the 47th Congressional District in Orange County, where a a win by Assemblyman Van Tran, California’s other Republican “Young Gun”, would spell a huge victory for the GOP.

Sanchez’s recent gaffe on Univision’s Sunday show, “Al Punto” — where she accused “the Vietnamese” and Republicans of trying to take her seat in Congress — has added fire to Tran’s campaign in the final month.

“It speaks for itself,” Tran’s campaign manager George Andrews said. “For her to come unglued on that TV show just shows how nervous she is. She knows times are changing in her district, and being a DC insider, she’s lost touch with the reality of the voters in Orange County.”

Andrews said this year’s GOP wave has definitely hit the 47th district: “Absolutely it’s a factor,” he said. “We’re going door-to-door in Loretta’s backyard and people are sick and tired of poor representation. She’s only passed one bill after the past 14 years — and it was to name a post office.”

In the Senate race, polls show Boxer still ahead of ex-Hewlett Packard CEO Fiorina, but the National Republican Senatorial Committee, the Chamber of Commerce and other national GOP groups continue pouring in money, which has kept the challenger financially competitive.

CQ-Roll Call and Rothenberg Political Report rate the race as leaning Dem, but RealClearPolitics, Cook Political Report and Sabato’s Crystal Ball are calling the race a toss-up.

UCSD political scientist Kousser said the Senate race is a “microcosm of the national scene – a liberal Democrat very much tied to President Obama” coupled with a case of the “Republicans nominating someone on the right end of the political spectrum.”

“If it had been Tom Campbell who won the primary, he would have had a chance in this environment,” Kousser said. “But we haven’t seen a pro-lifer win a top of the ticket race here in California for two decades. Carly Fiorina still has a shot, but if she wins this race, that’s going to be the signal that the House and Senate are really turning over.

Washington-based political reporter Mackenzie Weinger is the former Editor-in-Chief of The Daily Nexus at UC Santa Barbara.

Dateline Moraga: Live Blogging the Senate Debate

Wednesday, September 1st, 2010

Play-by-play below, but here’s the bottom line: Nobody “won” the debate which means Carly Fiorina did not do what she had to do — kneecap Barbara  Boxer or force her to make a mistake.

Fiorina, a smart, articulate and attractive candidate stood toe-to-toe with a United States Senator and handled herself with skill and grace.

Boxer defended her record in the U.S. Senate and pushed issues like choice, climate change and gun control into the debate that put Fiorina on the defensive.

The single matter that emerged that likely will resonate most: Fiorina’s record of laying off 30,000 workers as CEO of Hewlett-Packard — in Boxer’s terms (not entirely accurate) of shipping those jobs to China.

Her response — sometimes you have to cut some jobs in order to save others — sounded like an eerie echo of  the famous line from the Vietnam War: “We had to destroy the village in order to save it.” (That’s how it’s remembered even if it’s not exactly right.) And it wasn’t just a slip of the tongue — Fiorina said it in the debate and at her press conference afterwards as well.

We wonder if this will come back to haunt Fiorina: “This is the 21st Century — any job can go anywhere.” BTW, in the debate she said: “It’s an agonizing choice (for a CEO) to lose some jobs in order to save more.”

It was a clear contrast. Fiorina is a tough conservative who would overturn Roe v Wade if she had the opportunity, is opposed to California’s AB 32 climate-change law and would extend the Bush tax cuts for the wealthiest taxpayers.

Boxer is a die-hard liberal who is known as a partisan, pushes cap and trade legislation, would end the Bush tax cuts for the rich and is more worried about easing the way for illegal immigrants than she is about securing the U.S.-Mexico border.

Untested political newcomer versus career politician. Republican stalwart versus Democratic diehard.

The most baffling thing is this: Why won’t Fiorina, who sees AB 32 as a “job killer,” come out in support of Prop. 23 — which would gut the measure? Pushed at her press conference, she made all the arguments against Prop. 23 but refused to take a stand. All she would offer is that when it comes time to vote, she will take a position.

Also, what happened to term limits that Fiorina is so hot for? Never came up.

It was a lively debate, showed the ideological contrast between the candidates and gave viewers a chance to see both candidates talk and chew gum at the same time, so to speak. Carly was more tightly wound, but crisp; Boxer was more conversational but equally sharp on her attack points.

Boxer kept saying she’s enacted a thousand measures but could not refute Fiorina’s assertion that she’s only got her name on four bills. Not much for a 18-year Senator.

(Live blog begins here.)

Calbuzz went to the extraordinary expense of dispatching the entire National Affairs Desk to St. Mary’s College in Moraga (De La Salle Christian Brothers) to cover the Barbara Boxer-Carly Fiorina U.S. Senate debate – and has been promptly relegated, with the rest of the press corps, to watch the event on a giant TV while the real deal goes down across the way in the LeFevre Theatre.

Plenty of free parking here where it’s 97 degrees outside and TV correspondents are trying not to sweat on camera during their stand-ups.

Cookies too, thanks to the terrific St. Mary’s communications staff – chocolate chip, peanut butter, double chocolate and (ugh) raisin – along with a bunch of fruit that Calbuzz hasn’t the slightest interest in touching.

We’ll be live blogging the debate as soon as it starts in about 15 minutes.

6:57 p.m. KTVU, which is co-sponsoring the debate with the Chron and KQED-FM, just showed live shot of extremely sweaty protesters outside.

“Carly, no es mi amiga” vs. “Boxer, you’re fired.”

Inside the press room, Jon Fleischman of FlashReport, just called the debate for Fiorina.

7:00 – It’s on. Big hand for Carla Marincucci’s hair in the press room.

Boxer, wearing a gray pantsuit, is on the left. Fiorina, in a teal skirt suit, is on the right.

First opening to Carly: “I have lived the American dream.” Trying to give herself blue collar roots, even though her father was a law professor who was almost appointed to the U.S. Supreme Court.

“We need some common sense and problem solving ability in Washington, D.C.” First whack at Babs:  She’s been in D.C. forever and her policies have been disastrous. Very aggressive in taking on the incumbent.

Boxer: “I’ve enacted a thousand measures,” coming right back at Fiorina charge that she’s done nothing. Whack at Carly: I’m working to stop companies from shipping jobs overseas. And, oh yeah, Carly got fired and took $100 million in severance.

Great start.

Marinucci asks first question of Fiorina:

Carly says it’s all about jobs — tax cuts — Carla asks — small business owners are struggling — death tax — Boxer voted for taxes — to create jobs we need to make sure business is free from stangling regulation and taxation.

Boxer says 16,500 teachers got pink slips, what’s important than out children — my opponent called the bill a disgrace — but she doesn’t like it because we paid for it by stopping tax breaks from companies overseas.

Question 2: Scott Shafer asks Babs whether Iraq war “was worth it.” She says she opposed the war but voted for more money for troops and veterans. Credits Obama for getting out, and supports him in Afghanistan but supports hard time line to bring troops home “by 2011″

Carly staff is walking around the press room dropping off  “Debate Fact Sheet” on everybody’s work station, challenging BB’s earlier assertions.

Carly on Iraq: Boxer’s “rhetoric doesn’t match her record.” Attacks Boxer for not voting for body armor, and also hits on her on small business legislation speaking government-speak gibberish about “TARP Jr.” and “TARP Sr.”

Question about immigrants: Carly wants to educate everyone but she’s against amnesty for people here illegally –

Boxer says she’s proud of her record on veterans — says Carly called immigration reform “a distraction” — we need comprehensive immigration reform.

Question 4 comes on tape from a guy in Oakland named Tim Tam who wants to know why Boxer doesn’t give somebody else a chance after 28 years in the Senate. Barbara sez “there’s a clear choice” and turns it to hit Carly: “We don’t need those Wall Street values.”

Fiorina says Boxer “mischaracterizes my record” on shipping jobs overseas. “Agonizing choice to lose some jobs in order to save more.”

Next question from Tom Watson, retired HP executive who bashes Fiorina with her record of “right sourcing” jobs and saying that no one has “a God given right” to a job. Great question.

Carly is now listing all the countries in the world – not to mention “Texas and Brazil” about….something…she seems to have been caught a little off guard by this.

Strong comeback on jobs by Boxer noting that Fiorina has opposed every jobs bill that’s come up since she started running.

Carly asks Boxer about famous incident when she asked General not to call her “ma’am.” She gives same answer as Calbuzz previously supported reported.

Fiorina comes back to say that Boxer is using H-P “a treasure of California” as a “political football.”

Randy Shandobil the moderator tells both of them to stop going over time, and get to the point and answer the damn questions. Yay Randy.

Shafer asks about gay marriage. Fiorina says marriage should be “between a man and a woman.” Says that because voters had such a clear decision “not appropriate” for “a single judge” to overturn. Umm, isn’t that why we have three branches of government?

So says Boxer, noting that America has a system of checks and balances. She cites Justice Ron George’s opinion opposing Prop. 8.

Fiorina gnomes just dropped off fifth fact check – almost make you think they had them ready in advance.

Boxer is asked about bipartisanship — is she too partisan — she says he works with Republicans all the time — a time line for withdrawl from Afghanistan is one example.

Carly says Barbara is long on talk and short on achievement — one of the most bitterly partisan — only has four bills with her name on them –

Carla asks about Roe v Wade — I am pro life, because of my personal experiences, her husband’s mother was told to abort him for health reasons — recognize that not everyone agrees with me — I am comfortable funding for adult stem cell research — but if embryos are produced for destruction then she’s opposed — says Boxer’s positions are extreme — has said a baby doesn’t have rights until it leaves the hospital –

Randy — Roe v Wade — she acknowledges she would overturn if she had the opportunity.

Boxer says she respects people’s — says Fiorina would criminalize women and doctors — says this is not about personal views.

Re. the “four bills” says she’s approved 1,000 Boxer provisions — you can see them online.

Shafer asks when Dems are going to stop blaming Bush and Rep congress for economic woes. Boxer says “we have” and are working on it…now she’s talking about the good old Clinton years and is blaming Bush for “the worst job creation record since Herbert Hoover.” “We didn’t get here overnight and we’re not going to solve it overnight.”

Fiorina: “Recovery summer has become the summer of despair in California.” She hits Boxer for voting for stimulus bill which she says “has failed.” Good riff on Boxer record of voting against balanced budget amendments: “Her record is crystal clear.”

Fiorina is asked if she thinks global warming is real or just a problem with the weather as she said in an ad — Carly says the ad was about military security — says we need a national and comprehensive energy bill — not answering whether she’s for Prop. 23 — we need to fund energy R&D — we cannot put bills in place that punish energy—

Randy re asks — Prop 23 — says her focus is on national policy — says she hasn’t taken a position — AB 32 is a job killer.

Boxer — if you cant take a stand on Prop 23, I don’t know what you will take a stand on — it’s a critical issue — my opponents is used to creating jobs in China, Germany, etc. – which would be the result of overturning AB 32 — “no bill I ever wrote superseded CA law.”

St. Mary’ student asks about ag policy. Zzzzz.

Fiorina now hitting BB on water – claims Babs “pressured” Feinstein to drop an amendment…

Viewer question – why do you think it’s a good idea for people on terrorist no fly list to have guns – what – are you nuts?

CF: “The no fly list isn’t particularly well managed.” We should not be taking constitutional rights away from citizens and giving them to terrorists – and that’s exactly what Barbara Boxer wants to do.”

BB: “It’s hard to know where to start.” Boxer trumpets her legislation letting pilots be armed.” Recalls watching debate where Fiorina said this and says Tom Campbell get excited “for the first time in his life.”

“Oh my goodness,” Boxer says Campbell said.

How about the assault weapons ban? Fiorina says it’s far too broad…Babs says dumping it “makes no sense at all.” Big wet kiss to Difi for sponsoring the bill.

Closing statements:

Carly: She’s been struck by the “beauty” of California. Also fear, anxiety and uncertainty. Recounts alleged anecdotal conversations with people who don’t like regulation…very sappy yarn about some lady who said she’d never voted but registered to vote for Carly and “don’t forget us.” Oy. She’s for average people who “give a lot and ask for a little.”

Barbara: “This a very clear choice.” I’m fighting for jobs and she laid off 30K people and sent jobs to China. Made in America vs. Made in China. Someone fighting for tax cuts for middle class and someone fighting for CEOs and billionaires. Clean energy vs someone supported by big oil and big coal. Pro-choice – Fiorina would “turn a woman into a criminal” for having an abortion…Offshore oil. I fought for Wall Street reform and she acts “just like a Wall Street CEO.”

Randy apologizes for not getting to more questions. No worries man, good work.

Debate Watcher’s Guide to Babs and Hurricane Carly

Monday, August 30th, 2010

As the U.S. Senate candidates prepare to debate Wednesday evening, Republican Carly Fiorina and Democrat Barbara Boxer face two, very different challenges:

Fiorina, the former CEO of Hewlett-Packard, wants to make the case that Boxer is a left-wing extremist who should be tossed out of Congress and that she would make a solid replacement for her rival.

First elected in 1992, Boxer has to demonstrate that she has been, and can continue to be, effective in the Senate. It’s an added bonus if she can portray Fiorina as a right-wing whack job.

Look for Fiorina to move aggressively to steer the conversation to jobs, portray the economic stimulus bill as a prime example of excessive government spending and mock Boxer’s record of achievement (or lack thereof) in the Senate.

Watch for Boxer to argue that the stimulus saved many thousands of jobs in California, and to try to focus on a woman’s right to choose, climate change, offshore oil drilling and Fiorina’s record of achievement (or lack thereof) at Hewlett-Packard.

Throw down a shot every time Fiorina mentions Boxer’s 28 years in office and another when Boxer mentions HP and “You’ll be pretty toasted at the end of that game,” says Julie Soderlund, Fiorina’s spokeswoman.

Boxer is a big supporter of President Barack Obama and the stimulus. So Fiorina will home in on the sense that the president’s policies have failed to restore economic security. But every time Fiorina mentions the economy, she will open herself up to attacks about laying off thousands of HP employees, shipping jobs abroad and mismanaging the company, from which she was fired.

Both will have much to say about extending the Bush tax cuts: Fiorina likes them and Boxer argues they benefit only the rich. Both have strong views on immigration: Fiorina accuses Boxer of favoring amnesty and being soft on illegals; Boxer can’t understand why Fiorina is opposed to a path to citizenship for undocumented workers.

Listen for how many times either candidate refers to “green jobs,” policy proposals that posit California can combine economic growth with environmental protection by building up wind, solar and battery industries to cushion the shock of tough regulations to reduce greenhouse gas emissions.

Note how many times the two reference agriculture and – heaven help us – “family farming.” Is one of them for getting water to the Central Valley and the other opposed? Would one of them drain the Delta in order to flood parched farmland?

The issue of abortion rights is perhaps the brightest line difference between the two.

Boxer knows that Fiorina’s anti-abortion stance differs from mainstream views of most California voters, including the independents who tilt the balance in statewide elections. She also knows, however, that Fiorina has a personal narrative to explain her position – she and her husband, Frank, were unable to have children, while his mother recalls that she was urged to abort him for health reasons – so Boxer must handle it carefully.

While voters may hope the candidates will keep the debate focused on issues, some personal, snarky moments are all but guaranteed – the targets are just too tempting.

Will Fiorina refer to Boxer as “ma’am,” to remind viewers of her notorious confrontation over titles with a top general at a committee hearing? Will Boxer, as one of her advisers suggested, mention Fiorina’s yacht trips with her grandchildren? Will either offer a reminder of Fiorina’s dis of Boxer’s way-yesterday hairdo early in the campaign?

How about term limits, Barbara? Carly’s for them and has even pledged to serve only 12 years in the Senate. Is this just a cheap rhetorical trick or are you planning to lead a nationwide drive to get approval for a constitutional amendment, Carly?

Carly, are you for tax breaks for companies shipping jobs overseas, like you did at HP? Barbara, do you want to raise business taxes to make it even harder for companies to hire workers when California’s unemployment rate is pushing 13 percent?

As they prepare for the debate, both sides are talking up how skilled the other is at public speaking and argument, part of the raise-expectations game.

But there are some expectations that viewers can rightfully bring to the debate-watching experience. Boxer, who often stands on a box to look taller, has to maintain the dignity and decorum of a United States senator, even if she takes shots at her challenger. Fiorina has to look and sound like a United States senator and not Suze Orman on steroids.

Viewers might want to put a couple of columns on a piece of paper: Junk Yard Dog and Dignified Public Servant. Every time either candidate sounds like one of these, mark her name in the appropriate column. Total them up at the end.

The results will have absolutely nothing to do with who actually wins the election.

This article, without clever Calbuzz art, appeared originally in the Sacramento Bee on Sunday, 8/29/10.