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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.