Sunday, October 15, 2006
Carson And Dickerson Share Their Differences; Provide Voters A Choice
Connie Wick and her residents at Robin Run Village did tonight what no one in the mainstream media has been able to do to date in the 7th District congressional race. They provided a forum at which voters could gather, hear the candidates speak for themselves and answer questions submitted to them from the audience. The contrasting views and personalities between Rep. Julia Carson (D) and Eric Dickerson (R) could not have been more striking. My only disappointment is that tonight's event wasn't televised so all the voters of the 7th District would have a chance to see the candidates up close and decide which of them is best suited to represent us in Congress.
My view of the two candidates has been pretty apparent to all who have been reading this blog for the last several months. I believe Ms. Carson is past her prime and is not physically or mentally up to the challenge of holding one of the most important government positions in our country, past accomplishments over the past 32 years in elective office aside. Her performance tonight only reinforced that view. Appearing frail and tired, she declined to stand at the podium to speak, choosing the comfort of her chair. Dickerson politely remained seated to avoid grandstanding her physical incapacity. Dickerson's performance tonight was as good or better than any I've ever witnessed in my 30 years as an astute political observer. He was poised, confident, well-informed and knew how to communicate his message to the audience. For a candidate who is admittedly running on a shoe-string budget without the assistance of paid professional consultants, his performance tonight was stunning.
Each candidate was provided an opportunity to make an opening statement. Carson arrived late for the event and spoke to the audience first. Adorned in red, white and blue attire, she expressed her feeling of being "blessed to be born in the U.S" and how she would want to live nowhere else in the world but here in a "very blessed country." She then reminded her audience of the numerous public offices she's held since her first election as a state representative in 1975. She tried to remember when she was first elected to Congress, but she forgot the year. "I've been elected to five terms," she said. "I hope I know when to quit," she added. She briefly touched on domestic issues which concerned her--single parent mothers, violence and crime among our youth who lack self-respect, human trafficking, and more government assistance for our senior citizens.
She reminded her audience that she "had the courage" to stand up and vote against the war in Iraq. She thinks that Bush jumped into the war too fast before giving the WMD inspectors enough time to do their job. While she agreed that Saddam Hussein was a "vicious person", he had nothing to do with attack on the World Trade Center. She criticized Bush for not directing all his efforts at tracking down al Quaeda terrorists and, more specifically, Osama Bin Laden. She predicted an October surprise from the administration just before the election that the U.S. has captured Bin Laden. Carson set out to clarify a statement she made during her appearance on "Political Insiders" this weekend which left the impression she favored a cut-and-run approach on Iraq, although she still wants our troops withdrawn from harms way. She also complained that the Bush administration had failed to properly equip and arm the troops who are fighting the war, leading to more casualties.
Carson, drawing attention to her own medical difficulties, said she had been blessed to have access to the best medical providers in the nation's capital and here in Indianapolis for her medical care. She hoped to implement a universal health insurance program which would insure access to the same type of care she enjoys to all people.
Dickerson arrived early and pressed the flesh with every single person in the audience. He had a little fun in his opening comment poking fun at the pols and pundits who think his campaign is a lost cause because he isn't running a big media campaign. As he often explains, he spent several years branding his name through the promotion of his Buick dealership. Everyone in the audience tonight knows my name as he recited his company's slogan. He told the audience about growing up in Detroit and being taught by his mother Betsy to believe that you can become whatever you want, a philosophy he has carried with him throughout his life. It never occurred to him that running for Congress should be any different than anything else he's set out to achieve in life. He doesn't need a lot of money to win this race. He has his RV and a message, and he takes it directly to as many people as he can every day he says.
Dickerson sees our country at a crossroads between a future which promises prosperity or a slippery slope. "I've never held a public office before and I've had nothing to do with the sad state of our city, state and country," he said. He says he served his country proudly as a U.S. Marine out of his love for his country. He's not running for Congress out of any expectation of "lining his pockets", but to serve his country. As Dickerson explains it, 7th District voters are faced with the same predicament a patient has with a doctor who he's been seeing for years but can't seem to cure his ailment. At a certain point, the patient can no longer hope for something better; it's time to find another doctor who might have a cure. He thinks the success of a congressperson should be based on their accomplished deeds in office and not their words alone--an indirect hit at Carson's lack of legislative successes after 10 years in Congress. It's nothing personal he insists; it's just a logical course of action whenever anyone fails to produce results. "It's about what you can accomplish, not what you hope to do."
On Iraq, Dickerson highlighted his "support and train" approach to Iraq. "We can't just leave in the middle of the night" as some have advocated he says. It took the U.S. Marines 4-5 months to whip him into shape with basic training; we should do the same for Iraqis he urges. Dickerson would train Iraqis to become front line soldiers for the new democratically-elected government at training bases outside Iraq. When they returned, they would replace front line American soldiers, who then could revert to less dangerous and secondary support roles, or return home altogether.
During the question-and-answer session, Carson reiterated her support for a universal health care system with no specifics on how she would fund such a plan. Dickerson opposes a government-run health care plan. He wants to encourage greater use of personal health care savings accounts with the attending government tax incentives to encourage their use. He thinks the worst situation we can find ourselves in is a government-run system where health care is rationed to patients in the absence of any free market forces.
On reducing our dependence on foreign oil, Carson said she supported incentives to use ethanol, noting her support for legislation to give tax credits to retailers who installed ethanol pumps. She also observed that within three years, all Indy 500 cars will run on ethanol. Dickerson said that's not enough. He noted his travels to Brazil and how it has achieved total energy independence through the use of ethanol by using American-made technology which has been around since the 1970s. He thinks Congress must take affirmative steps to make ethanol available at every gas station in this country, not just a handful here and there.
The candidates were asked to express their views on nuclear power. Carson offered no specific position other than to state that she thought the government intended to shut down most of the nuclear waste facilities over time. Dickerson said the lack of definitive solution for dealing with nuclear waste leads him to the conclusion that it should not be pursued as a viable, alternative energy source.
On the issue of illegal immigrants, Carson once again sought to temper comments she made during her appearance on "Political Insiders" this weekend. While she reiterated her position that everyone should have to wait their turn in line, including those who "jumped the waters of Mexico" to get here, she felt we had an obligation to feed and care for the illegal aliens and their children who live here in the country today. Dickerson emphasized the need to enforce the laws already on the books. As a marine, he was taught to tend to a wounded soldier on the battlefield by "stopping the bleeding." We need to take the same approach by getting control of our borders to stem the tide of illegal immigration.
At one point in the discussion tonight, Carson, in my opinion, took the low road in addressing her opponent. It came during a discussion about the need to help people become self-sufficient instead of continuing to provide them handouts that only encourage dependency. Carson digressed into a discussion of taking your car repeatedly back to the same dealer who keeps promising to fix your car but never fixes it for you--specifically referencing Dickerson's former Buick dealership. It really didn't fit into the discussion and showed a vicious streak in Carson mentioned by the Star's editors today in their backhanded endorsement of her re-election.
One issue on which both candidates agreed was the need to ban the use of any form of torture in compliance with the Geneva Convention for any foreign enemy held captive by the U.S. They differed sharply, however, on the use of wiretapping international phone calls involving American citizens without the use of a warrant. Carson flat out opposes such warrantless wiretaps without exception. Dickerson arguably took the less popular position and reminded the audience that we are at war. He only approved of such warrantless wiretaps on international calls only where suspected terrorists are communicated with persons inside the U.S.
There was an independent candidate, John Plemons, who also addressed the audience tonight as well. I'm not going to discuss the lengthy statement he read in full tonight with all the capacity of a grade school remedial student. He demurred from answering most of the questions, saying they required further study on his part. I hate to be too critical, but the scene reminded me of a recent episode of South Park where the entire town learned that Officer Barberry couldn't read at a town hall meeting he called for the purpose of getting community help to track down the perp who was violating all the town's chickens. And it really was just as humorous. I have to give Carson and Dickerson credit for not losing their composure as most of the audience couldn't help from doing at moments.
The candidates were each allowed the opportunity to make a brief one-minute closing statement. Carson stood for her closing statement--the only point she did so during tonight's discussion. She relied on her folksy charm to woo her audience without offering anything concrete she would deliver or work to deliver if she is re-elected. Dickerson was very direct in his closing--"If you can't deliver, you can't help. It's not personal." His carefully crafted message seemed to work with this audience. He continuously reminded his audience tonight that you must demonstrate your effectiveness based on your deeds, not your words. Carson failed to make the case for her re-election. She relied exclusively on her past laurels and folksy ways, offering little reason for sending her back for another two years. Will it make a difference in the outcome? Who knows. But I can assure you Carson's handlers won't be insisting on any more joint appearances with Dickerson. It's a risk I'm betting they won't take again in what little time remains of this election.