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Monday, October 4, 2010

Jack And Rand : A Kentuckian's Perspective

When I first heard that Jack Conway was fully ready to debate Rand Paul on his "home court" - Fox"News" - I was starting to get the feeling that Rand was going to be taken to the proverbial woodshed. But as we would likely be seated with a moderator/host that was sympathetic to his point of view, I began to rethink how Conway would peform.

From the start, you are given a clear sense of how Chris Wallace wants you to see these two men and what they stand for. But this was to be expected.

With the opening question from Wallace, it was made readily apparent that Paul wasn't going to stray too far from the Tea Bagger mantra of "Obama bad! Conservative good!" without giving any real specifics on why he would be the better choice. And while he did mention Cap And Trade and the coal industry, he was relying more on the perception of proposed legislation to get his point across.

Conway, in stark contrast, responded with several specific examples regarding not only his record as AG, but how Rand Paul is clearly disconnected from the residents of Kentucky.

In the follow-up to Conway's opposition, Rand showed more than just a sliver of hubris in regards to where he is right now among "likely voters". I will submit that Kentucky is a rather conservative state, and Democrats like Jack Conway aren't the type of Democrats that I normally support. And in that regard, I am more than just a minority voter in Kentucky, I would likely be viewed as a "radical". Then again, anyone these days with an odd sounding last name that can see that this country isn't populated exclusively by white men that listen to Rush Limbaugh is deemed a "radical".

But I think that one factor Rand Paul is banking on is the fact that many people in Kentucky are going to be more receptive to the disinformation regarding "Cap And Trade" legislation than they are the facts surrounding it.

In terms of what Conway has to say about TARP and healthcare reform dovetails slightly with what I think. I would have like to have seen the Bush administration TARP program ( oh, are we not supposed to mention that was his crew's idea? ) be more strict on those that had their hands in the housing market crash. But when it comes to healthcare reform, I would have likely to see a Single Payer system implemented versus the watered-down version we got.

When Rand chimed in for his reply, notice how was all too eager to talk about costs. Healthcare reform pales in comparison to the Bush Tax Cuts and the Iraq occupation. Where did we get that money from, Rand? And I would most certainly challenge his claims on Stimulus dollars per job.

Then there's the point where Jack and Rand really start to get into the "back and forth" aspect of the debate. And it seems like Conway has somewhat of a point to make to Rand's claim regarding bank regulation and Kentucky banks - which Chris Wallace won't allow.

The Cap And Trade issue is the most contentious one in the first segment, as Rand Paul is hell-bent on affixing the "flip-flopper" label on Conway. And while, at first blush, one would get the feeling that Conway has reversed course, his record indicates that he is focused on finding common ground on this issue. This is something that Rand, and all conservatives actually, don't have the ability to do - seek out the commonalities between opposing issues and come to a solution that is beneficial to both parties. That, to me at least, is what a "centrist" does. As far as that happening in Kentucky, it's pretty much a long shot.

But then Jack Conway completely loses me.

Conservatives are so focused on the notion that letting the Bush Tax Cuts expire will lead us into further economic ruin are completely ignoring the fact that they simply didn't work in the first place. They continually push this meme that the top earners are "the job creators", when those people didn't put that money back into the economy, didn't reinvest, and incomes actually decreased by over $1 trillion dollars. But beyond that, the cost of continuing these cuts would completely run counter-intuative to the conservative narrative of controlled or a complete cut in spending.

This is where Jack Conway comes off as more of a conservatives. Is it to gain votes. Possibly.

Rand's response to that was a specious claim that Jack Conway wanted to keep the so-called "Death Tax". Having grown up on a family farm myself, and having to deal with the unfortunate death of my uncle - who was, at the time, the primary name on all documents related to the farm - we never once had any trouble keeping our land, our crops, or even consider selling.

Then comes the point where Chris Wallace does his "I'm being fair and balanced" schtick and then let's Rand Paul dance around the issue of actual cost of renewing the Bush Tax Cuts. And while Wallace does point out the fact that there is no way that $4 trillion in cuts is going to happen, Rand blubbers on up to the claim that he can balance the budget.

Here's where Rand's argument falls flat on it's face, clearly showing that the cuts didn't do at all what they were intended to do. He stated that businesses had been making calculations for the entire time that the cuts were in place. So, why didn't they act accordingly? Why wasn't there more investment? Why wasn't their more growth? Rand is ignoring reality and is trying to sell the audience on a narrative that simply doesn't work.

Part II picks up with the two candidates talking about Medicare and Social Security.

Conway's centrist status comes out in full force when questioned about these two "entitlements" - something that will likely resonate with the "independent" voters in Kentucky.

Alright, let's be clear, there are no "independent" voters in the regard that conservative Republicans like to make people think there is. These are simply people that traditionally vote Republican but don't want to be aligned with a lot of the crazy that has been coming out of the party over the last 18 months. Truth be told, and in accordance with the conservative definition, they should be called "flip-flop" voters, but then that would prevent Republicans from gaining their votes on election day, as reconsidering the issues isn't something that conservatives can do easily.

Rand Paul completely bombed on the issue of Social Security. The current Tea Bagger mantra is for government to get out of "everything", but they simply don't want to give up their Medicare and Social Security. Paul's stance on restructuring and revamping Medicare and Social Security is isolating the "younger generation" that conservatives continually claim they are wanting to protect. In other words, what he's saying is that it's fine to be saddled with more cost, because there's a chance that you might live longer than those already receiving Social Security and Medicare benefits. He's expecting his followers to rely on a "chance", a "possibility", and then pay more for the services. I notice that he didn't once mention privatization - another rallying cry we normally hear from conservatives. Could it be that Rand realizes that his beloved "free market principles" wouldn't work, that they would have destroyed people's accounts had Bush been successful during his last term in office? Perhaps so.

In terms of healthcare legislation, Paul is both misrepresenting those that have difficulty getting care and those that he contends shouldn't receive care. We all, in one form or another, have access to care, but the reality comes when we are faced with the cost. And in-so-much as Paul makes that valid point, he completely ignores it in favor of talking about who should and who shouldn't receive medical care in America. At no point did he offer suggestions. He would rather talk about people either being too lazy or undeserving.

Conway, in his response to the healthcare question - as with other topics in this debate - utilizes examples of people that he knows. Well, he tells us that he knows them, but it's the tactic that is effective. Couple that with specific examples of what he agrees with and doesn't agree with and you begin to get the sense that Conway is, at first blush, concerned with what the people of Kentucky think. Rand's obscure platitudes regarding spending concerns, costs, or impacts to Kentucky far too often fall flat when put through even moderate scrutiny.

I was really hoping that Rand and Conway would get into the drug issue earlier on, but once they did, Rand opted to take the standpoint of Conway being too divorced from the issue rather than explain his own perspective. And while Conway had the chance to explain the fight on meth labs and how they operate, he simply wasn't forceful enough and let Rand get away with connecting him with California - not to subtle coding for "them nasty liberal fags are givin' him money!!".

And then Wallace does exactly what the Rand Paul campaign on his network expect him to do - frame Jack Conway as an "extreme leftists".

That's when Rand sees his opening and uses the Brownism : "The People's Seat". This was the primary focus of some conservatives, despite the fact that Scott Brown was and is a massive disappointment to their modern incarnation and all that they allegedly stand for.

In the end, I can hardly see how Rand Paul clobbered Jack Conway in this debate. If anything, Conway was heavier on substance but let Paul filibuster, deflect, and misinform. Wallace did his duty, in as much as a top personality from Fox"News" is going to do, and let Paul get away with ignoring or distorting the issue and giving Conway just enough time to play the Center-Right role that Fox claims American stands for to begin with.

Paul performed pretty much like I would expect him to, but Conway simply didn't deliver the way that I know he could have and should have. But despite the actual outcome of the two meeting up here and elsewhere to discuss issues, there are conservatives across Kentucky that would vote for a known criminal if they had an "R" next to their name at the ballot box. The only question is whether or not Republicans in Kentucky are willing to see their state become of haven for right-wing extremist views.

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