Charlie Brown and Tom McClintock debate in El Dorado County

Tuesday, October 14th, 2008 | Uncategorized

This evening I had the opportunity to attend a “forum” between the two candidates vying to represent California’s fourth district in congress. The forum, held at the county office, was sponsored by the League of Women Voters and the American Association of University Women.

I came away from the evening with the following observations:

On Presentation

  • McClintock lives up to my expectation of a career politician: He is wordy and lacks passion.
  • Brown could use some help with his talking points. He missed several opportunities to rebuttal.
  • Both candidates were well acquainted with local political issues. Whilst McClintock speaks better, Brown is the true political outsider.
  • Brown’s ground game was far superior to McClintock’s. Brown supporters were out in force and offered a cheerful reception as voters filtered in from the parking lot.

(Picture caption: Notably there are a couple people carrying “Republicans for Brown” signs — and this was only a small section of the candidate’s supporters.  There were no McClintock supporters operating in the same fashion.)

On the Issues
Climate Change:
McClintock denys that climate change is man made. He believes that the science behind climate change is “unsettled” and thus we do not have to act to reduce carbon emissions. However, this is an ill-advised position. Firstly, science is always unsettled. This is the point of the scientific method and as such one could argue that even the theory of gravity remains unsettled. Yet this does not mean that what we currently know is wrong, it simply means that we have more to learn. This will always be the case — even with climate change. Secondly, if McClintock wishes to argue that the science is “unsettled” then he can no more suggest that we do nothing than he can suggest we need not worry about emissions. If the science is unsettled, McClintock, then why take the risk of increasing potential problems?

Brown believes that climate change is not only a looming problem for our nation’s future, but that it is potentially a matter of national security. In the sense that climate change may affect things like water resources, food production, conflicts over agriculture and resources, he may be correct. Brown also points out that McClintock has received at least $115,000 from oil and gas companies, and thus suggests that McClintock is more likely to avoid addressing the problem of climate change. If tonight is any indication of McClintock’s state of denial then it appears that the oil lobbyists have done their job.

Auburn Dam:
McClintock is for building the dam, Brown is against it. McClintock argues that once the dam is constructed then we will receive energy for as little as 1.5 cents a kilowatt hour. He says that the dam ought to be funded by revenue bonds. As we do not know the true cost of the dam we cannot actually know what the true cost of our energy will be. It may be true that hydroelectric dams produce cheap electricity, but they have huge upfront costs. And because McClintock wishes to fund the project with revenue bonds, these costs would get passed on to everyone who uses the energy. Thus, in terms of costs per kilowatt hour we may have to think 1.5 cents + all additional costs (construction, maintenance, safety, insurance…).

Brown proposes that we do work to reconstitute stream beds in the Sierras (which would provide a reservoir like source of water without the cost of a dam; though I am not sure that too many people, including myself, knew what he was talking about). He also proposes that we promote wind and solar power as alternative forms of energy. Brown points out that there are already wind companies willing to set up shop our district. Unlike the dam project, these companies would be willing to pay their own construction costs. McClintock pointed out that the cost of solar and wind is still quite high compared to other forms of energy (such as coal, nuclear, and hydroelectric)

The Military:
Brown made it clear that he has given a lifetime of military service to the nation whilst pointing out that McClintock has been a lifelong politician. Brown attacked McClintock on military issues, saying that McClintock has done very little for veterans and has voted against many programs that would support military families. Brown pointed out that McClintock has been called one of the most “obstructionist politicians” in California. McClintock seemed to take pleasure in this label, by suggesting that what he obstructed was spending and taxes. However, this also means that McClintock could be a liability when it comes to supporting our military — and especially when it comes to supporting military families.

Government Reform:
Both candidates believe that Bush’s “no child left behind” program has failed. They both suggest that the program was poorly conceived. They would both like to see that core educational decisions are made and managed locally. McClintock would like to see widespread changes in the administration of federal welfare and healthcare — though he was vague on what these changes entailed. Brown would like to reduce un-needed duplications between the armed forces and VA programs.

Republicans usually score points on tax plans. McClintock would like to see that many programs are decentralized and that our taxes go to the most local delivery levels. McClintock pointed out that he had signed things like a no new taxes pledge and a pledge to combat earmark spending. However, Brown fired back by saying that what matters at the end of the day is not only where we are getting the revenue, but how politicians decide to spend that revenue. Brown pointed out that McClintock, whilst serving in the state legislature, had voted to give himself a 20% pay increase, to refurbish the governor’s mansion, and to purchase an executive jet. Brown also advocated keeping more tax revenue within the district.

McClintock suggests that government has worked to place healthcare out of reach of many people. To rectify this McClintock would like to give people the option to buy out-of-state health insurance. He would also like to provide a tax-credit for families. He suggested legislation that would require healthcare companies insure a person for everything expect pre-conditions. He gave the example of a man who had bursitis. Brown pointed out that this was a poor example, and asked what would happen if the man actually had something like diabetes. Perhaps a healthcare company would offer him insurance but would not insure him against any diabetes related illness? Brown advocates a blend of public and private partnerships. He was vague on the structure of such partnerships.

Judging by the crowd reactions Brown was the favorite; though it may simply have been that more of his supporters were present. McClintock’s right-wing principles resonate with many of the district’s voters, yet because McClintock is a career politician from southern California many people remain suspicious of his motives.

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1 Comment to Charlie Brown and Tom McClintock debate in El Dorado County

[...] Rep. Tom McClintock (R-CA-04): McClintock denies that climate change is man made. He believes that the science behind climate change is “unsettled” and thus we do not have to act to reduce carbon emissions. [source] [...]

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