Tuesday, September 28, 2010

Crossfire: CA governor candidates take the stage in first formal debate

KABC-TV Los Angeles: Gov Candidates Brown, Whitman meet to debate

That's right, folks--after 2 long months of relocating, working, studying, and various other forms of college student diversion, I am BACK with a brand new election-season rant!  Tonight marked the opening episode of the California gubernatorial debates, and for many politically-minded Californians, the moment we've all been waiting for.  Held at UC Davis, this debate was the perfect opportunity for Meg Whitman and Jerry Brown to publicly explain their plans for the governorship, as well as address some of the issues that have been so gossiped about in the press the last few months.  While I strongly encourage every Californian to watch this debate for themselves, I simply can't resist the urge to recap it.

First off, I was completely and utterly surprised at Whitman's debating style.  She presented herself much better than I (or anyone else for that matter) expected, although it wasn't perfect; I did find her incessant repetition of talking-points-in-a-can quite annoying, and also caught a few weak spots in her arguments, not to mention that she used the word "child" twice in referring to California public university students.  Brown brought up a few good points and performed like the seasoned politician that he is, but in my opinion, made some far-fetched claims and dropped the ball on some sensitive topics.

The issue of California's ever-tardy, ever-gluttonous state budget was the first point of discussion.  Finally the candidates were able to talk about something in a formal setting, free of mudslinging (or in Meg's case, cash-slinging) advertisements or op-eds.  I gave Brown the first point of the evening for his budget plan, which involves cutting his own budget 15% as well as challenging our state legislature to do the same, while making the budgeting process more transparent and taking the backroom politics out of the equation for good.  Whitman's plan involves...a two-year budget cycle, rather than the fiscal year that the Fed and the entire rest of the economy is currently running on?...seems to me that more budget confusion isn't exactly what we need.  I gave neither candidate points when it came to their job creation strategies.  Whitman's proposal to eliminate the startup tax was well-played, but her biggest plan involves eliminating the factory tax and crossing our fingers for manufacturing to pick back up where it left off, and Brown's dream is an all-out hippie offensive from the already grossly over-subsidized green sector.  Thanks for the suggestions guys, but as one of the millions of students getting ready to graduate from a four-year university with student loan debt, I'm really not inclined to settle for a job in assembly line production or retrofitting solar panels to roofs in the scorching California sun.

Speaking of education, I reluctantly had to throw Meg Whitman her first point of the night when the question of UC/CSU/CC fee increases came up.  I was so disappointed by Jerry Brown's argument--he started out by saying how much he loved the UC system...but when the panelist asked him if he pledged to hold the line on student fees from now on, he backpedaled and refused to stand his ground on the issue.  Come on, Jerry!  Even Arnold was able to rein in the chaos a little for the '10-'11 school year!  Whitman, on the other hand, actually proposed strategically streamlining and siphoning money from other areas of the government (namely welfare programs and staffing) in order to keep our universities going, although I found it slightly ironic that she kept bringing up downsizing on government staff, which would require cutting hundreds, even thousands, of jobs, when she made job creation one of her key issues.  Looks like she's learning the ropes of politics pretty fast if you know what I mean.

Immigration was where the debate really got interesting.  Nobody can deny the problems we face as a border state, and I must award this point to Jerry Brown, although more on the basis of my own personal bias.  Brown's strategy was both rational and feasible: implement efficient law enforcement programs that deport and take action against the undocumented immigrants that are actually committing crimes, then work on a peaceful path to legal citizenship for Mexican immigrants.  Whitman expressed her opinion that the Arizona immigration law was too "divisive", then immediately flipped the script and talked about taking action against every illegal immigrant in the state.  She can think what she may, but if she seriously thinks that she's ever going to be able to afford or enforce such a plan and hunt down and deport literally tens of thousands of off-the-books immigrants, then she knows even less about policy implications than I thought.

The night's festivities ended with a humorous discussion of fresh political-press gossip.  Meg's campaign strategies, namely her flat-out lying TV commercials and her $90 million personal check, were addressed, and while she went on the mother of all tangents when confronted about some of her ads, she made a pretty good point about the funding: by paying for much of the campaign herself, she holds herself accountable to no one else.  A good point, but I still can't help but think someone made up all this stuff for her and made a pretty penny.  Brown, a long-time slave of labor unions and other liberal pity-parties, testified that he is now much too old to care about special interest liabilities and other traditional games of public office.  He then ruined his progress by running over time with a corny shout-out to vote no on Prop 23, which by the way, Whitman supports, and unfortunately I have to give her another point for being on my side of the enviro-policy battle.

No matter which way you cut it, this debate was the most interesting thing that has happened since the start of this campaign.  About 30 days and a few more debates remain...who's it gonna be?  The sketchy 1970's "moonbeam" governor from the Bay Area?  Or the sketchy corporate bigwig rookie from the Bay Area?

...Personally I think we're screwed either way, but there's no point in politics if you don't at least try to participate!  In the words of Stan Marsh, "I learned that I better get used to having to pick between a Douche and a Turd Sandwich, because that's usually the choice I'll have" (South Park Studios).  Couldn't have said it any better myself.