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Sestak and Toomey Trade 'Extremist' Barbs in Pennsylvania Senate Debate

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Democrat Joe Sestak and Republican Pat Toomey accused each other of being "extreme" and outside the mainstream in the first debate of a Pennsylvania Senate race that's suddenly turned into a dead heat. Sestak lumped Toomey with Sarah Palin, Christine O'Donnell and George W. Bush. But Toomey went the whole hour without mentioning House Speaker Nancy Pelosi -- a name many Republicans are wielding in efforts to tar their opponents.
The debate at the National Constitution Center in Philadelphia showcased a pair of opposites. Sestak, elected to the House in 2006, repeatedly mentioned his 31 years in the Navy, including as a national security aide to President Clinton, and the government health care that saved his daughter when she was stricken with brain cancer. He said the "Bush-Toomey era" produced zero job growth and a deep recession, and he voted for government spending packages to keep the economy from tanking further. "Sometimes you have to take care of other people's messes and just clean them up," Sestak said.
Toomey, who worked on Wall Street, helped start a family business, served in the House from 1999-2005 and then became head of the anti-tax, anti-regulation group Club for Growth, painted Sestak as anti-Israel, ignorant of how business works and aligned with his party's liberal fringe. He said Sestak never met a bailout he didn't like – and that soaring government spending and deficits are having "a chilling effect" on private-sector job growth.
It was moderator George Stephanopoulos of ABC's "Good Morning America" who first brought up Palin. She gave Toomey a nod of approval this week, writing on her Facebook page that Congress needs him and other Republicans from manufacturing and energy-producing states. Stephanopoulos asked Toomey what he thought of her role, and whether he considers her qualified to be president. Toomey did not answer the second part. As for the first, he said he welcomes "all allies" across the spectrum in his quest to stop government overreach and over-spending.

Toomey, who is trying to broaden his appeal to independents and moderates, did not accuse Sestak of supporting an Obama or Pelosi agenda. In fact, the only times he mentioned Obama were to say he supported Obama's troop surge in Afghanistan and would have voted to confirm Sonia Sotomayor, Obama's first appointee to the Supreme Court.
Sestak, who needs to fire up Democrats, seized his opportunity to discuss the Tea Party and some of its polarizing figures and ideas. He acknowledged that Toomey had "won the very coveted award of an endorsement by Sarah Palin" but said he is concerned about "those extreme candidates that are actually taking advantage of the extreme fringe of the Tea Party." Those "running with Congressman Toomey" include "Miss O'Donnell next door," he said, referring to the surprise winner of the GOP Senate nomination in Delaware, much of which is in the Philadelphia media market.
Some in the Tea Party want to do away with the 14th Amendment (which defines citizenship and guarantees due process), Sestak said, and think "there can be a state-established religion." He then tacked onto that list "Congressman Toomey's belief that corporations should have zero taxes" and added, "If it's a program for the people, he's against it. If it's a program for corporations, he's for it."
Toomey countered that Sestak not only voted for all bailouts, he introduced his own bailout bill (for underwater homeowners) and wanted a $1 trillion stimulus package "because $800 billion of money we didn't have wasn't enough." He also said Sestak voted for a version of health reform that would have allowed states to ban private insurance (a characterization Sestak's campaign later disputed) and a cap-and-trade energy bill that would "devastate" the economy. "That's a very extreme agenda and it's out of step with Pennsylvania," Toomey said.
Abortion was another topic of diametric opposition. Toomey said the Supreme Court's Roe v. Wade decision that legalized abortion was "mistakenly determined" and he supports its repeal. He said Sestak is "in that fringe of members, very liberal, who believe in taxpayer-funded abortion-on-demand and no restrictions at all."
Sestak responded: "Palin, Toomey, O'Donnell. They all would like to overturn Roe versus Wade. I believe that those life decisions of a family should be made within the family. I don't think government should intervene. And I respect precedents on the Supreme Court."

Poll Watch: Joe Sestak Catches Pat Toomey in Pennsylvania as Democrats Re-Engage

For the record, Toomey said he would allow abortions in cases of rape, incest and if a woman's life was in danger (unlike O'Donnell, who opposes the rape and incest exceptions). Also for the record, Sestak told Toomey that "I voted against taxpayers funding it. And you know it. "
The pair also sparred over Social Security and Toomey's proposal to offer younger workers private options within the system. "I want to make this program last for future generations," he said. Sestak said Toomey would "take the security out of Social Security" by encouraging people to risk their money in the stock market. "A lot of young people would choose the option that I would offer," Toomey shot back, adding: "Joe has no solutions for this."
There was at least one subject on which Sestak and Toomey agreed – that national security hinges in the long run on the health of the U.S. economy. But they disagreed on most other aspects. Toomey said for instance that he wanted terrorists tried in military tribunals, not civilian courts, especially the trial of 9/11 mastermind Khalid Sheikh Mohammed. "This would be a circus. It would be very dangerous. Who knows what terrorists would do to try to disrupt the proceedings," he said.
Sestak, who retired as a three-star admiral and says he's the highest-ranking military officer ever elected to Congress, made one of his many references to his background. He said he walked out of the Pentagon 25 minutes before the plane slammed into it on 9/11, and "men and women who worked for me never came out." He said Bush put 200 terrorists on trial in civilian courts and suggested that's an issue now because it's a campaign season.
Neither candidate seemed to support a deadline for getting out of Afghanistan. Toomey said it might be worth negotiating with the Taliban if the end result is they surrender and lay down their arms. Sestak said benchmarks and measurements are needed. "We need to roll it up, but finding out first if we're being successful," he said.

Sestak won the Democratic nomination in May with a come-from-behind victory over Sen. Arlen Specter, who left the GOP last year after polls showed he'd lose the GOP primary to the far more conservative Toomey. Until this week, Sestak was trailing Toomey as well. But several new party and public polls show the race now tied, raising the stakes for the pair's second and final debate Friday in Pittsburgh.

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16 Comments

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kgnycnonsport

I'm just curious. Do all the people who rant against the recent healthcare program that was passed send their kids to private school? Afterall isn't government funded education a form of socialism?

October 21 2010 at 10:17 PM Report abuse +3 rate up rate down Reply
Hanson

This contest, to me, looks heartwarming, compared to other contests where candidates with no experience trade insults such as "Marxist" or "Teabagger." Also, I find it very ironic how Sestak is being the combative type that Tea Party candidates usually adopt. Toomey, on the other hand, talks more about what Sestak did, not who he might be.

October 21 2010 at 6:25 PM Report abuse +3 rate up rate down Reply
breezy62253

I am a PA Republican and my utter frustration this year is the HORRIBLE choice of candidates my party has given me. The incessnt rhetoric of how bad the Democrats, Obama and Pelosi are does not tell me what they as a party or candidate will do specifically to improve the economy, address healthcare except "NO", and manufacture jobs. They have people buffaloed into believing they are the party of change and they are nothing but arrogant, power loving. big corporation moutpieces and that's what got us into this mess in the first place. I have no desire to go backward. Been there, done that!

October 21 2010 at 11:34 AM Report abuse +4 rate up rate down Reply
Kenneth

Sestak eants to use his thirty years of military service as a key issue in this campaign. I have no problem with someone dedicating their life to serve this country. But during this campaign why hasn't it been brought up that after reaching the 3 star admiral ranking he was forced to retire a two star admiral in reference to his performance.

October 21 2010 at 11:07 AM Report abuse +1 rate up rate down Reply
christierandall

Pa...you certainly do not want a republican representing you...remember the Bush years...remember when the republicans had control of both houses...not good...

October 21 2010 at 11:03 AM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
JOHN ILOWICKI

Toomey showed his weakness for all to see last night. He is a pencil neck geek that couldn't last two seconds with a working class Pennsylvanian. If he walked into our corner bar, he would be thrown out inside of 30 seconds. And that would happen before he opened his mouth spouting his anti worker, pro corporate greed agenda. If there ever was a candidate that didn't represent the average Pennsylvanian, its Pat Toomey. He serves China and Wall Street, let him go back there and work for them and not Pennsylvania.

October 21 2010 at 9:43 AM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
corbinchef

Sestak told a bold faced lie about the abortion issue (He voted "no" on the amendment that would have stopped federal funds for abortion, which in fact means he did vote "For" federal money to go towards abortions)Like your president Joe"YOU LIE." And George Stepinapileofshit started spewing the anti-palin BS. Palin's qualifications for president have nothing to do with PA senate race but all things considered she is more qualified then the nit wit who has the position now.(a community organizer, really)

October 21 2010 at 9:35 AM Report abuse -1 rate up rate down Reply
1 reply to corbinchef's comment
wellscreen12

huh? um ... Joe Wilson says "YOU LIE" Sestak was not in Congress when the Hyde Amendment was voted on - which IS the Amendment that stops federal funding for abortion - so - in fact, Sestak did NOT vote against the ban on federal money being used for abortion.

October 21 2010 at 11:34 AM Report abuse -1 rate up rate down Reply
Jan

Come on people of PA have you forgotten that Sustek was totally responsible for the passage of the monstrosity called OBAMACARE? He was the holdout and caved to an executive order which was hogwash to get his vote. He caved the first round when Pelosi let him add his amendment about the government not paying for abortion, which the Senate promptly through out of the bill which caused the whole executive order. This man has been bought and paid for.

October 21 2010 at 8:26 AM Report abuse +3 rate up rate down Reply
4 replies to Jan's comment
Len

What we have is a failure to communicate (thanx Paul Newman) and it is due in large part to the fact that there is no longer a frontier on this planet. And, with no frontier, we find ourselves fighting over lesser and lesser amounts of the pie, both internationally and at home. It doesn't have to be this way. Next year, the first space liner completes certification. And, while the flight perimeters of the VSS Enterprise are modest, the next generation of space liners will have international range, reducing flight times to a fraction of what they are now. This next generation will also turn the International Space Station from a white elephant to a cash cow. In 2016, the first nuclear fusion power plant comes on line in France. If it works as well as everyone expects, the nuclear fusion power planet will become the mainstay on this planet. Interestingly, fusion power planets will solve global warming. At the same time, carbon fiber first invented by Boeing will become the material of choice in architecture of all kinds. 50 times as strong as steel and phenomenally light, building will become spires miles high. Even better, it makes possible the space elevator first proposed by Konstantin Tsilkovsky a century ago. The space elevator will be the conduit making our solar system our next great frontier, ripe with untouched raw materials and infinite possibilities. And, in the process, it will save Democracy.

October 21 2010 at 12:27 AM Report abuse -5 rate up rate down Reply
nokabosh

Sestak was nominated for Rear Admiral by Clinton (he was serving on Clinton's staff). He made two star rank and then made three star but was forced to retire at 2 star rank because of his performance. Ask hin about that.

October 21 2010 at 12:17 AM Report abuse +2 rate up rate down Reply
1 reply to nokabosh's comment
wellscreen12

Joe Wilson says, "YOU LIE" Admiral Sestak was NOT asked to retire and you are only spreading false malicious lies about him.

October 21 2010 at 11:37 AM Report abuse +4 rate up rate down Reply

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