Monday, October 13, 2008

From the forum

So, being a moderator for a debate sounds more fun than it really is. But I'm glad I stepped in to referee the Jerry McNerney-Dean Andal 11th Congressional District forum on Saturday in Tracy.

From behind the lectern, it looked like Andal scored a victory. He had the zingers that McNerney lacked, and he was more straightforward in several of his answers. But Andal also scored the lowest blow.

You'd expect McNerney's answers to be more complex, as he's a congressman. Even two years in office provides plenty of track record for an opponent to pounce on. But Andal reached into the realm of dishonor when he said McNerney's vote against funding a surge in Iraq was "immoral."

As McNerney pointed out, in Congress the only way to influence the way the Iraq war has been waged is via appropriations — especially refusing to spend money on what McNerney called an "open-ended" conflict led by President Bush. So McNerney voted against it. When it became apparent the president would allow troops in the field to run out of supplies before he changed his strategy, McNerney voted to fund the Pentagon's request.

Andal painting that as immoral is especially misleading, since, if elected to Congress, Andal would probably find himself the victim of similar mischaracterizations.

With all the procedural votes a congressman faces, and with all the earmarks and riders attached to many large bills, Andal the congressman would surely find himself between a rock and a hard place: vote to violate his no tax pledge, or vote against overall popular and valuable legislation and leave himself vulnerable to truth-stretching attacks.

To be fair, mailers from an outside group that is backing McNerney are harping on similar distortions of the truth. (Check your mail slot, I'm sure you'll see them soon.)

Most notable among the out-of-context stretchers are that Andal voted to mandate skirt-wearing in private business offices and opposes tougher date-rape laws. This didn't come up in the forum, but it's making the rounds.

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