The candidates for Senate in Colorado met at a debate last night, took shots at each other and both offered unexpected answers to questions ranging from jobs to Afghanistan — including the declaration from Republican Ken Buck that Afghans are too “backward” to create an industrialized democracy.When discussing the Bush tax cuts, Sen. Michael Bennet (D) said that he supported extending all the cuts for one year, so that the debate over their long-term status can be debated outside an election year.
After a series of rapid yes/no questions, in which the Republican Buck expressed support for some aspects of health care reform, including preexisting conditions coverage, Bennet joked, slamming his fist on his podium, “You know what, until the very end, Ken Buck was almost for the health care reform bill.”
“But how would we know what’s in those 2,400 pages with those 10 tax increases?” Buck responded.
Buck attacked the health care bill, and leveled the charge that the IRS would need 16,500 agents to enforce the law, a charge which, as The Denver Post points out, has been debunked.
On the war in Afghanistan, both candidates agreed that the war has gone on too long. But while Bennet said a timetable for withdrawal was necessary, Buck argued that we shouldn’t signal our plans to the enemy. Both said the U.S. shouldn’t try to nation build in Afghanistan, but Buck gave his argument a particular spin.
“We can’t nation build in Afghanistan, the way we did with the Marshall Plan in Germany,” Buck said. “It’s a fundamental mistake to assume that a people as backward as the Afghans are going to be able to build the industrialized nation and the democracy that it takes to be able to achieve what we would consider a Western-style democracy. And we have to be realistic about our goals. I think we have been there far too long. I think we have to give our troops an exit strategy, and get out of there when we can.”
Bennet faced questions about spending, particularly his support for pay-as-you-go policies. He argued health care reform was paid for, despite “a lot of rhetoric out there about it.” And he defended voting to extend unemployment benefits as an “emergency spending measure.”
“For a lot of our folks, there is an emergency out there,” Bennet said.
Buck said that one of his long-term goals — he acknowledged he couldn’t get it done in a month or a year — was to “enact a constitutional balanced budget amendment in this country.”
“Discipline needs to be imposed by the constitution,” Buck said.
One of the night’s other surprises was Bennet saying he didn’t support the language in the union-supported Employee Free Choice Act.
“I believe strongly in the right of workers to collectively bargain, free from intimidation,” Bennet said. “But I would not support the current language in the bill.”
Business leaders told The Denver Post they were very happy to hear Bennet say that.
“We are very pleased to hear Sen. Bennet, after months of silence, tell Colorado voters that he opposes the bill,” said Sandra Hagen Solin, state director of the Coalition for Colorado Jobs.
The TPM Poll Average shows Buck leading Bennet 47.9%-44.1%.