DCC Candidates Forum: Sherrod Brown
[I missed the first few minutes of Brown's talk due to technical difficulties.]
He's focusing on criticizing Bush administration policies - cuts to programs, special interests, letting the pharmaceutical industry write the Medicare drug law, etc. He talks about raising the minimum wage, points out that minimum wage would be over $23 per hour if it had kept pace with executive salaries. Brown mocks DeWine for voting against the Republican party line only during the past few months, in order to bolster his image as a "moderate."
After ten minutes, Brown turns it over to questions. The moderator asks first about the poor handling of the Hackett episode; Brown bristles at that characterization. Brown defends by saying that he was busy with CAFTA and family issues (that he won't be specific about) at the time that Senate Minority Leader Harry Reid and Sen. Charles Schumer (D-NY) were first asking him about running for the Senate. He claims that he told Reid and Schumer that he "couldn't make a decision yet;" he denies saying that he had decided at that point not to run. Only when they insisted on a decision did Brown say "if you have to know now, the answer is no." Brown denies telling Hackett that Brown would support Hackett. Brown claims Hackett got out of the race because he was down 30 points in the polls and because he couldn't raise enough money to make payroll, not for the other reasons cited by Hackett.
On Iraq, asked if he agrees with Rep. Jack Murtha (D-Pa)on quick redeployment, Brown says that he voted against the war, that he organized people all over the country (working with MoveOn.org) to write letters against the war, and that he sponsored a resolution calling on Bush to put forth a winning exit strategy. He is not a co-sponsor of Murtha's bill, but is an advocate of starting a phased troop withdrawal as quickly as possible, to follow a timetable. Brown says that the Bush administration keeps signaling a permanent presence (e.g., Rice says that we could be there for a decade, the Pentagon talks about "the long war," and the administration won't rule out building permanent bases), which deters Iraqis from stepping up and taking over the job from the U.S.
On redistricting, Brown supported the Reform Ohio Now ("RON")ballot issue for non-partisan redistricting and regrets that it wasn't alone on the ballot (i.e., he attributes the defeat of this RON proposal to confusion from having too many issues on the ballot at once).
On the possibility of war in Iran, in response to a suggestion that Iraq will be a staging area for that war: Brown does not agree that this is necessarily true, although Bush's war planning is hard to figure out. Brown turns the question to inept running of the war - lack of body armor, insufficient troops, bungling, etc. - and points out that Iran is an even larger country than Iraq. Says he doesn't know how to answer the question (obviously), except to say that invading Iran would be a big mistake. We need to think about how we "embarrass" Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld on the war, as well as the administration generally as to their other mistakes.
Diabetes: one out of four Ohioans are touched by this disease (personally or through a family member). Does Brown support a law to require insurance coverage for diabetes? Brown claims that he has pushed for Ohio to pass such a law for years, but the insurance industry is too powerful in Columbus for this to happen. Brown brings up Bush's idea of expanding HSAs and bashes them as a ploy to help employers avoid paying for health insurance for employees.
Question: how can Brown be both pro-labor and pro-business, as he claims, at once? Brown answers by bringing up globalization and Bush policies that favor companies which outsource jobs. Brown says small businesses are misled when they think the Bush administration is their friend, because Bush favors large international companies over smaller domestic companies. Democrats are trying to reign in health care costs, Republicans are not.
Why is the U.S. the only major industrialized nation without national health insurance? Brown says we spend more than anyone on health care but our healthcare outcomes are nearly the worst (based on life expectancy, maternity deaths, immunization rates, etc.). However, we are No. 1 in terms of life expectancy at age 65 - because that's when everyone is assured of insurance coverage. The only answer is to break free of the power of the medical/pharmaceutical lobby and make affordable health insurance available to all.
Brown says Medicare Part D should be fixed by extending the deadline, simplifying the process for electing coverage, and allowing the government to negotiate with drug companies on drug prices.
What are we doing as Democrats to reclaim the area of religious faith? Brown says we must be vocal about our heritage of religious involvement in such struggles as civil rights and the war on poverty. We don't need to proselytize, but we must stop running away from our faith. "A lot of us have political views because we learn about social justice through our religious education." Brown doubts that the controversial Columbus-area right-wing paster Rev. Rod Parsley and his ilk are really that effective in getting their parishioners to vote for Blackwell, because the Democrats are going after the same voters in other contexts.
Asked about Republican political scandals and how Democrats can broaden their appeal to all Ohio voters, Brown says we must talk about the Republicans' failings, but must also offer positive, forward-looking solutions. We must win on the issues. Brown says he has nothing to apologize about over our positions on the issues. DeWine has been voting against the Republicans recently, and avoids Bush when he comes to Ohio (except for private fund-raising events), and this shows that Republican positions on issues aren't popular. Brown expects millions in special interest money to be spent against him, "but that will just make it that much sweeter to win."
If Brown could have a private conversation with Bush when he comes to Ohio on Monday, Brown would ask him what he really is going to do to get out the mess in Iraq that he created.