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On substance, McConoughey wins the debate

The Peoria Area World Affairs Council sponsored a foreign policy debate with the three Republican candidates for the 18th Congressional District seat being vacated by Ray LaHood. It was broadcast live on WCBU (you can hear the debate in its entirety by clicking here), and was moderated by Jonathan Ahl. The questioners were Ahl, Illinois Central College President John Irwin, and Peoria Journal Star editorial writer Mike Bailey.

I finally got around to listening to the whole debate Sunday evening. The only way I could stay awake through the whole thing was by taking notes and eating Fritos. The notes came in handy afterwards, however, when I was trying to decide who won the debate. I developed a little scoring system and rated each of the answers, then summed the scores to see who came out on top. To my surprise, it was McConoughey.

It was a surprise to me because McConoughey is not a very effective speaker. I don’t mean that as an insult. He’s just kind of quiet and doesn’t come across on radio as particularly engaging like Morris or Schock. His opponents have a lot better delivery and poise. But when that was stripped away and I looked at what each of them had to say in response to the questions asked, I thought McConoughey came out on top overall. Schock came in second, and Morris last.

Naturally, each candidate had his pluses and minuses. One of Morris’s best answers was in response to Jonathan Ahl’s question about whether there comes a time when the U.S. should decide that democracy isn’t possible in a given country. Morris responded that he believes, like the Declaration of Independence says, that all men — not just Americans — are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable rights, and that freedom is the destiny of the world. He also had good responses to questions regarding immigration and determining the accuracy of intelligence information.

But as the debate went on, Morris became less and less effective. His answers on Taiwan, Canada, and Lebanon were all weak — meaning he didn’t really answer the questions posed. He’s for free trade to a fault; he favors limiting trade only in “extraordinary circumstances,” such as “hot war” and “gross violations” of trade agreements. Only McConoughey cited human rights violations as a trigger for restricting trade. Finally, several of Morris’s answers bordered on jingoism (some questions were answered with nothing more than “I’m an American” and “I will vote in America’s best interests”).

Schock had a terrific answer to Bailey’s question about immigration — the one where he asked how the candidates reconciled their immigration stance with their family/religious values. He said, “God is a God of order,” and “Locking your door at your home and requiring that someone get permission to enter before coming into your house does not make you a bad neighbor.” An apt analogy. He also had the best answer as to how the U.S. can improve its relationship with Lebanon, which was to deal head-on with the Hezbollah problem and its Iranian funding.

Some of Schock’s answers, coupled with other statements he’s made, gave me the impression that he’s been reading up on former president Reagan and sometimes gets the past confused with the present. One example is his infamous suggestion (now retracted) that we sell Pershing missiles to Taiwan, even though Pershing missiles were destroyed by the early 1990s. In this debate, he evaded Ahl’s question about whether democracy is possible in some countries by talking about U.S. missteps toward Iran in the 1970s. A curious reference.

The only questions McConoughey didn’t have a good answer for were Ahl’s question on what the U.S. needs to do for Canada on issues such as sovereignty of the Arctic Ocean and air pollution from midwest coal-burning plants and Bailey’s question about ideas to promote peace between Israel and the Palestinians. However, none of the candidates had good answers to those questions. McConoughey’s “new” idea on the Israeli-Palestinian conflict was using Turkey as an intermediary to try to negotiate peace, but in fact Turkey is already a partner in that effort.

On the rest of the questions, however, McConoughey did well, showing a good understanding of our economic ties to other countries (including Canada), how to strengthen the dollar, and free trade theory.

10 comments to On substance, McConoughey wins the debate

  • kent

    Isn’t part of how you say something of paramount importance. If this was an essay contest then I could respectfully disagree with what you are saying. Morris and Schock’s answers were far better than Mac’s. Additionally, Morris and Schock at least had style when they spoke. Members of the house aren’t going to have the fortune of shoveling fritos, diligently taking notes for a blog review, and presumably downing some caffeine along with it all as they listen to Mac on the house floor. It’s like listening to Stryker from the movie Airplane recount his past. The members of the house will hang themselves if he goes on for more than 5 minutes at the podium. Our district MUST have someone with charisma and speaking skills. McCounoughey is a poor man’s Al Gore when it comes to his oratory skills at a debate. He finished last. He may be speaking for our district, but nobody will be listening. (Don’t get me wrong though…style does not trump substance, but it is an imporant part of being a good leader…see NUKES to Taiwan.) What great leaders in our nation’s history had poor speaking skills? Exactly.

  • The Mouse

    Morris says he will vote in America’s best interest, but he’s for unfettered “free trade”. What a contradiction. “Free trade” has wrecked havoc on our industrial base, eliminated millions of good paying jobs, brought us poisoned products, and enriched our enemies. And how is that in our best interest??

  • David P. Jordan

    There’s nothing wrong with the concept of “free trade,” however, American companies are socked with over-taxation, over-regulation and over-litigation, which makes it too expensive for many to do business in this country. Efficiency and technology can only go so far…

  • The Mouse

    David, First, we can not effectively, and should not have to try to, compete against countries that employ slave labor and lack basic health and safety regulation. Secondly, the U.S. should not be sending money to enemy countries (what do you think they do with that money?). Thirdly, the U.S. must maintain viable industries in the interest of national security. If we are totally dependent on other countries, even friendly ones, for certain critical products, what happens when they cannot or will not sell us those products? The concept of “free trade” may sound good in theory, but in the real world it’s a disaster.

  • Free trade has been a major factor in the building of the USA. It’s government overregulating of our businesses that drives many businesses to buy from other countries and cause them to move substantial parts of their business abroad. No, I’m not overlooking “opportunity” that causes companies to relocate. That’s part of the free market.

    We would buy more from corn from Brazil if it weren’t for government intrusion like creating high tariffs on foreign corn while we subsidize our wealthy large corn growing landowners. I cannot call these absentee landowners farmers but I can rightfully call many of them “rapers” of our soil while driving consumer prices higher largely because our government prohibits foreign competition.

    Also, correct me if I’m wrong (with facts), but I believe “right to work” states are the most stable states.

    Suggest some read “The World is Flat” and consider that Caterpillar now does more business abroad than at home while foreign auto makers in the US are more profitable than the former giants of the auto industry.

  • David P. Jordan

    I partially agree with The Mouse on this one, however, it goes both ways; if we suddenly dumped free trade agreements, we’d also be sending many local residents to the unemployment line.

    Recent free trade deals with Australia and Chile have helped increase local employment at Cat and suppliers. Also, free trade may be a factor in Globe Energy’s decision to move to Peoria.

    World steel markets are doing quite good and that is helping the domestic steel industry, which many were prepared to send to the cemetary as recently as five years ago. In fact, German (ThyssenKrupp), Japanese (ID unknown) and Russian (MMK Steel) steel companies are planning, or have announced the construction of, new steel mills in the USA.

  • The Mouse

    I didn’t say I was against all trade. You cannot compare trade with private companies in free countries like Australia or Chile with trading with the neo-fascist government of China or dictators like Hugo Chavez. As for what built this country, with all due respect to Merle (seriously, because I do think most of his posts are right on target), this country was built through protective tariffs – from the days of Abraham Lincoln, through Teddy Roosevelt. I don’t deny that trade with democratic, free enterprise Japan over the past 30 years has had some positive effects on the world auto market (quality has improved, no doubt), but Japanese workers are well paid, and Japanese companies invest the money in a free enterprise system. The Japanese Army doesn’t sell cars to finance missiles. They haven’t totally played by the rules, but we can work with them. When you do business with dictators and corrupt, unstable regimes, it’s a whole different story. Caterpiller and a few other U.S. companies are enjoying temporary success in China because they want our technology. Once China starts making tractors (and they will) what do you think that’s going to do to Cat sales? The Chinese aren’t stupid. They will make decent tractors at half the price.

  • David P. Jordan

    China has been behind the west (and even Russia) in both civilian and military technology and will continue to be so for coming decades. Their system doesn’t allow for innovation. I suspect China’s economic bubble will burst before too long. Future economic problems in China bring all sorts of danger the world over (except lower oil prices).

    There should be concern about trade with China (communism/fascism) and Mexico (corruption) but when other nations (EU, Japan, etc.) lower trade barriers with them, we must be competitive.

    I have a book called “The Tootin’ Louie.” The author, Don Hoffsommer, tells the history of the Minneapolis & St. Louis Railway, including how economics and regulation affected the railroad industry. One statement of interest is that by the 1890’s, we were producing more goods than we could consume ourselves, which led to increased exports. I’m not what role protectionism played, but I assume that it was used to nurture domestic business until it became strong enough to compete in global markets.

  • The Mouse

    I don’t know where you get your information, but the Chinese are not “decades” behind the U.S. and Russia. The Chinese system may not be as innovative as some, but they buy and/or steal most of what the best minds in the U.S./Europe/Japan can invent. We underestimate them at our peril.

  • David P. Jordan

    For decades following the 1949 revolution, the People’s Liberation Army’s air and ground forces were maintained to fight a WWII-like conflict. Chinese military planners were caught off guard by Operation Desert Storm in 1991, seeing that “quantity over quality” fails miserably for the former when the latter possesses air superiority. This led to modernization of the PLA’s air force, army and navy, but the process has been slow; The newest tactical aircraft in the PLA inventory compare to USAF F-15’s and F-16’s, introduced in the 1970’s! It seems that no matter what the PLA does to “modernize” they remain about three decades behind us.

    The military threat from China has nothing to do with who has the best equipment, but rather overconfidence on both sides. Anyone bringing up the military threat from China is accused of being an “alarmist.” High-level Chinese military officials have been caught making threats to the US mainland (“Los Angeles is more important than Taiwan”) and they seem to think they can win a full-scale war with us, which they cannot (a Chinese nuclear strike on our mainland would so inflame Americans that we would not be satisfied until all of China was blown off the map!).

    Our mistake is that we are allowing our military to contract. We need to more F-22’s and B-2’s. The size of the Army, USMC and Special Forces needs to grow. We also need to expand our naval forces.

    Overconfidence is the root of most conflicts, and although a Sino-American conflict is not what we want, it won’t end in a Chinese victory.