Tuesday, February 21, 2012
Kucinich, Kaptur clash on defense spending, job creation at City Club debate
The peace candidate came out fighting. Dennis Kucinich, enraged at Marcy Kaptur’s new attack ad against him, opened yesterday’s City Club debate with five attacks of his own in a minute’s time.
“She’s taken hundreds of thousands of war contractors while voting half a trillion dollars to continue Bush’s wars,” Kucinich complained. “Her votes for the Iraq war cost my Cleveland district and her own Toledo district two billion dollars.”
Kucinch, pitted against Kaptur in the new 9th congressional district, also accused the Toledo congresswoman of taking campaign contributions from a company that locked out workers and from beneficiaries of congressional earmarks she obtained. But he seemed to want to sting her hardest for taking money from defense contractors.
Throughout yesterday’s debate, Kucinich worked to frame the March 6 Democratic primary race for Congress as a contest between peace and war.
He and Kaptur actually voted the same way on authorizing the war in Iraq (both against) and Afghanistan (both for it). Kucinich voted to end the wars by pulling their funding, while Kaptur voted to keep funding them and end them more gradually.
But the contrast between the Toledo and Cleveland representatives goes deeper. Kaptur sits on the House’s subcommittee for defense spending, and often arranges to bring a piece of federal defense programs to Ohio – something Kucinich’s principles would never allow him to do.
“The gentleman has never voted for a defense bill in his life,” Kaptur said at one point.
Moderator Henry Gomez asked Kaptur and Kucinich, “What is one recent bill you’ve championed, in effect today, that’s helping to create jobs in your district?” Kaptur chose the 2010 defense appropriation bill. She ticked off six ways it’s leading to work in northern Ohio, including solar energy and hydrogen research, a study of veteran’s mental health at Case Western Reserve University, and spending on strategic metals industries such as aluminum and beryllium.
Kucinich said he’d voted for the 2009 stimulus package, which included spending in greater Cleveland. Then he pivoted to talk about a bill of his that hasn’t passed and has one co-sponsor. It would “rebuild our roads, our bridges, our water systems, our sewer systems, our colleges and universities,” he said. “We can’t simply rely on the war machine to develop the jobs we need in the future. We need to start developing jobs and technologies for peace.”
The room belonged to Kucinich, the local favorite. His rousing answers inspired the most mid-debate cheers. Kaptur got only polite applause at the end. The third candidate, local entrepreneur Graham Veasey, who's running on a pledge to slash the national debt, had more supporters in the room than Kaptur did.
When Veasey called his opponents “Congressman Status And Congresswoman Quo” and promised to renew the national war on poverty, Kucinich picked up both themes.
“We have to see the connection between war and poverty,” Kucinich said, and promised to repeal the Bush tax cuts and free-trade laws. “I’m the guy who’s been taking on the status quo in Washington ever since I’ve been there.”
That finally got the mild-mannered Kaptur riled up.
“I can see you can take on the status quo,” she snapped, “but who actually makes a difference in bills that get passed?”
Which is how Kaptur wants to frame the March 6 vote: not as peace versus the war machine, but as talk versus results.
Kucinich, in his opening statement, spoke forcefully about his fights to “protect” or “save” jobs. It’s a litany Clevelanders know well: Kucinich’s efforts to keep hospitals open, intervene in the LTV steel bankruptcy, protect NASA Glenn’s funding, preserve DFAS defense payroll-processing jobs.
Kaptur’s opener, by contrast, focused on creating jobs. She said she’d secured federal research and development funding for local efforts in “solar, sensors, biomedicine, advanced energy [and] maritime interests.” She claimed the R&D has created 6,500 solar-energy jobs in the Toledo area and led to several new spinoff companies. Toledo’s port got $20 million in the stimulus bill for new cranes, and Lorain’s port got $4 million, she added; Cleveland’s port got zero. She touted her status as the second-ranking Democrat on the House appropriations committee.
“I think you have to look at the record,” she said, “and say, ‘Who is the job creator across the coast? Who has the committee positions to make a difference?’”
Kucinich, too, said he’s gotten results: a veteran’s clinic in Parma, a new bridge in Berea, a new Social Security office in Lakewood. He mentioned his role in obtaining $422 million from the federal Hardest Hit Fund for foreclosure prevention in Ohio and $29 million to help treat Gulf War veterans’ illnesses.
His closing argument noted several differences between him and Kaptur: she supported the Patriot Act and the Keystone pipeline (he doesn’t), and he supports gay marriage and the DREAM Act immigration reform (she doesn’t).
Kaptur blasted Kucinich for opposing the pipeline, talking about closing the Davis-Besse nuclear plant, and voting no on defense funding that supported local industrial jobs.
“The people of the 9th District have a serious question to ask themselves,” she concluded. “Who can deliver?”