I was lucky enough to attend the blogger-only debate between Jason Chaffetz (R) and Bennion Spencer (D), held at the Sutherland Institute on Tuesday morning. (I apologize for the delay in getting this posted; my excuse is a sudden, crippling bout of the flu.) I've broken my posts on this event into two parts--my general impressions and thoughts for the first post, and specific questions and answers for the second.
There are numerous policy (and other) differences between the two candidates. The difference that struck me the most? Jason Chaffetz benefited greatly from his hard-fought primary race. Going up against a long-term incumbent (Chris Cannon), as well as another determined opponent (David Leavitt) forced Chaffetz to refine his positions, formulate specific solutions, and practice talking about them. This was very obvious as he spoke about his plans for energy, budgets, earmarks, education, windfall profits...most of the major issues of this election. On the other hand, Bennion Spencer (who did not have to go through the wringer in the same way during his primary run; did he have an opponent?) had far fewer specifics, and more platitudes--long on vision, short on specifics. Vision is great, but in contrast with Chaffetz, Spencer at times seemed that he was just going through the motions, reading off the expected boilerplate.
In his opening remarks, Chaffetz mentioned that he is running a debt-free campaign, an idea that is very attractive to me. I don't, however, expect or demand that everyone do the same--unless EVERY everybody did the same, to level the playing field. You often have to play the game by the current rules to be able to do anything about changing said rules. Likewise, Spencer is firmly in favor of term limits--another idea that I support, but only when everyone does it. Term limiting only yourself in a seniority-favored House doesn't make a lot of sense.
I had more issues with Spencer's remarks than with Chaffetz's--I don't think it was because I agree with Chaffetz's positions, but I will readily admit that bias is hard to identify in yourself. Spencer mentioned that perhaps the Iraqi war could have been avoided if the US had actively supported Akbar Rafsanjani for the Iranian presidency, because he is more pro-US than Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, and Rafsanjani could have prevailed on Iraq to be more reasonable.
I have a hard time crediting this statement. First of all, in my recollection Spencer said we wouldn't have had to invade Iraq if Rafsanjani had been president--but the Ahmadinejad-Rafsanjani presidential race didn't happen until 2005, two years after the invasion. If I misheard, and Spencer said something about things being easier with the war if Rafsanjani were president, I still don't know that I can believe it. Iranians aren't really super-fond of US "meddling", and if we had supported Rafsanjani, couldn't that have hurt him as likely as helping?
When speaking of energy independence in his opening remarks, Spencer said he didn't believe that drilling in ANWR would help our current crisis, because we couldn't guarantee that the oil would stay in the US. In my understanding, this is a non-issue. We don't expect to fill all our oil needs with ANWR. But by having that extra oil on the world market, it would ease prices, and allow the world to have another source that doesn't support radical causes. The actual oil doesn't have to stay in the US for this to happen.
Despite my distrust of a few statements, I came away with good impressions of both men--we are truly lucky that the 3rd Congressional District will have an honorable representative, no matter who wins. It was a good debate--friendly, informative, short (a big plus in my book). Thanks to the Sutherland Institute for sponsoring it, and for inviting me!