Moving into the last month before the November election, in the race for the one of the two U.S. Senate seats from Virginia, former governors Tim Kaine, the Democrat, and George Allen, the Republican, squared off in an hour-long, live televised debate in Tysons Corner last Thursday in perhaps the only occasion they’ll be seen in the same room together in this corner of the state.
Allen’s appearances in this area, in particular, are highly rare, while Kaine has been here, including in the City of Falls Church, much more often. This Sunday night, for example, Kaine is slated to make a substantial appearance at a fundraiser for his campaign at a private home in Falls Church.
He is then slated to appear in the office of the Falls Church News-Press on Monday afternoon for an interview.
Kaine and Allen are facing off to fill the seat being vacated by U.S. Sen. Jim Webb, who decided earlier this year not to seek a second six-year term. Webb, from the Lake Barcroft area of Falls Church, upset Allen in 2006 with a narrow victory that, at the time, tilted the balance in the Senate to the Democrats.
Kaine trumped in the high-profile debate last week his Republican rival Allen with outlines of a specific plan to avoid the year-end $1 trillion federal budget sequester that threatens to wipe out 200,000 defense-related jobs in Northern Virginia.
Kaine spelled out repeatedly the elements of his plan for no defense cuts and their budgetary consequences, including letting the Bush tax cuts expire on those earning over $500,000, fixing Medicare waste and removing subsidies from the Big 5 oil companies, leaving only $235 billion in additional cuts over 10 years, a relatively manageable number, he said.
Allen presented no comparable plan in the debate, hosted by the Fairfax Chamber of Commerce in McLean and carried live on NBC-TV Channel 4. He talked in generalities about promoting business for job creation, lowering taxes, eliminating “Obamacare” restructuring government and passing a balanced budget law.
Kaine called his own plan a “compromise,” and repeatedly stressed that what’s preventing the Congress from being effective is disagreements on ideas, but an unwillingness to work together.
Kaine said that expiration of the Bush tax cuts will add $500 billion to solving the sequestration problem, fixing Medicare will add $240 billion and ending subsidies to Big Oil another $25 billion.
In a generally congenial debate, each had some nice things to say about each other, but Kaine was sharp to criticize Allen for saying Democrats are holding the military as “pawns” in order to get tax increases in the sequestration debate. “I’d be a little careful about saying things like that,” Kaine said. “I want to resolve this without hurting our national defense.” He added, “There are no prisoners, but only problems to be solved.”
Kaine cited Allen’s statement from the past that “I’d like to knock the Democrats’ soft teeth down their whiney throats” as evidence, he said, of not any particular gaffe, such as Allen’s “macaca” comment of 2006 or Mitt Romney’s “47 percent” comments that surfaced this week, but of a “sentiment.” Kaine said it was Allen saying to the Indian-American recipient of his “macaca” slur, “Welcome to America and the real world” that was most problematic.
He said the same applied to Romney’s “47 percent” comments. Asked directly by debate moderator David Gregory of NBC’s “Meet the Press” whether he associated himself with Romney’s comments, Allen evaded the question by focusing on his own past record as governor, adding that “jobs are the best social program.” Pressed on the question by Gregory, he said, “I have my own point of view,” and then said that “Americans don’t look at themselves as victims.”
Kaine said that Gregory’s “is not a hard question to answer. It is very straightforward, it is divisive, it is a sentiment that Virginians do not agree with.”
Another point of disagreement in the hour-long debate came on the issue of same-sex marriage. Kaine conceded that “as I’ve grown older, my views have matured,” and that he now believes “being for equality is never a bad thing.”
He said he would hope anyone could have the kind of 28-year marriage he’s had, and to have such a relationship “and not have to hide it, but to have it recognized and celebrated.”
He said he believed in “full equality under the law,” that “people should be treated all the same,” and when pressed on whether he shared President Obama’s full support for gay marriage, he said that while state legislators are the proper places for such determinations to be made, “legal equality should be the policy.”
Allen, on the other hand, said simply that “marriage should be between one man and one woman,” and referred to same-sex attraction as a matter of “preference,” not orientation, implying it is a choice.