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Hopefuls jab on war, taxes in bid for Kennedy seat

As reported at

STEVEN SENNE/THE ASSOCIATED PRESS Candidates for the U.S. Senate seat left vacant by the death of Sen. Edward M. Kennedy, D-Mass., from the left, Republican Scott Brown, Democrat Martha Coakley, and Joseph L. Kennedy, a Libertarian candidate running as an independent and who is no relation to the late senator, make last-minute preparations before a debate was taped Tuesday at the WBZ-TV studios in Boston.

The Associated Press

BOSTON — The three candidates vying for the late Edward Kennedy’s U.S. Senate seat clashed Tuesday on when the country should go to war and what the best strategy is in Afghanistan during the first television debate of the final campaign stretch.

Democratic Attorney General Martha Coakley said the country should take up arms when threatened or attacked or when its allies, including Israel, are threatened or attacked.

But Coakley said she opposes President Barack Obama’s plan to send 30,000 more troops to Afghanistan, saying that after eight years the mission has shifted from the initial goal of driving out al-Qaida and the Taliban regime in the aftermath of the terror attacks of Sept. 11, 2001.

“I support the president in many of his proposals,” she said during the debate hosted by WBZ-TV. “But when I disagree with him, I am going to speak out.”

Republican state Sen. Scott Brown said the country should go to war when its vital national interests are threatened or its allies are threatened. But Brown, who is a lieutenant colonel in the Army National Guard, supports the troop build up.

Brown said increasing troops will help guarantee the Taliban doesn’t re-establish itself in Afghanistan or cross into Pakistan aiming to secure nuclear weapons for al-Qaida. He said the only way to prevent that is to put a sufficient number of troops in Afghanistan.

“We can’t just have drones fly around and knock people off,” said Brown, adding that terrorists can resort to using innocent civilians as shields. “They don’t play by the rules of war that we do.”

He said the build up also will help make the American soldiers already in the country safer. Coakley said if the goal is to protect those soldiers already in the country, she wants “our troops to be safe.”

Joseph L. Kennedy, a Libertarian candidate running as an independent, said the country shouldn’t be sending soldiers on missions they can’t win.

The candidates touched on a number of other familiar themes during the hour-long debate.

Brown criticized Coakley’s support of the Senate version of a national health care overhaul, which he said would jeopardize the success of Massachusetts’s landmark 2006 health care initiative by driving up costs and creating longer lines for care.

Brown also faulted Coakley for opposing an extension of Bush-era tax cuts, which he said amounts to support for tax increases.

“We need to create more jobs by reducing taxes, reducing fees,” he said.

Coakley said she supports the Senate health care bill despite an amendment critics say would limit access to abortion services. Coakley supports abortion rights and opposed an anti-abortion amendment in the House bill. But she said the greater good of extending health coverage to tens of millions of uninsured Americans overrides her concerns about the Senate abortion amendment.

“I don’t like the piece in the Senate bill. I think it’s unfair,” she said. “I will support it reluctantly.”

Coakley said she supports allowing Bush era tax cuts to expire because they benefited the wealthiest 2 percent of Americans.

At several times during the debate, Kennedy, who is not related to the late senator, criticized Brown for not doing more during his time at the Statehouse to fight year-to-year spending increases.

“Scott has been in a position to bring up bills to have spending cuts,” Kennedy said.

Brown defended his record, saying he voted against every proposed tax increase during his time in office.

Kennedy appeared willing to play a role similar to that played in 2006 by Christy Mihos, then an independent candidate for governor. Mihos spent much of that campaign criticizing Republican candidate Kerry Healey, leaving more of an opening for Democrat Deval Patrick, who ultimately won.

Brown, commenting after the debate, said he hadn’t noticed that Kennedy was criticizing him.

The debate was taped and will be broadcast on WBZ-TV Sunday at 8 p.m. It was streamed live on the Internet.

Kennedy died Aug. 25 of a brain tumor. The election is Jan. 19.

Previous IPR coverage:

Massachusetts: Health Care, Afghanistan Top First Senate Debate Posted by Paulie, 12/22

Joe Kennedy Picks Up Endorsements and Momentum Posted 12/22 by d.eris

Scenes from first Massachusetts US Senate special election debate Posted 12/21 by Paulie

Darryl Perry: ‘A Kennedy Even Libertarians can Support: Joe Kennedy for US Senate’ Posted by Paulie 12/21

First two debates set in Kennedy successor race Posted by Paulie 12/21

Why challenge the two-party system? Somebody has to do it Posted by d.eris, 12/20

Green Party issues press release to support Libertarian Joe Kennedy’s right to debate Posted by Kimberly Wilder 12/19

More Joe Kennedy news coverage: Needham Times, Sun Chronicle Posted by Paulie 12/18

Martha Coakley, Scott Brown, Joseph Kennedy agree to series of debates in race for Ted Kennedy’s Senate seat Posted by Paulie 12/18

Rich Rubino at Politics DMZ: ‘Yes, Joe Kennedy can win the Massachusetts U.S. Senate Race’
Posted by Paulie 12/18

Boston Globe: ‘This Kennedy wants to cut government’
Posted by Paulie 12/18

Earlier Coverage

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  1. paulie paulie December 23, 2009

    by Jon Keller, moderator of last night’s debate

    BOSTON (WBZ) ?

    Hope you caught the US Senate debate Tuesday night on – if you missed it, tune in Sunday at 8 a.m. on WBZ-TV or next Monday at 7 p.m. on TV38, or anytime after the BZ airing on (It’ll also be airing on C-Span next week; we’ll let you know when.)

    What you’ll see is GOP nominee Scott Brown hammering away at Democrat Martha Coakley as a clueless tax-and-spender, someone who will march in lockstep with the Beltway’s wasteful spenders and congenital tax-hikers in a perpetual raid on your beleaguered wallet. There were few topics that Brown didn’t find a way to turn back toward the taxing-and-spending mantra. He did it relentlessly and effectively, and really, what other choice does he have? It’s one of the few issues that work for a Republican in Massachusetts, and it’s his best shot at starting a fire among economically anxious voters.

    What you’ll also see is an unruffled Coakley, shrugging off Brown’s attacks and touting her record in the attorney general’s office as proof of her own concern with taxpayer dollars. She also rarely passed up a chance to mention Bush-Cheney that hyphenated Satan surrogate which presumably will bring any Democratic sympathizers within the electorate who may be underwhelmed by her flocking back to the fold.

    And perhaps most significantly (if this winds up being a close race, especially), you’ll see the coming-out party for independent candidate Joe Kennedy, the until-now mild-mannered Dedham businessman who flashed some passion – passionate distaste for Brown, who he cast as a knee-jerk partisan and RINO (Republican In Name Only) who happily voted for what amounted to tax hikes on Beacon Hill (a charge Brown flatly denied). Coakley clearly loved every minute Kennedy was on mike, even throwing a friendly nod in his direction at one point when she name-checked the Constitution. Oh boy, this is one headache Brown didn’t need added to the mix.

    Anyway, call up some friends, prepare an assortment of fine deli meats and delicious seasonal beverages, and watch this debate. I think you’ll find it informative.

  2. Morgan Brykein Morgan Brykein December 23, 2009

    Nice way to barely mention the “insignificant” candidate.

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