Brown, Warren spar over economy, abortion
The former darling of conservatives and successor to Sen. Edward M. Kennedy Sr., aggressively challenged rival Harvard law Prof. Elizabeth Warren’s character, tactics and asserted his support for abortion rights at the Sept. 20 debate at Boston’s WBZ-TV.
“Stop scaring women,” said Sen. Scott P. Brown, the Republican incumbent, and a colonel in the Massachusetts National Guard.
The senator said Warren has mischaracterized him as being against the interests of women. “Listen, I’ve been fighting for women’s rights, since I was six years old, when I had to battle when my mother was being abused by one of my stepfathers.”
Brown said through his teenage years, he had to protect his mother from men in her life. “I have been fighting for women for a long, long time.”
Warren said Massachusetts women could not count on Brown, citing his vote against the confirmation of Supreme Court Justice Elena Kagan and his accepting support from what she called “anti-choice groups.”
Kagan was the federal government’s top lawyer, when she served at solicitor general, yet when Brown had the choice to vote for a pro-choice woman he did not.
“I was really surprised when Senator Brown voted against her,” she said.
Brown first responded with a joke. “I am sorry I didn’t vote for your boss.” Kagan was the dean of Harvard Law School. “I know you and Elena Kagan are very close.”
Kagan did not have the courtroom or judicial experience he was looking for in a Supreme Court justice, he said. “I wish her well; I hope she proves me wrong.”
If a judge nominee announces that he will overturn Roe v. Wade, Brown said he would vote to oppose senate confirmation. “Listen, we are both pro-choice. I am a moderately pro-choice Republican.”
The debate was held in a television studio with the candidates alone with the moderator. In a nearby room, more than 50 reporters watched a wall of large monitors, while seating in movable of set bleachers with four rows of 12 seats across or the loose chairs to the side. On a table in the back were 30 untouched water bottles and another 30 cans of warm diet cola made by Worcester, Mass.-based Polar soda company.
Fifteen minutes after the debate, the candidates were slated to speak to reporters. Jim Barnett, the Brown campaign manager came out first. He said Brown was coming out later, but Brown did not.
Finally, Barnett told the reporters that Brown had had a long day.
Because of Senate voting, Brown was stuck at the Capitol, and barely made his 4:30 p.m., flight. He then drove from the easternmost part of the city, Logan Airport to the westernmost part Brighton. He arrived alone with his supercab pickup and walked in the studio with a back pack slung on his shoulder.
Brown launched the first of many attacks on Warren in his opening statement.
The moderator WBZ-TV political director Jon Keller asked, “Let’s get something out of the way, in the course of this campaign, each of your campaigns has appeared to question the character of your opponent: Is your character’s character an issue in this race?”
Brown rose to the bait.
“I think character is important,” he said. “I think what you are referring to is that fact that Professor Warren claimed that she was a Native American, a person of color, and you can see, she it not.”
Warren had a choice throughout her career whether to use Native American status to her advantage or not.
“When she applied to Penn and Harvard, she checked the box claiming she was a Native American,” he said.
“I don’t know and the viewers don’t know if she got ahead as a result of that checking of the box, but the only way we are going to find out it for her to release her personnel records,” he said. “When you are a United States senator, you have to pass a test, and that is one of character, honesty and truthfulness, and I believe and others believe, she has failed that test.”
Keller asked Warren the same question and gave her the chance to respond.
“Senator Brown, it is good to see you here, I was going to start this by saying I think that Senator Brown is a nice guy.”
Warren said Brown should focus on the issues, not her family history, which was told to her growing up. “When I was growing up these were the stories I knew about my heritage.”
The professor also said that The Boston Globe interviewed two dozen people associated with her hiring at Harvard Law School, and all of them said she was hired on merit. Her husband Bruce Mann was a professor at Harvard Law, when she was hired there in 1992. Together, Mann and Warren collect $750,000 from Harvard.
In the thrust and parry, Brown was prepared with detailed responses to Warren’s charges, but he was punchy and halting at times. Warren repeatedly opened her attacks with: “I just don’t understand…” or “It really surprised me…” or favorite that she went to seven times: “Let me make this clear…”
As Warren hammered Brown on his support of Big Oil and federal subsidies, some of the old folksy Brown from his 2010 campaign returned.
“I am not the friend of Big Oil, I am the friend of the motorist,” he said. “Have you been to the pump lately? $4-a-gallon? It was over $70 to fill up the truck last week.”
When Warren described meeting Richard, an unemployed carpenter, who would have been helped by one of the three jobs bills Brown voted against the senator did not back off.
“Those were three jobs bills that would have supported jobs here in the Commonwealth of Massachusetts—and how would they be paid for? They would have been paid for by just a factional tax on people making a million dollars a year,” she said.
“We could put people back to work, we have work that needs to be done, but Senator Brown is lining up with the Republicans to vote: No,” she said.
Brown was ready, “Maybe, you should tell Richard that the reason why he is not working is because we have this lack of regulatory and tax certainty and that businesses and individuals are scared right now.”
When Warren repeatedly brought up that Brown voted against tax increases on the upper two percent, to which Brown pointed out that in Massachusetts tax payers have the option to pay additional taxes over and above their tax bill—an option that Warren has never taken advantage of.
Each candidate launched an attack in the last minutes of the debate that had not been part of the previous discussions.
Brown said he was tired of hearing from Warren that she’s on the side of the little-guy, when he knows that she was paid $225,000 by Travelers Insurance to help then deny claims from victims of asbestos contamination.
Warren said it was not true during the debate, but afterwards, she explained to reporters that in fact she did help Travelers against the asbestos claimants, but she did so in order to protect essential principles of the law.
The professor’s final attack was an odd choice, but with precedent.
In 1994, Sen. John F. Kerry (D.-Mass.) charged that his GOP opponent, then-Gov. William F. Weld, was a little racist because he would vote to make Jesse Helms, a senator from North Carolina, the chairman of the Foreign Relations Committee. Weld panicked and said he would not, despite the Senate’s protocol and traditions of seniority. Later, when Weld was nominated to be our ambassador to Mexico, he never came close to getting past the Foreign Relations Committee—chaired by Helms.
Thus, Warren made the case that if Brown was elected, and the Republicans took over the Senate, the new chairman of the Environment and Public Works Committee would be Oklahoma’s Sen. James M. Inhofe.
“He is a man, who called global warming a hoax,” she said. “In fact, that’s the title of his book. A man like that should not be in charge of the Environmental Protection Agency.
After leaving the studios, Brown went to the truck where his wife, former Boston TV reporter and anchorwoman Gail Huff, was waiting for him. Mr. and Mrs. Brown did not have the body language of victory, but it had been a long day, and Wrentham is another hour away.
There are three more debates. Oct. 1 in Lowell, Oct. 10 in Springfield and Oct. 30 in Boston.