Carol Shea-Porter vs. Jeb Bradley; Bedford, NH; October 10, 2008

by Timothy Horrigan © 2008

On Friday morning, October 10, 2008, I drove to Bedford, NH to see the first and possibly only debate [ed. note: it turned out in fact to be the first of three debates] of the 2008 general election between incumbent Congresswoman Carol Shea-Porter and the same person she defeated in 2006, ex-Congressman Jeb Bradley. It was sponsored by AARP New Hampshire. I am not sure where or when this debate will be seen on TV, but it was quite a confrontation and is well worth watching. (CSPAN has been running a lot of Congressional debates, so it may turn up there.)

When I got home, I wrote the following DailyKos diary (where I mistakenly said the event was in Manchester— which is a small mistake because the Manchester city line was just a few blocks from the venue.)

Original URL:

TimothyHorrigan's diary :: ::

The AARP sponsored the first and only debate of the 2008 general election between Democrat (very much from the Democratic wing of the Democratic Party) Carol Shea-Porter, the first Congresswoman from New Hampshire— and the man she defeated in a stunning upset two years ago, Jeb Bradley.  Bradley, even though he is fairly liberal by Republican standards, is being a rather combative challenger: his campaign is very much in the McCain vs. Obama mode.  Everything he said, even though it was all said with a smile and an outward veneer of civility, was designed to rattle Shea-Porter, who luckily proved to be unrattleable.

In a somewhat bizarre rewriting of history,  Bradley says the House of Representatives, led by Nancy Pelosi, has been in control of the country for the past two years (although he does admit that Bill Clinton was running the country back in the 1990s when he signed legislating encouraging Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac to finance "subprime" mortgages.)  He also claimed that Shea-Porter has supported her leaders 100% of the time, which is totally untrue.  She voted against the Wall Street bailout twice, just to name one of mnay examples.  And in fact, she is a true maverick (to use a word which John McCain and Sarah Plain have devalued) who has in fact gotten relatively little support from the party establishment.  (In 2006, the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee actually endorsed another candidate in the primary instead of remaining neutral.  Even in 2008 the DC party has not poured that much money into her campaign specifically, although they have been spending a lot on the coordinated campaign— and even though she did endorse the underdog  who won the Presidential nomination, Barack Obama.)  Bradley (like McCain and Obama) griped that his opponent never stood up to her party's leadership (even though she most certainly has done so on many occasions): he of course overlooked the key points that Nancy Pelosi never started an illegal war which has bankrupted our country; and that Harry Reid didn't shred our civil liberties and hasn't undermined the integrity of our fundamental institutions.

Bradley, like most Republicans, never mentioned his own party's leaders, not George W. Bush and not even McCain or Palin-- even though he echoed the McPalin taking points verbatim.  (In July, by the way, McCain visited Rochester, NH, Bradley stopped by and shook hands with the crowd waiting to get into the hall and then split before McCain showed up.) In fact he  hardly ever even alluded to Bush's existence— evidently no one at all was in charge of our country between January 2001 when President Bill Clinton stepped down and January 2007 when Speaker Nancy Pelosi took over.  Except once, when he snapped that "Carol is not runninga against George W. Bush: she is running against me."

Even though the AARP sponsored the debate, "senior issues" (aside from social security and Medicare's prescription drug plans) got little attention.  The economy was the main concern of the debate, thanks in large part to the fact that the stock market appeared to be crashing.  (The Dow Jones Industrials dropped almost 1000 points, although there was a rally in the afternoon which took price more or less back up where they started.)

Even though the mainstream Republicans' version of supply side economics has been totally debunked by the events of the last few weeks, Bradley (like McCain) is sticking to his guns: tax cuts are always good and tax increases are never right.  (I actually studied economics at USC with Arthur Laffer, the famous supply sider, and not everything I was taught was wrong.  Laffer made two points which McCain and Bradley overlook, which is that the most important thing is to not to run the government at a deficit, and that you want to target the tax cuts to incentivize things you want more of.  In fact, Laffer taught us, that it is good to raise taxes on things you want less of.  One of the tragedies of the current economic system is that the tax cuts led to an influx of capital which was invested in things we didn't need more of...e.g., hedge funds and commercial real estate.  But I digress...)

Bradley and Shea-Porter both opposed the bail-out but for different reasons.  Shea-Porter opposed it because it put too much power in the hands of the Secretary of the Treasury and because it had few protections for homeowners.  Bradley opposed the plan because he was opposed to government owning corporations' stocks and bonds (although ironically he does support privatizing social security which would have had the same effect.)  He also scapegoated subprime mortgages and the homeowners who took advantage of them.  

One very odd moment came when Bradley blamed Carol's tax increases for "soaring deficits and a tanking economy."  Aside from the fact that taxes have not increased in the last two years, tax increases prevent deficits.  Even someone like me who studied with Arthur Laffer knows that.

Energy was another big issue.  Bradley continually returned to the talking point of how Shea-Porter voted to go on vacation rather than solve the energy crisis by drilling.  (According to RNC attack ads which have run in districts all over America, she was one of many rookie Democrats who cast the single deciding vote to go on vacation rather than drilling, baby, drilling.)  He did that so often, even his own supporters started laughing at him.  (Shea-Porter in fact worked even harder during the recess than when the House was in session, and is one of the most diligent members of Congress. Bradley, even though he was far from the least effective Congressman in the Republican caucus, was ironically known for his easy-going approach to his job.)

Bradley, happily, made a very weak case for drilling, baby, drilling— preferring instead to harp on how Pelosi and Shea-Porter only want to drill where there is no oil.  Shea-Porter laid out a sensible energy plan which does include more drilling (which will take 10 years to make a difference) but which concentrates on conservation and "green energy" technology.

One good thing about this debate was that it took place in New Hampshire, which is still a democracy.  The atmosphere was spirited but civil (although I was much more civil than I should have been, because I made the minor gaffe of standing up to applaud Jeb Bradley when most of my Democrats were seated.  The Republicans, even though they nominated a moron to run for the 1st CD congressional seat, had at least been gracious enough to stand up when Shea-Porter entered the room first.) There was no bickering, except from Bradley, of course, who did whine a lot about "partisan bickering." The moderator took his job way more seriously than Tom Brokaw did in a Presidential debate a few days earlier: he actually asked intelligent questions and even modified the format on the fly to let the candidates finish their answers.

Afterwards, the Democrats and Republicans ate turkey and ham sandwiches (and unwaxed New Hampshire apples) together and then we went back out into the perfect fall day (with peak foliage) to continue our respective campaigns.

(And, I might mention that I myself am running for the NH House from the Strafford #7 district, which is Durham, Lee and Madbury.  I am not as strong a voice as Carol Shea-Porter but I look forward to doing what I can in Concord next year and in the year after 2009.)

JEB BRADLEY on the campaign trail; probably summer 2007
Jeb Bradley on the campaign trail, probably in the summer of 2007

See Also:

Extra! In November 2008, I was elected to the New Hampshire General Court, and in the 2009 session, I introduced HB 105, a bill mandating open source software for vote counting machines.

To learn more about HB 105 click on: