Tuesday, August 10, 2004

Updated August 10, 2004 at 3:45 pm.

Keyes/Obama debate, “How many debates.” Keyes pushes for “inclusion.”

Republican U. S. Senate Candidate Alan Keyes wants six debates and he wants to include in the debate all U. S. Senate candidates on the ballot; Democratic U. S. Senate Candidate Barack Obama wants three debates. Who is right? We discuss, you decide.

Republican U. S. Senate candidate Alan Keyes held a press conference in the late morning today, in which he essentially sought to accept the offer that Democratic U. S. Senate Candidate Barack Obama had made to then Republican U. S. Senate Candidate Jack Ryan in June, 2004 to have six debates. Jack Ryan had been pushing for ten debates at that time. Of course, Keyes is now in for Jack Ryan, and Keyes expects to be able to stand in Jack’s shoes, so to speak and have the six debates that Barack offered Jack.

Keyes held the press almost spellbound for about 45 minutes this morning [well, not quite spellbound], as he used his best Harvard University [not Harvard, Illinois] educated, professorial-- yet dynamic style to argue his case for six debates to the press. Keyes also got into re-importation of prescription drugs, and somewhat surprisingly to the press, Keyes indicated he favors re-importation of prescription drugs. What do you know, some common ground exists with Democratic U. S. Senate candidate Obama, who also favors adjusting the laws to permit U. S. citizens to re-import drugs from Canada, as well as perhaps other countries. Although, there may be some subtle differences in the Obama/Keyes prescription drug policy stands that were brought out by yours truly [more on that in another blog entry, perhaps]. Indeed, Obama/Keyes may be fairly close to each other on international trade and therefore, to some extent on jobs. At this rate, there may not be much left to debate. Well, I am sure I could come up with a few questions, if given the opportunity, to help Obama and Keyes differentiate their public policy differences.

In any case, after escaping Republican U. S. Senate Keyes’ college classroom, the press ran over to Barack Obama’s more informal, but still well controlled, classroom—to question U. S. Senate Candidate Obama a bit at his press conference, focusing on the Keyes argument that Illinois should have six debates for its U. S. Senate race.

Senate Candidate Barack Obama said no, he wants only three debates. Barack Obama was dancing away from the six debates, when Berkowitz, Fornek and Shaw pressed Barack on why not six debates. Did Barack make his case? We discuss, you decide.
Another reporter: Are you suggesting that he [Ambassador Keyes] get out and campaign around this state?

State Senator and Democratic U. S. Senate Candidate Barack Obama: I am not going to dictate how he runs his campaign. What I am simply saying is that it doesn’t make sense for us to respond to a guy who arrived two days ago and is now attempting to dictate the schedule in which the campaign is going to take place. We have committed to debates. They are already on the schedule. We committed to these debates before we knew who was going to be there. You know, they could have gotten Arnold Schwarzenegger and we still would have been committed to these two debates. So, the notion that somehow we are not willing to engage in a, you know, full, free ranging conversation about the issues that face the voters of Illinois just doesn’t make sense.

Jeff Berkowitz [“Public Affairs” show host]: Barack, excuse me, you have twelve weeks left. His [Republican U. S. Senate Candidate Alan Keyes] point is, six debates, that is- [one] every other week. That is a reasonable pace, isn’t it?

Obama: [Laughter]

Scott Fornek [Chicago Sun-Times]: He said he is ready to debate today. He said, you walk in the room, the microphone’s there. You [can] put these together on a moment’s notice, he says.

Andy Shaw [ABC- 7 News]: Any time. Any place. What are you afraid of? He is saying.

Obama: Look [Laughter], as I said before. The guy has been here two days. Let him take some time to get to know the voters of Illinois. You know, I have not made his lack of knowledge of the state an issue at this point because I think that he has got some ideas that apply to the voters of Illinois as well as the national scene. There is no doubt that some of the issues that we are going to debate have to do with national issues. I am sure that he is well versed on it. I am absolutely positive that when we have a discussion about abortion or gay rights or guns he will have well thought through opinions on those issues. On the other hand, he himself said that he doesn’t know what his position on O’Hare [airport] is yet. So, that is a pretty important issue given the fact that the FAA is about to potentially slap down restrictions on the number of flights in the state. All I am suggesting is that by the time the Republican National Convention rolls around, by the time he [ Alan Keyes] has had a chance to settle in, get some staff, we are going to be in September—we will have a debate in September; we have already committed to do two debates in October, and I think that that will be sufficient in terms of him being able to get his views out and, as I said, I have been campaigning for the last two years and people are going to have a pretty clear chance to gauge where I stand on all the issues.
Press Conference held by Democratic U. S. Senate candidate Barack Obama, lunchtime, August 10, 2004, Harold Washington Library, after he spoke, as a panelist, at a Town Hall meeting/panel discussion held by Metro Seniors in Action
Jeff Berkowitz, host and producer of “Public Affairs,” can be reached at JBCG@aol.com