After watching the first debate between Newark Mayor Cory Booker and former Bogota Mayor Steve Lonegan, it is crystal clear that Booker is an unapologetic collectivist and Steve Lonegan is an intellectual lightweight. In addition, watching these two candidates for United States Senate insult each other confirms what critics of the 17th amendment have argued, that US senators should not be elected directly by the people but appointed by state legislatures, the way senators had originally been appointed to the United States Congress until the progressive era reforms of the early 20th century.
Cory Booker set the tone for debate when he did not answer the first question directed at him but instead launched an attacked on Lonegan for being an “extremist.” For the rest of the debate it was Booker taunting Lonegan, Lonegan taunting Booker calling him “delusional” and greedy.
In other words, the first debate was a political version of the Worldwide Wrestling Federation main event, mostly theater, little substance and a lot of huffing and puffing by the antagonists. Admittedly, the format of the debate did not help matters either. Instead of the typical format, a question to one of the candidates and then a response by the other and possibly a rebuttal, the candidates should be sitting at a roundtable with one or two questioners grilling each candidate and requiring substantive responses to the great issues of our day.
As far as any of the substantive remarks made by the candidates, Booker is a believer in “trickle down economics,” the notion that government spending will cure our ills if it is directed toward the appropriate “victims” in our society. Booker thus believes that coercion—more taxation– is an appropriate means for what he considers noble ends – whether it be more federal government spending on health care, student loans and other entitlement programs that have propelled our national debt to nearly $17 trillion.
Lonegan, on the other hand, spent a good portion of his remarks criticizing Booker’s handling of his duties as mayor of Newark. I kept on wondering was this debate about electing the next mayor of Newark or governor of New Jersey? Longean thus wasted valuable airtime to make his case why he should be elected the next US senator from New Jersey. His rhetoric about individual liberty made him sound like an unabashed libertarian, which the Star Ledger claims he is in its endorsement of Booker, but Lonegan is no libertarian.
Yes, Lonegan claims America should not be the policeman of the world. Yet, he wants President Obama to be “tough” on Iran, claiming it wants to build a nuclear bomb. Iran has not threatened us, has repeatedly asserted it considers nuclear weapons immoral and its people are suffering because of US-led economic sanctions. Unfortunately, no one during the debate asked that question of the candidates, would you support the continuation of sanctions against a nation that is not a threat to the United States? Supporting sanctions is not a libertarian position. Far from it. It is one of the most anti-libertarian positions one can hold, using force in the international arena without justification.
Lonegan also claimed during the debate that he was opposed to the Patriot Act, which President Bush rammed through Congress after the attacks on 9/11. I could not find any documentation of that assertion by Lonegan. I do know for a fact that Lonegan supported the invasion of Iraq because he was overheard saying he could not support my 2008 U.S. Senate campaign because I opposed the Iraq war. In short, Lonegan’s credibility on foreign policy issues is highly suspect. He has not criticized the military-industrial complex as a gross violation of the Constituion.
As far as the two hot button social issues are concerned, gay marriage and gun control, Lonegan missed a golden opportunity to show the racist roots of government marriage licenses and state gun-control laws.
Lonegan also missed an opportunity to point out why crime is so high in Newark and throughout the country, namely, the failed war on drugs. If Lonegan is a libertarian, he would criticize the political establishment for supporting the horrific consequences of drug prohibition–gang wars, killing of innocent victims in cities across America, overcrowded prisons, etc.
Despite his rhetoric, Lonegan is a neoconservative. He had the opportunity to make the case for economic freedom and limited government but instead he just provided empty rhetoric about individual liberty. Yes, he did say he wants to eliminate the IRS, but who in his right mind doesn’t?
Cory Booker thought his grand bargain with Chris Christie would give him an easy ticket to the United States Senate. Instead of seeking the Democratic gubernatorial nomination this year, Booker opted to challenge Sen. Frank Lautenberg for his Senate seat in 2014. When Sen. Lautenberg suddenly died in June, Gov. Christie helped clear the Republican field for Steve Lonegan (except for Alieta Eck), a supposedly weak candidate who Booker would trounce in the October special election.
There is an old adage, “Be careful what you wish for.” In what was an insurmountable lead by Booker in late August has turned into a competitive race by early October.
Nevertheless, the Founding Fathers had it right; states should be represented in the United States Congress, that’s why U.S. senators had been elected by state legislators until 100 years ago. The first Booker Lonegan debate reaffirms the wisdom of the Founding Fathers.