More from tonight’s Boxer-Fiorina debate

As per usual, there was a lot more to the story of tonight’s semi-epic debate between U.S. Sen. Barbara Boxer and Republican senatorial nominee Carly Fiorina debate than I could fit into the story for tomorrow’s editions, so here’s some of the rest.

Asked about the minor flap in which she had reprimanded a general testifying before Congress to call her “Senator” rather than the military honorific “ma’am,” Boxer said “people absolutely have a right to criticize me for anything I do” but she’d thought it appropriate that they address each other by their proper titles. She said she called the general afterward and asked whether she should apologize, and he said that wasn’t necessary. Fiorina said she was “pleased to hear” that Boxer and the general had that conversation.

The candidates were asked about a federal judge’s decision declaring unconstitutional Proposition 8 of 2008, California’s voter-approved ban on same-sex marriage, and about inequalities same-sex couples experience under federal Defense of Marriage Act.

Fiorina said she believes marriage is only between a man and a woman, but supports civil unions for same-sex couples; DOMA was passed with bipartisan support, she noted, while “the voters were quite clear about their views” in passing Prop. 8 and to have one judge overturn those views “seems perhaps not appropriate.” Boxer said our system of government relies on the courts acting as a check on legislation, and she believes “people are coming around to see” that marriage equality is a matter of equal civil rights.

Boxer was asked about her reputation as being more partisan and less able to work across the aisle than her fellow California senator, Dianne Feinstein; she replied that she has cosponsored about 500 Republican bills, and worked with Republicans to pass legislation enabling afterschool programs and helping veterans.

“We both need to run on our records and I am proud to run on my record at HP,” Fiorina replied, calling Boxer’s record “long on talk and very short on achievement” because of her partisanship; she noted that climate-change legislation that Boxer, who chairs the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee, had idenfitied as a top priority was taken out of her hands and given instead to U.S. Sen. John Kerry, who has more of a reputation for working across the aisle. “I think it’s telling that her bitter partisanship prevented her from getting her top priority accomplished.”

More after the jump…

Fiorina said she opposes abortion choice and would advocate overturning the Roe v. Wade ruling “if there were an opportunity,” as she believes in states’ rights and would leave it to each states’ voters to decide; she said she’s “comfortable with federal funding for adult stem cell research,” but opposes it for research in which embryos are produced for the purpose of being destroyed. Boxer said she favors abortion choice, and that if Fiorina has her way, women would die and doctors would be jailed as happened before the Roe v. Wade ruling.

The candidates were reminded that although President Barack Obama inherited a bad economy, Democrats have controlled Congress for four years while Obama has been in office for almost two and unemployment remains high. “We’re taking responsibility and we’re taking action,” Boxer insisted, citing the recent aid package to states to protect teachers’ jobs as well as a pending bill to give small businesses better access to credit – a bill that needs one more Republican vote to break a GOP filibuster. But “you have to look at history, otherwise you’ll repeat it,” she added, noting the Clinton Administration saw 23 million new jobs and budget surpluses while the Bush Administration saw 1 million new jobs and a $1.3 trillion deficit. “We’re not going to solve it overnight, but job by job by job, we’re going to solve it.”

“Recovery summer has become the summer of despair in California,” Fiorina replied, speaking of small businesses strangled by uncertainty, taxes and over-regulation. The Democrats’ economic stimulus has failed to deliver the hope and help they’d promised, she said, while Boxer has repeatedly voted against balanced-budget amendments and proposals to limit the federal government’s growth.

Some questions were submitted by KTVU viewers and presented in video clips; St. Mary’s College student Alana Armstrong, a Central Valley native, asked about subsidies to major agribusinesses while family farms struggle. Boxer replied that the most recent farm bill finally began to right those wrongs, and that she’s working with Feinstein to ensure that families that continue farming their land shouldn’t be subject to the estate tax when the older generation passes away. Fiorina replied that Boxer’s actions speak louder than her words, noting the Senator has voted against estate-tax relief and “wouldn’t lift a finger” to help relieve the Central Valley’s recent water shortages.

Another viewer, Oakland’s Stacy Holifield, asked about Fiorina’s defense of the right of people on the government’s “no-fly” list to buy firearms; Fiorina said the list “isn’t particularly well-managed,” and “we should not be taking constitutional rights away from citizens and giving constitutional rights to terrorists.” Boxer called Fiorina’s position “shocking.”

Josh Richman

Josh Richman covers state and national politics for the Bay Area News Group. A New York City native, he earned a bachelor’s degree in journalism from the University of Missouri and reported for the Express-Times of Easton, Pa. for five years before coming to the Oakland Tribune and ANG Newspapers in 1997. He is a frequent guest on KQED Channel 9’s “This Week in Northern California;” a proud father; an Eagle Scout; a somewhat skilled player of low-stakes poker; a rather good cook; a firm believer in the use of semicolons; and an unabashed political junkie who will never, EVER seek elected office.

  • jeanne allen

    I remember a few years ago hearing that Barbara Boxer had bounced more personal checks then just about anyone in the senate. I remember thinking then if you can’t handle your own fiances how can you vote on how to spend taxpayers money.

  • John W

    I’m in the Boxer camp and give her a slight edge in terms of debate peformance. Also, I thought the bit about Boxer having only 4 insignificant bills to her credit was a load of you know what. But I’ll give Carly credit on three points. She didn’t hide from her view that Rowe v Wade should be overturned. Also, I was pleasantly surprised to hear her endorse the “Dream Act” and repeal of “Don’t Ask Don’t Tell.” As for “Call me Senator-gate,” I’m a vet and was not happy about that at the time and wrote a scathing e-mail to Boxer about it. To her credit, she quickly replied with a “no excuses” response and discussed her follow-up conversation with the general. That was good enough for me.

  • Carly got her clock clocked by Boxer. I thought both stood their ground very well, but Boxer got the better of the two.

  • Dan

    Incredibly biased reporter panel and “moderator” who lobbed softballs at Boxer while trying to attack Fiorina on wedge issues. Embarrasing night for the “journalists;” maybe the worst I have ever seen. Boxer played the tired, class warfare card again and again, trying to justify a government which is spending us into oblivion. We need smart business people like Carly Fiorina to bring common sense to Washington and end the reckless tax-and-spend policies of this Congress and Administation.

  • John W

    Re #4

    So, the question to Boxer about the “call me Senator” thing was a “softball?” I thought the panel and the debaters did an excellent job of drawing out the clear differences between the two.

    Smart business people? As demonstrated by results at HP during Carly’s watch? Or by HP employee opinions?

  • Hilltopper

    It was a good, lively debate and a win for Boxer. All Boxer needs to do to win the election is to show the contrast in their views (environment, abortion, tax cuts for millionaires, money for schools, etc.). She did so last night.

  • Neil S.

    The debate showed a clear difference to the issues. Carly did a good job but, at times, failed to connect the dots. For example, Carly started off saying how she thought that having a long and successful career in business allowed her to then run for office is a good thing, “something I feel the founding fathers intended.” Then made several mentions of Sen Boxer in public service for 28 years. Then when the question came asking Boxer why she doesn’t retire, Carly had an oppportunity to connect the two points of working for a living and now give back to the people not a career politician.
    For me one other issue was style. Sen Boxer came across as condensending, aloof and at times disconnected. In fact she stumbled a few times with numbers, to a point of being funny. At times she changed her voice to accentuate a feeling of caring. I think it may work against a male competitor, here it came across as condensending and almost rude to the electorial. Carly showed a directness, polish (sometimes not good), and a clear belief of values. I have to give her credit, she showed what she believes and was not afraid of those beliefs.
    In my view, neither hurt themselves in this debate. I think it would be in the best interests for both to volley it up again in the central valley.

  • Elwood

    Re: #2

    I believe the D behind Boxer’s name is good enough for you John W.

  • John W

    Re: #8

    You’re right about that, Elwood. At least when it comes to federal offices. Especially now that the party of Lincon/TR/Ike/Ford/Bush 41 has become the party of Libaugh/Beck/Palin/Gingrich/Armey.

    But I’m a nonpartisan guy when it comes to local and state offices, where the debate is less about ideology and more about who can make the trains run on time.

  • John W

    Apologies to Abe and Limbaugh for the spelling.

  • If California want a failed CEO that doesn’t care about American workers Fiorina is your girl. That the message jobs, jobs, jobs and were they went.

  • Robert

    I was disappointed in Boxer trying to hide behind Bill Clinton. In the 90s when the economy was doing so well it wasn’t Bill Clinton but the dot.com’s that were doing all the work. This is whom Bill Clinton gives credit to. And the fact that Carly was one of them should say something about her. Why doesn’t Boxer flaunt Obama’s recorded on the economy?

  • John W

    Robert, I think Boxer’s point was not that Clinton created the 20 million jobs, but that the economy was able to produce the growth and jobs under the fiscal policies that were in place at the time. Those conditions included the tax rates that were in effect and real pay-go rules.

  • skeptic94505

    Carly got was blown away by Boxer. She is just another Republican hack, looking at reducing California into a third world country.

    Carly will continue to support outsourcing and importing high tech workers into California. Carly will push privitation of Social Security (read Wall Street). Carly will roll back any Health Care Reforms (Say hi to $1500/month health care insurance bills)

    I am getting tired of these high priced Corporate ads and polls supporting Corporate Hacks like Carly. Why can’t Karl Rove take his $400M in campaign funds and donate it policeman, teachers and infrastructure, not hacks like Meg and Carly?

  • skeptic94505

    Carly took HP from a leader in high tech to a company that can only grow by acquistion. Look at the empty HP facilities in Colorado Springs, Roseville CA, Palo Alto CA and other locations. They are empty shells. Over 12,000 jobs left California under Carly.
    She could not inovate herself out of a paper bag.


  • Elwood

    Look under your bed, skeptic94505!

    It’s Karl Rove!