I watched the Butte debate between Burns and Tester this a.m., and I came out wishing that Bob Keenan and Paul Richards had been slugging it out instead. Keenan, at least, would have given us honest talk about the government's pitiful record on deficit spending, and Richards would have made sense about Iraq.
Instead we get Burns hypothesizing that we will grow our way out of the deficit, just the way Jack Kennedy and Ronald Reagan did it. Except, of course, that what Kennedy and Reagan did didn't work. Tax cuts were followed by revenue increases, to be sure, but that didn't stop deficits from growing. Now, with a wildly expensive war going on, we get deficits piled upon deficits, with no end in sight.
And from Tester we get - what exactly? - about Iraq. I don't hear him flip-flopping, the way Republicans claim they do. I just don't hear any clear position at all. Richards would have pointed out that, if in fact the war in Iraq is leading to more terrorism, not less, then "stay the course" is not only expensive and impractical, it's downright stupid. We need a change of course, and fast. Creating the first pro-torture presidential administration in U.S. history isn't going to get the job done.
So we get a lame, watered-down debate, a greatest-hits edition of sound bites and conventional wisdom. I'm holding out for Keenan-Richards.
UPDATE: Interesting comments below about the merits of staying and leaving Iraq. This month's Harper's magazine has a plan by George McGovern and William R. Polk on how to get out of the war. I'm not expert enough to judge the merits of the plan, but what strikes me is that it is at least a plan. Why can't we get a plan from our own government? All we get are "stay the course" and "cut and run," neither of which makes any sense. Everybody knows we have to leave Iraq sometime -- my grandkids may have to fight there, but their grandkids won't -- so why not plan for it? And why not have that discussion in a public forum among representatives chosen by the people to stand up for our interests -- say, Congress, for example?