Great leaders are almost always great simplifiers, who can cut through argument, debate and doubt, to offer a solution everybody can understand. – Colin Powell
It was a great day on Saturday as The Western Word travel budget allowed me the opportunity to attend the candidate debate between Democrats U.S. Sen. John Walsh, former Lt. Gov. John Bohlinger, and rancher Dirk Adams. The debate was held at the Benefis Hospital’s Cameron Auditorium, which is about four blocks from The Western Word world headquarters.
I counted around 100 people in the auditorium. The debate lasted a little over 90 minutes. Somebody brought cookies, which was a nice touch. People were friendly. The debate was sponsored by the Great Falls Tribune and Benefis Health System.
There were 10 questions asked (one of them was mine) dealing with issues from Obamacare to defense to the environment to gun control to politics. Ironically, nobody asked what the word “Benefis” means. Each candidate was able to give opening and closing remarks.
The crowd was predominately pro-Walsh, although each candidate received nice applause during the debate.
In my opinion, if you like someone who is little bombastic, you’ll like Dirk Adams. If you like someone who is calm and statesman-like, you’ll like John Bohlinger. If you like someone who has the military can-do attitude, you’ll like John Walsh.
Of course, it was Bohlinger and Adams against Walsh – and all of them against current Congressman and Republican Senate candidate Steve Daines. They painted Daines as too conservative and out of touch with ordinary people.
Members of the audience were asked to submit questions, and I submitted one that was the seventh question asked. My question went something like this, “Due to the recent homicide in Missoula involving the foreign exchange student, has this changed your opinion about “Stand Your Ground’ or the ‘Castle Doctrine?’”
Adams must have watched the movie “Fargo” recently because he said the shooter should be run through a wood chipper. Most everyone said they supported the second amendment, and that the death was tragic.
I did learn that Adams believes in 10-12 years toxic water in the Berkeley Pit will pollute Butte’s groundwater making it the world’s worst disaster. Yes, the world’s worst disaster. Adams says climate change is the most important issue facing civilization. He would also like four debates, and he is against the Keystone pipeline and believes coal is dead. I don’t know how he feels about Elvis. Adams believes he is the only true environmentalist of the three. Adams tried to tie Daines and Walsh together saying they get money from the same people – like Walmart. Adams mentioned Walmart so much that I tweeted, “Maybe it’s just me, but I don’t think Dirk Adams likes Walmart.”
Bohlinger was in the middle, and he seemed to be the person who kept bringing everybody back to the goal of the Montana Democrats: beat Steve Daines. He says he is not for sale and that he “knows a thing or two about Republicans” which got a chuckle from the audience. He ran as a Republican a few times. Bohlinger talked about how he and former Governor Brian Schweitzer increased the wind energy in Montana. He said he supports a single payer healthcare system.
As for Walsh, he did fine. There were no big mistakes. He talked about fighting for Malmstrom AFB and re-opening the runway. He talked about being embarrassed about how our country has treated Native Americans. He talked about how Daines and Adams support the Citizen United Supreme Court decision. He said he was not in the senate and did not vote for Obamacare, but he was disappointed by the roll out and the jury was still out on the law.
Since Walsh is the incumbent after being appointed to the seat, and since he did not crash and burn, he and his team must be feeling pretty good after the debate. I think people are looking for a long-term commitment from a U.S. Senator, and that will hurt Bohlinger as he said he would only serve one term. As for Adams, he came across as too aggressive and seemed to be trying to shove three months of built-up aggressiveness into a 90-minute debate.
In closing, there really needs to be a primary debate between the Republicans running for U.S. Senate – and thanks to the Great Falls Tribune for attempting to schedule one. Shame on the Montana Republican Party for not demanding that their three candidates for U.S. Senate (Steve Daines, Champ Edmunds, and Susan Cundiff) debate.
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