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Harry Reid - Sharron Angle debate: Topic-by-topic recap

October 14, 2010 |  7:23 pm

Harry Reid - Sharon Angle debate, October 14, 2010

Reid's opening statement

Finally! It's the closest, and most closely watched, race of the midterm elections, and now the long-awaited debate between the two virtually tied Senate candidates. This race has become a proxy for what is happening all over the country -- incumbents facing insurgents. In this case, it's Reid, the leader of Senate Democrats who is seeking his fifth term, versus Republican Angle, a former state legislator and darling of the "tea party" movement. 

Mitch Fox, host of Nevada Week in Review, is moderating in the studio of Vegas PBS. The candidates are standing at podiums. She is in Nancy Reagan red. Ground rules are simple: Each will give a two-minute statement, followed by a series of questions, some submitted by YouTube. Each gets a minute to respond, then a 30-second rebuttal.

Coin flip of a Nevada quarter. Opening goes to Reid.

He talks about growing up in Searchlight. His dad was big and times were tough. When he worked, he sometimes didn't get paid. Mom took in wash from brothels. He segues to....

...economic collapse: "I believe my No. 1 job is to create jobs as United States senator." He touts his tax reform, reducing taxes for small businesses. He says Wall Street reform means they will "never ever be able to do to us what they did to us."

He is halting and slow and checks his notes. Not extremely smooth and seems to be ticking off his talking points.

Reid on illegal immigration

Where is the fire, people? Maybe now that the questions are starting, the debate will heat up.

First question to Reid: In the minds of many Nevadans, you have not made border security a priority. Why have you only started talking about border security now?

Reid: "The system is broken and needs to be fixed." In August, he said, "I introduced legislation that was finally passed to do something about borders."

"I'm frustrated like everybody else is," said Reid. "But I believe we have to do comprehensive immigration reform."

Sharron Angle's opening statement

Sharon Angle, in her opening remarks, said viewers would see a contrast between her and the Senate majority leader.

"I'm not a career politician," she said. Though she has served as a state lawmaker, she noted other work in her life. She said she lives in a suburban house while Harry Reid lives in the Ritz Carlton in Washington, D.C.

Angle said she has voted more than 100 times against tax and fee increases and unconstitutional laws. She said Reid voted more than 300 times to raise taxes and voted for unconstitutional bills, such as the healthcare reform bill, which she called "Obamacare."

Such policies, she said, have hurt Nevada.


Question: What about Angle's ad that accuses Reid of voting for Social Security and tax breaks for illegal immigrants?

Angle: She does not disavow that ad. "I am glad to give voters the opportunity to see that Harry Reid has voted to give Social Security to illegal aliens, not only before they were citizens but after they were citizens."

She makes her first mention of "personalized" accounts, the new buzz word for "privatizing" Social Security.

Reid says she is not telling the truth in her ad. "Everything she has said in that ad is false; it is not true. I have never voted for tax breaks for people who are here that are illegal, never voted for Social Security for people here illegally."

Health reform vs. jobs

Fox: Why didn't you and President Obama focus on jobs and the foreclosure first given Nevada's dire economy?

Reid: "We did," he said. He said they focused on mortgage fraud and have indictments to prove it.
"Remember what I said earlier: Health insurance reform provides jobs."


Sharon Angle, taking up healthcare, said less regulation, not more, would reduce healthcare costs. She said that "Obamacare" has increased healthcare costs and raised taxes. Harry Reid helped guide President Obama's sweeping healthcare initiative into law.

The solution to reforming healthcare, she said, is simple –- the free market. She later said she would not support insurance mandates.

She said consumers should be allowed to choose insurers, and that tort reform should be a priority. Both efforts would reduce costs, she said.

"Obamacare is destroying our economy," she said later.

More immigration

Sharon Angle took on Harry Reid’s record on immigration. Reid has said he supports a path to legalization for illegal immigrants.

She said the solution to immigration is to secure the border. She also touted the Arizona sheriff who has developed a reputation for a hard-line stand on immigration.

"I think every state should have a sheriff life Joe Arpaio," she said.

Angle denounced Reid and the Obama administration for speaking out again Arizona’s controversial immigration law, S.B. 1070. The administration sued to block the law from taking effect.

Later in the debate, Reid was asked if he supported a law that would make English the official language of the nation.

"English already is the offical language," he said.

Healthcare mandates

Fox to Angle: Is there anything you think health insurance companies should be forced to cover?

Angle says no. "America is a country of choices." She said she taught autistic children and she understands it's a "real biomedical disorder" and families need to see treatment.

But, she adds, "Forcing someone to buy something that they don't need is not the way to solve the problem."

Fox presses: Is there anything insurance companies should be mandated to cover?

Angle: What we have here is a choice between the free market and Americanism. We need to have choices, the free market will weed out those companies....Let the people decide where to buy their insurance. We don't have to force anyone to buy anything.

Fox: So no insurance mandates?

She shakes her head no.

The economic meltdown

Angle: The housing bubble was caused a long time before this recent recession.

She accuses Reid of not dealing with the underlying causes of the recession. "Freddie Mac and Fannie Mae have never been truly dealt with. They keep sweeping it away....We need to start looking at true solutions, and first we have to investigate what caused the problem in the first place."

Reid's response: "We are on top of that." He says he has called for a Federal Reserve audit, which has not happened. He denies you can do away with Freddie Mac and Fannie Mae.


The candidates were asked if the federal government should have to pay for abortions.

Sharon Angle said no. Harry Reid gave a roundabout answer.

He repeatedly noted the Hyde Amendment, which bars the use of certain federal funds for abortions. He said the law has been on the books for decades. But Reid did not clearly say yes or no.

Is it a senator's job to create jobs?

These people are stiff.

Fox, harkening to an oft-repeated Angle remark: "Do you believe getting jobs is not your job?"

Nope, says Angle. "My job is to create the policies to encourage the private sector to do what they do best, and that is creating jobs."

Fox: "So that means no?"

Angle: Nods in agreement.

Reid responds. He boasts of ways he's helped bring jobs to Nevada through tax policy -- at McCarran Airport, at Harrah's, where, he said, "We saved 31,000 jobs alone. My opponent is against those. My job is to create jobs. ... My opponent is extreme."

Angle responds: "Harry Reid, it's not your job to create jobs. It's your job to create confidence to get the private sector to create jobs." She says employers have lost confidence because of "Obamacare." Those policies, she says, are causing job loss.

Supreme Court

Harry Reid was asked to name Supreme Court justices he admired and ones he didn’t think should have been confirmed.

Reid said he did not agree with opinions from Antonin Scalia, but found him "masterful" in his command of the law. He also cited Byron White, "Whizzer White," as an exemplary justice -– adding that he was a great football player as well.

He did not say who he would oppose on the court.

Sharron Angle said she admired Clarence Thomas, saying he was an example of a justice who does not legislate from the bench. She added that she would not have voted to confirm Elena Kagan or Sonia Sotomayor. She charged that they said they would vote against 2nd Amendment rights.

Reid helped shepherd the nominations of Kagan and Sotomayor through the Senate.

Social Security

Moderator Mitch Fox challenged Sharron Angle on a comment she made before the Republican primary.

He noted that before the primary, she referred to the need to "privatize" Social Security. Now she uses the term "personalize."

"Why did you change your position on Social Security?" Fox asked.

She said she used the word "personalize" because it described a type of personal retirement account that lawmakers, such as Harry Reid, have. She did not acknowledge Fox's assertion that she had changed her view on Social Security.

Reid said other nations have tried personalizing retirement accounts with disastrous results.

Don't ask, don't tell

The question to Angle is whether it is time to end discrimination against gays and lesbians in the military. Also, Fox asked, what do you think about Dick Cheney and Laura Bush supporting gay rights?

Angle: "The policies are under review. ... We shouldn't jump ahead of the military as Sen. Reid tried to do."

She said that in Nevada, more than 70% of voters have said a marriage should be between a man and a woman. And she agrees.

On Bush and Cheney supporting gay rights: "That is of course their personal opinion and prerogative. ... That's great."

Reid counters: "She doesn't understand what went on in Washington and the bill to do away with 'don't ask, don't tell.' The Senate legislation didn't say get rid of 'don't ask, don't tell,' but that a secretary of Defense would have to certify it would do no harm to our troops only after Department of Defense report came down."

That's backward, replies Angle. "The wrong way to make law. The review should come out first, and then the bill."

Nuclear power and Yucca Mountain

Reid doesn't bite on Angle's provocations. She tells him to "man up" on Social Security, then she says, "Well, there you go again," echoing Ronald Reagan's exasperation with Jimmy Carter. He keeps a straight face.

Fox: The question is on Yucca Mountain and Angle's statement that Reid has "demonized" the nuclear industry. Did Reid miss a golden opportunity to create jobs with Yucca Mountain?

Reid: Yucca Mountain is not good for the country and it is really bad for Nevada. People said we couldn't kill it. It's dead. We need to use it for something else. My opponent says we should use it for a nuclear reactor. There isn't enough water here to do that. I am not against nuclear power; I was just totally opposed to bringing all the garbage from it to the state of Nevada.

Angle: "I have always voted against making Nevada the nuclear waste dump of the nation.... But we need to quit demonizing the nuclear energy industry."

She touts nuclear breeder submarines and other technological advances, and says we should not be depending on foreign oil. We should be developing our own resources.

Reid, she says, is guilty of an "extreme environmental outlook."

Both of them, we are relieved to report, know how to pronounce "nuclear."

Whether the Iraq war was lost

Fox to Reid: Did you demoralize the troops when you said the war in Iraq was lost?

Reid defends himself, though does not answer the question. He says the surge was the right thing to do. "The surge worked." He praises Gen. David Petraeus. "He is my friend." He says he has supported the troops and has been endorsed by Veterans of Foreign Wars.

Angle responds, "I didn't get to vote for either one of those wars. ... But I do know this. We need to support our military ... and their families as well."

She becomes harsh: "When you said this war is lost and said that Gen. Petraeus was dishonest, that emboldened our enemies, demoralized our troops and endangered them, and you need to apologize to them, Senator.

Reid ignores her and reiterates his support for the troops. 

Continuing the Bush tax cuts

Fox to Reid: "Why do you want to raise taxes, even on the wealthy, in the midst of a recession?"

Reid says, "I guarantee there will be no tax increase for anyone in middle class in America. I personally am not in favor of giving billionaires tax cuts."

Angle is for extending the Bush tax cuts. "The tax cuts need to be made permanent. If they are not, we will experience the largest tax increase in the history of America."

She turns her fire on Reid: "Voting for over 300 tax increases, Senator, we can't trust you." Then she gets harsher: "You came to the Senate from Searchlight with very little. On behalf of Nevada taxpayers, we'd like to know, how did you become so wealthy on a Senate payroll?"

Reid: That's kind of a low blow." He said he made his money as a successful lawyer before he became a senator."

I put my kids through 500 semesters of school. Her suggesting that I made money being a senator is false. I am disappointed.

Closing statements

Reid fumbled around for his papers when asked for his closing statement. Gotta be around here somewhere! When he found it, it was brief. He knocked Angle for mocking the notion of "green" jobs, and closed with milquetoast boilerplate: "I am a fighter," he says. "I will continue to fight for what I believe is best for the American people."

Angle was a bit livelier. "People ask me why I smile so much," she says. "I am an optimist. Like Ronald Reagan, I believe in American exceptionalism."

What she would do is "cut back on the spending, pay back the debt, and take back our economy by repealing policies like 'Obamacare.'" She is about "lower taxes, less government regulation, more individual freedom and stop the spending. I am Sharron Angle and I am asking for your vote."

Hard to imagine this debate moved the needle much in this tight race. On the other hand, she didn't seem crazy -- which is how Reid has tried hard to portray her -- so maybe she won?


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-- Robin Abcarian and Steve Padilla

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