Boxer and Fio­r­ina stage an air war

Los Angeles Times - - Latextra - Maeve Re­ston and Seema Me­hta

With a nar­row­ing win­dow to ap­peal to a crit­i­cal swath of in­de­pen­dent vot­ers, Demo­cratic Sen. Bar­bara Boxer and her Repub­li­can chal­lenger, Carly Fio­r­ina, sparred in a ra­dio de­bate Wed­nes­day over abor­tion, the en­vi­ron­ment and im­mi­gra­tion pol­icy — thorny is­sues that each tried to use to paint their op­po­nent as out of the main­stream.

From the open­ing mo­ments of the de­bate, in which Fio­r­ina blamed Boxer for eco­nomic dis­tress in the Cen­tral Val­ley, the for­mer Hewlett-Packard chief ex­ec­u­tive ac­cused the three­term sen­a­tor of choos­ing ide­o­log­i­cal cru­sades over prac­ti­cal so­lu­tions.

“Sen­a­tor Boxer has been act­ing for the last 28 years in Washington, D.C., as if she is not held to ac­count by any­one other than her­self,” Fio­r­ina said. “She has been in­ef­fec­tive. She hasn’t solved the prob­lems of the peo­ple of Cal­i­for­nia.”

Boxer, in turn, char­ac­ter­ized Fio­r­ina as a failed ex­ec­u­tive who is “hos­tile” to the

en­vi­ron­ment, ex­treme on is­sues such as abor­tion rights and in fa­vor of an agenda tilted to­ward help­ing the wealthy rather than av­er­age vot­ers.

“This race presents one of the clear­est choices in the nation,” Boxer said. “My op­po­nent doesn’t rep­re­sent the peo­ple of Cal­i­for­nia.”

For months, the Se­nate race has been de­fined by the two can­di­dates’ dif­fer­ing views on how to lift the coun­try out of re­ces­sion, but Wed­nes­day’s ra­dio de­bate, spon­sored by KPCC-FM (89.3) and La Opin­ion on the Patt Mor­ri­son show skimmed over some of their more fa­mil­iar eco­nomic pol­icy pre­scrip­tions.

The mod­er­a­tors pressed the can­di­dates, who par­tic­i­pated from ra­dio stu­dios on dif­fer­ent coasts, on each topic for three-and-half min­utes at a time, delv­ing more deeply into the dis­tinc­tions be­tween them on the en­vi­ron­ment, health­care, im­mi­gra­tion pol­icy, as well as some as­pects of for­eign pol­icy. The non-eco­nomic is­sues, while not at the fore­front this year, have been im­por­tant in the past to the mid­dle-of-the-road vot­ers who de­ter­mine win­ners in Cal­i­for­nia elec­tions.

The topic of abor­tion led to one of the sharpest ex­changes be­tween them. Fio­r­ina sought to blunt Boxer’s attacks on her op­po­si­tion to abor­tion rights. Though Fio­r­ina in the past has said she would “ab­so­lutely” seek to over­turn the land­mark de­ci­sion known as Roe vs. Wade, she said Wed­nes­day that she would not in­tro­duce any leg­is­la­tion to that ef­fect if elected to the U.S. Se­nate and would not use the is­sue as a lit­mus test for a Supreme Court nom­i­nee.

Ac­cus­ing Boxer of “shock­ing” mis­char­ac­ter­i­za­tions of her record, Fio­r­ina said none had been more “un­con­scionable than the sen­a­tor’s con­tin­ued as­ser­tion that I sup­port the crim­i­nal­iza­tion of abor­tion.”

“She knows very well that this is not true,” Fio­r­ina said. “Bar­bara Boxer is en­gag­ing in this kind of mis­rep­re­sen­ta­tion to change the sub­ject … from her own ex­treme views — which are that a baby doesn’t have rights un­til it leaves the hos­pi­tal, to change the sub­ject from her own ex­treme views that a girl seek­ing an abor­tion at 12 shouldn’t have to no­tify her mother.”

Boxer, whose ca­reer has been de­fined in part by her ad­vo­cacy for abor­tion rights, coun­tered that her op­po­nent’s sup­port for over­turn­ing Roe vs. Wade means “women and doc­tors could be put in jail in any state in the union.”

“I gave birth to two pre­ma­ture ba­bies who are now my beau­ti­ful kids who have given me grand­kids, and I cared about them for the en­tire time that I was preg­nant, and the en­tire time that they were in that hos­pi­tal,” Boxer said.

On im­mi­gra­tion, Fio­r­ina ac­cused Boxer of vil­i­fy­ing the peo­ple of Ari­zona who fa­vored their state’s tough new law step­ping up en­force­ment of im­mi­gra­tion laws. But she re­peat­edly re­fused to say what should be done with the 12 mil­lion peo­ple who are in the coun­try il­le­gally.

“That’s what peo­ple are tired of about Washington, we al­ways skip over the prob­lem that’s right in front of us and want to talk about some­thing else,” she said. “The prob­lem right in front of us is the border is not se­cure and we don’t have a tem­po­rary worker pro­gram that works.”

Boxer replied that she did not “vil­ify any­body,” but faulted Fio­r­ina for re­fus­ing to dis­cuss the fate of il­le­gal im­mi­grants in the U.S.

“She’s pit­ting border se­cu­rity against ev­ery­thing else — as a mat­ter of fact, she said any­thing else is a dis­trac­tion.” The mil­lions here il­le­gally “are part of our com­mu­nity,” Boxer said. “If you fol­low her think­ing they will all have to be de­ported.”

Al­though the for­mat of the ra­dio de­bate fea­tured fewer di­rect con­fronta­tions com­pared with their ear­lier face-to-face meet­ing, both can­di­dates were cut off by the mod­er­a­tors af­ter danc­ing around ques­tions.

When Boxer was asked how she would cut the $1.3tril­lion fed­eral deficit, she ini­tially re­sponded by cit­ing the bud­get sur­plus and job cre­ation ac­cu­mu­lated un­der for­mer Pres­i­dent Clin­ton. Pressed for spe­cific cuts, she said the fed­eral govern­ment could save money by end­ing both the Iraq and Afghanistan wars, and fer­ret­ing out waste­ful spend­ing by contractors. But she de­clined to name spe­cific pro­grams that should be cut.

Fio­r­ina sim­i­larly dodged a ques­tion about how she would rein in the cost of en­ti­tle­ment pro­grams like Medi­care and So­cial Se­cu­rity.

Both also faced awk­ward mo­ments. Fio­r­ina of­ten ac­cuses Boxer of be­ing be­holden to “ex­treme en­vi­ron­men­tal­ists,” but when Mor­ri­son asked Fio­r­ina to name any one of those groups, she paused for sev­eral sec­onds, de­clined to an­swer and tried to pivot to the is­sue of wa­ter in the Cen­tral Val­ley.

In sev­eral other in­stances, their an­swers were in­ac­cu­rate.

Fio­r­ina said semiau­to­matic weapons are il­le­gal to pur­chase, when in fact they are le­gal.

When Boxer sought to de­fend the health­care re­form law passed by Congress ear­lier this year, she in­ac­cu­rately as­serted that nearly two-thirds of Amer­i­cans were “go­ing broke” be­cause of med­i­cal crises, and that thou­sands of peo­ple died ev­ery day be­cause they had no health in­surance. The three-term sen­a­tor later cor­rected her­self, telling re­porters in Washington that she meant thou­sands of peo­ple were dy­ing each year.

Anne Cu­sack

FIO­R­INA: The Repub­li­can says Boxer has not been ef­fec­tive in of­fice.

Ja­son Reed

BOXER: The Demo­crat por­trays Fio­r­ina as a failed ex­ec­u­tive.

PASADENA:

The can­di­dates’ sup­port­ers rally at the stu­dio of KPCC-FM, a co-spon­sor of the ra­dio de­bate be­tween Sen. Bar­bara Boxer and Carly Fio­r­ina.

Luis Sinco

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