From left, U.S. Rep. Todd Akin, U.S. Sen. Claire McCaskill and Libertarian Jonathan Dine at a Sept. 22 debate in Columbia, Mo., sponsored by the Missouri Press Association.
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September 28, 2012Incumbent Sen. Claire McCaskill calls Kirkwood her home and Rep. Todd Akin resides in nearby Town & Country, but the two U.S. Senate candidates are not so neighborly - and they are hundreds of miles apart when it comes to issues both foreign and domestic.
Those differences were evident Sept. 22 when Democrat McCaskill, Republican Akin and Libertarian Jonathan Dine faced off in a debate. Akin was again asked to explain his comments on "legitimate rape." Akin has said women rarely conceive after forcible rape, because their bodies can prevent a pregnancy.
Akin has since disavowed those comments and he told a Missouri Press Association (MPA) audience in Columbia, Mo., that his campaign is not about a few awkward words, but "about two visions of what America is about." Akin said his vision is "for more freedom, while McCaskill's is for more Washington."
McCaskill said Akin's controversial statement opens the door to his "extreme views," not just on rape and contraception, but on Social Security, Medicare and his intention to end the child nutrition program in America.
Libertarian Dine was more pointed in his response to Akin's views on "legitimate rape" and opposing the option for abortion in the case of a pregnancy caused by forcible rape.
"I was astounded to find that Rep. Akin sits on the House Science Committee, but doesn't know the basics of 8th grade biology," Dine said.
Akin said he has addressed the question of his "legitimate rape" comments enough already, and he quickly went on the offensive against McCaskill. He scoffed at McCaskill's contention that she is a moderate Democrat, when she has voted with President Barack Obama on such big ticket items as what he called "Obamacare," otherwise known as the Affordable Care Act (ACA).
Akin called for the repeal of ACA and rapped McCaskill for supporting it. He said ACA is robbing more than $700 billion from Medicare and will force seniors into a "one-size fits all... big government solution" for meeting their health care needs.
McCaskill defended her support of ACA and said people are looking at the health care bill more favorably as they learn more about it.
"It doesn't cut a dime of Medicare benefits," McCaskill responded. "And by the way, it's the same $700 billion he (Akin) voted to take out in the Ryan plan a couple of times."
McCaskill said Akin's plan is "to privatize Medicare, give seniors a voucher (to purchase private medical insurance) and if the prices go up and you can't afford it, you are on your own."
When the debate topic turned to foreign policy, Akin jabbed McCaskill for supporting Obama policies toward Russia and the Middle East, which he said have hurt American interests.
"The weak, vacillating policies we've had by this administration have hurt our allies and helped our enemies," Akin stressed.
McCaskill said Akin was not much of a fiscal conservative when he supported the unfunded wars in Iraq and Afghanistan started under the Bush Administration. She said he voted to give a blank check to defense companies like Halliburton, and also voted for costly "nation building" in Iraq and Afghanistan.
"We are building infrastructure in these countries that they cannot maintain," said McCaskill. "We need to be building roads and power plants here, not in Iraq or Afghanistan."
Akin said Democratic policies are responsible for hurting the economy at home and driving up debt. He said everything the government gets into, whether it's student loans, home financing, "Freddie and Fannie," it all drives up the national debt.
McCaskill blamed the Tea Party Republicans for failure to get a deal on addressing deficits and the debt. She said Democrats worked out a budget-cutting compromise with Republican House Speaker John Boehner, but the deal was sabotaged by Republican radicals elected in the 2010 Tea Party sweep.
"When it got to the Republican Tea Partiers, it died," said McCaskill. "That's the kind of gridlock we don't need in Washington."
Post Office Woes
Looming cuts to the U.S. Postal Service, including an end to Saturday service and shuttering postal outlets, also was up for debate. McCaskill said the postal crisis was contrived by Republicans, who have insisted it must pre-fund its retirement program for the next 70 years.
Akin said he does not like seeing post offices close, but when the service doesn't have the money, cuts have to be made somewhere.
One place where McCaskill and Akin agreed was on the issue of whether the government should regulate sugary products and super-size drinks to address the obesity problem in America. McCaskill said government should not be telling people what they can eat and drink.
"This is the first time I've agreed with Claire," Akin said. "This is not something the federal government should do."
Akin and McCaskill reiterated their positions in closing statements. Libertarian Dine, who was low key during much of the debate, got in the last word and said both major parties should be rejected at the ballot box.
"I promise to keep Republicans out of your bedroom and the Democrats out of your wallet," Dine said.