The David Gregory Debate


Perhaps you missed the 10 pages of preview coverage in Monday’s
Herald, but Scott Brown and Elizabeth Warren had their second debate Monday night, hosted by the Herald and UMass Lowell. Your humble Boston Daily blogger here has a habit of talking to himself while watching political debates, so in an attempt to recreate that magic, we present here our interview of … ourself. It should clear up any questions you might have in the wake of the event.

Hey, Eric. So wait, I thought this was a debate between Scott Brown and Elizabeth Warren. Who is this David Gregory fellow you mentioned?

Hello there. David Gregory was the debate moderator, and viewers noticed Monday night that he was a pretty tough one, often getting into heated back-and-forths with both candidates. Our grumpy Twitter feed gave him bad reviews. In better days, he’s the host of NBC’s Meet the Press, a Sunday morning show featuring long, substantive interviews with public figures. Sometimes this debate had the feel of two hard-hitting Meet the Press interviews of each candidate conducted side by side, rather than a debate. In other words, he was a looming presence throughout.

I see. So I heard on Twitter that Warren’s Native American thing was the first issue discussed, for the second debate in a row. I guess even the host of a substantive interview show about national issues couldn’t keep Scott Brown from leading off with that attack, eh?

Oh, um, it was actually Gregory, the moderator, that opened the debate by asking Warren to offer some explanations about her heritage. Warren supporters (and people who consider it a total side issue) weren’t super happy that he chose it as the lead-off topic.

Oh, okay, but he was probably just getting it out of the way so he could get on to the policy issues?

Well, no. After a full seven minutes or so of Cherokee chit-chat, Gregory apparently thought he needed to take us to an even less relevant topic, so he asked Brown about his mildly embarrassing assertion from last June that he’s met with “kings and queens” as a Senator. After that, Gregory tried to draw some more blood by asking Warren if she’s bothered that Brown paints her as an elitist by calling her “professor.”  (She said it didn’t bother her.) It was about a third of the way through the debate when they turned to Warren’s record of defending/opposing asbestos victims.

Oh. Huh.

Yeah, so Gregory got the crowd pretty worked up by bringing up each side’s pet talking points. As time went on, the crowd started booing and cheering questions and candidates. The candidates started interrupting Gregory and each other. It was a pretty hectic debate, but it made for some entertaining television.

Sounds like it. So, come on, don’t leave me hanging. Who won?

Well, neither candidate had a mental breakdown or forgot which agency of the government they’d pledged to eliminate, so as with their previous debate, it probably depends on who you ask. As people say, sometimes it’s the soundbite—the zingers and the gaffes—that really stick in people’s memories when they judge a winner or loser.

Okay, so what were the zingers?

They belonged to Brown mostly. At one point Warren tried to speak over him and he stopped her, saying, “I’m not a student in your classroom. Please let me respond, okay?” (Whether you thought this was a brilliantly delivered put down or a snide cheap shot probably depends on who you plan to vote for.)  Buzzfeed has footage:

 

Later, when asked to name something good about Warren, Brown praised her talents as a professor, and then, rather predictably, said, “I’m  going to do everything in my power to make sure she can continue to be in that position.” (Whether you think that was a hilarious line or an unnecessary cheap shot in a section where he was supposed to be playing nice, again probably depends on which way you vote.)

What about your their gaffes?

Buzzfeed has already declared “gaffe” on Warren because when asked for the name of a single Republican senator with whom she hoped to work, she offered up Richard Lugar, a man who lost a primary fight to his conservative challenger and will not be in the Senate if/when she joins it. It seemed to us that Warren knew this and was making a point that Republicans are purging any moderates with whom she could work, but others seem to think she just forgot he’d lost. Again, Buzzfeed has the footage:

Brown’s moment came when asked for his model Supreme Court justice. He paused for a while then named Justice Antonin Scalia, one of the most conservative justices on the court. The crowd basically erupted.

Oh a super conservative? Warren must have loved that.

Well, maybe Brown saw her eyes gleaming with opportunity as she licked her lips and prepared to pounce, because he quickly backtracked and named several other justices, including Sonia Sotomayor who is … not a Scalia by any measure. Buzzfeed, again, has the footage:

 

Wait he named both Sotomayor and Scalia as his model judges? That makes none of the sense.

It’s true, those two do have some rather large differences in judicial philosophy. But Brown spun this answer into a demonstration of his proven independence. “That’s the beauty of being independent,” he said.

Independent? Isn’t he a Republican?

Brown’s strategy in this race has been to highlight his bipartisan voting record and appeal to independent voters. He went notably further than usual to do this on Monday. And when we  say “notably further,” we mean that he could not have put more distance between him and the Republican Party if he’d bought a first class ticket on the Mars Rover. Gregory asked whether Brown would vote for Republican Senator Mitch McConnell, currently the minority leader, to be the majority leader if Republicans won a Senate majority. Brown said he hadn’t decided and McConnell had to do a lot of work to earn Brown’s vote. To say you wouldn’t vote to confirm your party’s leader is a fairly big point of difference to have with your party, to put it mildly.

Gregory also badgered Brown at length about whether he’d be a reliable vote for Mitt Romney’s priorities. Brown said he’d have to read Romney’s specific bills. This is, of course, a reflection of Romney’s horrific approval ratings in his home state and probably a reaction to the polls that show Warren’s strategy of nationalizing the race is working well..

Wow. Okay so when do we get to do all this again?

Really? You want more? Well, there are two more of these “debates” and the next one is October 10. There’s also a presidential debate this Wednesday if you really can’t get enough of all this. And in the meantime, you can watch the full debate below:

 

  • bill winn

    When Scott Brown says Antonin Scalia is his favorite SC Justice,
    and his whole plan has been to run away from the conservative GOP that’s a MAJOR WINDOW INTO THE SOUL of a guy posing as an independent but being a conservative. His first 30 votes in the Senate were to extend the filibusters … he’s a REPUBLICAN not a independent

  • sean

    Nice article.

  • mike

    …must of… must OF? Seriously? You actually get paid to write?

    • Eric Randall

      Aha, thanks, I’ve fixed that. Apparently my alter-ego needs a copy-editor. Your grammar-policing alter-ego, on the other hand, could probably use a chill pill.

  • D. Thom

    I think you missed the whole point of David Gregory’s approach. As I saw it he was trying to get both candidates, to “cut to the chase” of all the political rhetoric of the campaign ads and speeches. Isn’t Scott Brown really using this” It shouldn’t matter what party it is” in hopes the people of MA forget he’s really a Republican? And isn’t Elizabeth Warren trying very hard to paint him as a national figure in his party?
    I for one, was happy to see a moderator do more than just sit there and watch the volleying like a tennis umpire. He made it interesting and forced the discussion at times to actually get a little real.

    • Eric Randall

      I don’t think it was his “badgering the witness” style that annoyed people. I agree that it was probably welcome. I think people took issue with the topics he brought up and the length of time he spent on them. As in, far too much of the hour was devoted to Cherokee stuff, Kings and Queens, whether we should fire the Red Sox manager, etc. and far too little to actual policy issues.

  • bob

    Of course Brown is going to vote for hard right conservative Republican Mitch McConnell to be Senate Majority Leader if the Republicans win a majority. Go read his national fundraising letters that are entirely premised on the fact that conservatives should donate to him so that Republicans will have a Senate majority and can block President Obama’s agenda!

    He’s so full of it. Same for his refusal to give answers on basically any topic — pick 1 Supreme Court justice, not 4. Heck, he couldn’t even say if Bobby Valentine deserves another year with the Sox! Just more politics-as-usual, duck, dodge and dissemble.

  • Ilene

    Scott Brown is independent and votes conservatively, so what?

    • Deb Shaw

      She lied and got advantages of being a Native American. Unacceptable. Every family in NE says they have native history ….doesn’t mean you are entitled to check a box. Speaks volumes!

      • Jason

        Well said Deb!

      • Gale Wilson

        She did not lie….I have lived in Boston and
        Oklahoma…people in Oklahoma are not always on the Indian Rolls but they have
        a way of passing their heritage down through
        their family…it is just the way that it is here…
        she did not according to records use her heritage to get ahead or be accepted in programs or schools…I am so proud that she graduated from NW Classen High School and went on to do all of these wonderful things…nothing kept her down and she is a wonderful role model for all Indians and women especially….go Elizabeth right to the senate and protect our rights….we want a better America for all of our citizens = ‘we the people”