(Editor's Note: This great piece by our own Mona Salama appeared originally on the Vito & Vito Show blog. We here at BEL edited it so it could have more resonance to our national audience outside of the NYC listening area)
It's a scene occurring all over the country this time of year. A grassroots organization putting on an annual debate, where candidates for Congress answer questions so informed voters know where they stand on current affairs. It's as close to a "main event" as local politics gets.
But what happens when the challenger refuses to even show up to debate?
|A one-man show- Congressman Michael Grimm at a debate in Bay Ridge|
Such is the sad case of Domenic Recchia, a former NYC councilman and Democratic opponent trying to replace two-time elected Congressman Michael Grimm. Recchia announced the night before the titanic struggle that he would not be attending, citing a scheduling conflict. What could be more important, you ask? We'll never know, as no one from Team Recchia explained what the scheduling conflict was about.
So Congressman Grimm, an incumbent who has seemingly been in the ring in one case or another all year long (from challenging reporters to taking on the justice system) had the stage to himself.
What was billed as a headliner turned out to be a town hall full of softballs for Grimm. He was given questions asked from the audience prior to the debate to answer in a one-minute time frame on issues covering foreign policy, Superstorm Sandy recovery, national security, illegal immigration, national debt and the Affordable Care Act. Grimm took his shots at President Obama for foreign policy failures that led ISIS to grow stronger. The Congressman expressed his support for securing the borders and again attacked the President for delaying legislation he said would help seal the border. Grimm pointed out that his opponent was out of touch with issues and aligned with policies of the likes of President Obama and NYC Mayor Bill de Blasio. Congressman Grimm lamented how ObamaCare was forced upon his district and that it destroyed hospitals and small businesses - and yes, it needs to be repealed and replaced. The Congressman continues on by touted his record of stellar constituent services after Hurricane Sandy, including allocation of some $60 billion in aid and relief funding, and his tooth and nail to keep Ft. Hamilton from being shut down.
“It’s really one question," said the Congressman, seated next to an empty chair. "Have I served you well or not? I’ve moved mountains and will continue to do so.” Incumbency at it's finest.
At the end of the "debate", the Congressman talked to reporters and attacked his no-show opponent, who wants to "deceive voters (about) his abysmal 12 year record" in office. And maybe he's right. Before the debate, a local reporter asked Domenic Recchia why he wouldn't be attending the debate that night, to which his only reply was "ready to debate Grimm." Funny how he says he is ready to debate the Congressman but failed to attend the first head to head debate.
|Scarecrow Recchia outside Debate|
If you are ready then debate your opponent in front of an organized civic debate.
Well, let's see what happens in the next debate to be scheduled October 22 and if Recchia can answer the question straightforwardly, without mumbling an incoherent answer, especially on foreign policy, such as explaining what the Trans-Pacific Proposal (TPP) in which Recchia’s non-clear statement, "...made in America to manufacture more in America is better for this country". With the issue of Syria, Recchia continued to stumble on answering this issue stating, “sending troops to Syria should be a last resort and we have many different, you know, that’s what we want, you know, options available to us.”
Why are Democrats scared to run on their record? I wrote previously that even NY Governor Cuomo ran from debating his opponent before the Primary, and is even now delaying in scheduling debates with Republican opponent, Westchester County Exec Rob Astorino. Maybe it's because their record is so abysmal that even they - with all the money from organizations like the DCCC for negative attacks can't help to prep out of touch Recchia on issues that matter to Brooklyn, Staten Island and even the United States. Democrats sure know how to be repetitive while mumbling nonsense. But then again the Democrats really don’t have any talking points or any realistic points on foreign issues.