Tuesday night brought the first debate featuring the Texas candidates for U.S. Senate - Republican Ted Cruz and Democrat Paul Sadler. The format was described as "unstructured" and it lived up to that description. WFAA-TV's Ron Corning served as Master of Ceremonies. Debate moderators were WFAA's Brad Watson and Dallas Morning News' political reporter Gromer Jeffers.
Jeffers used Mitt Romney's video on 47% remark to begin the section on the budget, entitlements and taxes. Paul Sadler says Ted Cruz's answer is "just crazy" when the topic was on government programs for poor, aged, disabled was discussed. Cruz stated that Democrats use entitlement programs for a voting majority and any honest theorist would come to the same conclusion. LBJ was a smart politician who used big entitlement programs as a way to grow his party.
While discussing tax reform without new taxes and reducing spending so that small businesses can expand and hire new employees, Paul Sadler bashed Ted Cruz for his government service and not "creating jobs, or owning a business". He said he and his wife owned a small business. Then he brought up -several times- his own government service days.
A 1998 Loyola University conference featuring President Obama on video was played with his fondness of re-distribution of wealth comment. Sadler said, "I don't agree with that at all".
Sadler asked if Cruz is a birther. I'm not kidding. Does he agree that Obama is a commander-in-chief? Ted Cruz wishes he were a stronger commander-in-chief. Did he believe he is a Christian? Yes, it got a little weird.
Sadler wants to let Bush tax cuts expire but he didn't actually have the nerve to say so. His opinion goes further than Obama on that. He denied that and then a video from a May 3 Houston PBS forum was played. He stated, "have to let those Bush tax cuts go in order to pay down the national debt" - no qualification for income levels. Cruz asked which Texans he would raise taxes on. Bush tax cuts expiring would affect all income levels. Sadler stayed with his claim that he would make income levels the qualifier.
During the foreign affairs - Sadler said the Senate shouldn't cut off foreign aid to Egypt, Libya, etc. Wants a stop to any holds on aid to Libya. Cruz said they America shouldn't fund those who behave contrary to our interests. "Bullies and tyrants don't respect weakness". Use aid to Egypt, for example, as leverage. He doesn't want foreign aid completely cancelled. He defended himself from the charge of "slander" from Sadler when he pointed out that that Obama didn't make time to meet with Netanyahu instead he went to The View and the Letterman show.
Sadler was short on real policy talk and long on the nasty personal attacks: "I don't know what world you live in, Ted". "Crazy". "Birther". Then Sadler had the nerve to say that Ted Cruz is big on labeling and name-calling when it was he using that behavior. Sadler was also fond of pointing his finger at Cruz. Actually it was more of a jabbing motion into the air in the direction of Ted Cruz.
On health care, Ted Cruz was featured on video stating that the first bill he intends to introduce in the Senate is a repeal of Obamacare. He made two points: 1. designed to move into universal health care. 2. rammed through in "brazen display of arrogance" contrary to will of majority of Americans. Sadler rebuked this with claim it is a "Clear indication of inexperience". Obamacare is greatest patient benefits we've "seen in 75 years". "We've already won". Sadler said Cruz just wants to score political points and show up on Sunday shows. Cruz replied, "There ain't no such thing as a free lunch". He countered that by "we've already won", Sadler neglects to say it's taxpayer money paying for any expansion of entitlements.
On illegal immigrants Sadler supports a path to citizenship for undocumented workers. He wants a secure border. He wants the use of surveillance equipment. He supports the DREAM Act and a worker permit program. Cruz doesn't support path to citizenship, which is code for amnesty. The moderator pointed out that there are 1.65 million illegal immigrants in Texas as he asked if Cruz supports mass deportation. No he does not. Cruz said first we have to have a secure border. "Sadly I don't think either party has been serious on this issue". Then a strong e-verify system for employers must be put into place.
Sadler said towards the end of the debate, "you tell so many lies it's unbelievable". This was particularly forceful from him as he was irritated that Cruz pointed out that Sadler voted against conceal/carry law in Texas. Sadler demanded to know if Cruz owns a gun (yes, he does) and if he hunts. It was strange but he was insistent on the questioning. He boasted that he and his four sons all hunt. Is that a pre-requisite for being a U.S. senator from Texas? It looked more like some kind of out-machoing exercise, frankly. Sadler want to be a manly man.
Pointing finger as he said,"Don't interrupt me, Ted" was particularly laugh inducing here. Sadler aggressively interrupted every one of Ted Cruz's answers and even brought in Heidi Cruz into an answer. Ted Cruz rightfully blasted Sadler for that low mark.
The final question was if Cruz can be effective if Democrats keep the Senate and Obama is re-elected? If they are solving problems, I can compromise for effective results, said Cruz.
Sadler was asked how effective can he be in a majority of Republican Texas elected officials. He said he would be able to be effective using his experience in the state legislature.
It was an entertaining debate in the sense that Sadler was so noticeably rude and angry. He frequently called Cruz a liar and several times called him crazy. His attacks were of a personal nature and it was a sign of pure desperation. He trails badly in the polls and he knows he has no hopes of election. However, he does himself no favors by displaying this behavior even if there are no other future runs for political office.