The Q&A portion of the Town Hall was handled well by the Indiana-Armstrong County Patriots. The first questions was, of course, regarding what changes need to be made to our current health care system. As Mr. Russell gave the first opening statement, Mr. Burns gave the first answer to this question. The candidates alternated back and forth throughout. I will try to stick with the high points, avoiding the obvious questions:
?: On changes to the current health care system -
Burns: He believes small bills should be put forward that address different problems and present different solutions, including purchasing insurance across state lines and tort reform. He also spoke about establishing association health care plans so individuals that do not have the same employer can purchase insurance at a cheaper rate. Finally he spoke about extending the current tax deduction afforded to employers to individuals.
Russell: Focused more on fixing Medicare, because it doesn't pay enough to health care providers. He would do this by providing vouchers to individuals so they can choose how Medicare funds are spent. He believes this will save $200 billion and help to reintroduce shopping functions into the health care process. He also supports tort reform and believes market forces can drive costs down.
?: On abstaining from out-of-office benefits (retirement, health care following service) for members of Congress -
Russell: Wants to adjust the current system to benefit long-standing members who serve at least 20 years. Referenced Federalist 54 by James Madison.
Burns: Believes in term limits due to the money given to incumbents. Informed the audience that the Realtors association gives equal amounts of money to both parties.
? - Position regarding the 2nd Amendment -
Russell: Usually carries a .38 on his ankle.
Burns: Cast his own bullets from discarded lead as a child. Told the story of how his son won a rifle at an NRA conference.
? - Constitutionality of health insurance mandate for individual insurance
Burns: If this is required, then what's next?
Russell: He stated that we should rein in the FDA, EPA and Departments of Commerce and Education and return these duties to the states.
? - Graft and bribes committed by the Administration and Democratic leadership to pass HC
Russell: The San Joaquin Valley had water shut off for environmental reasons. If the rep from that area votes for HC, the water will be turned back on. In war, shutting off a water supply is considered a war crime.
Burns: Calls this evil.
? - Cap and Trade
Burns: Wrong on many counts. Burns does not believe in global warming and if this passes manufacturers will go overseas where energy is cheaper. Government needs to get out of the way so we can have energy independence.
Russell: It would be a sledgehammer to the coal and energy industries. Another concern are the green codes for housing and commercial buildings - these will make it very difficult to sell homes and destroy our mobility.
? - National Security - how do we enable our armed forces while ensuring benefits?
Russell - Jet fuel, for the Air Force and airlines, should be derived from coal. Implement vouchers for the VA, similar to his proposed Medicare voucher system
Burns - In addition to Russell's answer, we need to approach national security with a different attitude. Military tribunals for KSM and others. We shouldn't try to appease and shouldn't apologize for kicking the crap out of them.
? - Borders
Russell - Build the wall on the southern border and mine it. Deport illegals who commit criminal acts and deny welfare. Implement the fair tax - this way even illegals pay into the system.
Burns - Change the law so children born to illegals in this country do not automatically become citizens.
? - Audit the Federal Reserve
Both candidates would push to audit the federal reserve.
? - How do we convince state & local governments that money from the federal govt. is not free?
Burns - individuals need to stay motivated - the recent congressional Republican moratorium on earmarks show that this is working.
Russell - there is no more federal money to give.
? - Tax System
Russell - replace the entire tax system with a national consumption sales tax or a flat tax.
Burns - 2nd highest corporate income tax in the world needs to be reduced.
? - Vote for your opponent in the primary
Russell - Would vote for Burns over John Murtha.
Burns - Did vote for Russell over John Murtha.
(This sequence generate laughter from the audience. A question about support was asked a little later. Both candidates would support the other in the general election.)
? - Unions within the government
Burns - this is a conflict of interest
Russell - no place for unions in government. They don't need a union.
? - Constitutionality of foreign aid
Burns - it is provided the aid is in our best interest. We need to cut the funding for the UN - we are funding the enemy.
Russell - it is, but it is not popular. Derides aid to Brazil for drilling oil offshore.
? - How would you marginalize the current Iranian regime and support the opposition in Iran?
Burns - they are our enemy because they tell us so. We should act accordingly.
Russell - utilize Radio Free Iran and Voice of America so we can tell our story to the Iranian people in Farsi.
Conclusions: I came away impressed with both candidates. Russell showed a great deal of knowledge on several fronts, while Burns seemed to want to draw lines in the sand opposing Democrat positions. I found this to be an interesting role reversal.
While both candidates came across as sincere, Burns at times expressed a reluctance that is very refreshing. It's almost as if he wants the nomination more due to a sense of duty then anything else. Meanwhile Russell stated he has put his family on hold for 2 1/2 years to fight for this position. He obviously has a lot invested in the primary. Both have some obvious strengths and weaknesses based in large part on their backgrounds.
I went into last night leaning toward one candidate in the primary. I still am leaning that way, but the other candidate narrowed the gap considerably. Regardless of who wins the primary, the Republican Party, Tea Party Movement and conservative-leaning independents will have a great candidate in November.
Of more pressing concern is the Special Election, I know I stated this in a prior post, but it is imperative that Tim Burns wins this election. Health care, regardless of how it turns out, will not be the final battle to be fought in this Congress. Cap and Trade and Amnesty are heading our way and we need a solid conservative voice representing what I truly believe is a solid conservative district.