McNerney Flips the Script on Pombo in Tracy
Last night at the congressional forum between Democratic candidate Jerry McNerney and Republican incumbent Rep. Richard Pombo, one thing is for certain: McNerney won.
The entrances of each candidate set the tone for the night. Pombo walked into a chorus of boos from McNerney allies and cheers from his own supporters. Jerry entered to a standing ovation that dwarfed the response when Pombo entered. McNerney upstaged Pombo in his own hometown.
From there, McNerney took Pombo head on. Issue after issue, Pombo was put on the defensive on topics ranging from President Bush's failed Iraq War policies, ethical issues plaguing the highest levels of the Republican Party and questions regarding allegations of corruption levied against Pombo.
In a two- or three-part question regarding ethics and donor contributions, Pombo was specifically asked if he would give back the $18,000 he received from VECO Corp., an oil firm that is being investigated by the FBI for influence-peddlings. Pombo dodged the question by not addressing it.
On the issue of the Marianas Islands, Pombo was specifically asked about his involvement and, more importantly, his ties to Jack Abramoff. His response:
“I’ve seen myself described as one of (Jack Abramoff’s) closest allies in Congress. I met the guy two or three times in my whole life — he never once lobbied me on anything, never asked me to sign a letter, to vote for or against a bill, to introduce a bill; he never once stepped foot in my office.”
[ed. note: Abramoff personally donated a total of $7,500. One $500 donation on September 12, 1996, $2,000 on January 22, 2003, just days after he became chairman of the House Resources Committee, and finally, a $5,000 donation on September 29, 2003. Pombo donated $7,000 to charity. No word on the initial $500. Clients of Abramoff's donated tens of thousands, upwards of $40,000 by some reports.]
The Republican scandal du jour is the recent Child Predator Scandal surrounding former Rep. Mark Foley, but focused more on the actions (or, inaction) of House Republican leaders. Pombo denied any knowledge of the matter, stating he learned of it last week when news of it surfaced. However, Pombo fell short of calling for House Speaker Dennis Hastert's resignation. A recent SurveyUSA poll shows a plurality of Americans believe the Speaker should resign from Congress (43%).
As for the war in Iraq, Pombo claimed that Iraq was a threat to the United States prior to the invasion in 2003 and tried to envoke September 11, which (rightly) outraged the McNerney supporters in the room. McNerney returned fire, reeling off *facts* that have been established: Iraq was not a threat because there were no weapons of mass destruction and there was no pre-war relationship between Saddam Hussein and al-Qaeda.
Apparently, Pombo knows more about Iraq and its effect on U.S. efforts to fight the "War on Terror" than the entire U.S. intelligence community. Pombo joined Bush in disagreeing with the findings of all sixteen intelligence agencies in the recently declassified National Intelligence Estimate (NIE) "key judgments" that concluded the Iraq War is creating more terrorists by fueling Muslim extremism, causing it to spread geographically.