By Michael Bryan
I had a close listen to the Carmona / Flake (and Victor) debate on KAET recently. It wasn't terribly interesting or enlightening, I'm afraid. Carmona did OK for a political debate neophyte, with just one major slip that I'll discuss in a later post.
I can't embed a clip of the C-SPAN feed, unfortunately, but I created a custom clip on their website that you can access here. The clip highlights Flake's ridiculous answer to moderator Ted Simons' question about lessons learned from the Great Recession.
But before even getting to that, it is interesting to listen closely to the end of Libertarian candidate Mark Victor's statement at the very beginning of the clip.
Victor said, "... we need to cut government by 50% just to get started." Immediately after, a voice says "That's right." It was rather faint, and not entirely clear who said it in the video. It's clear it wasn't Victor, and it certainly wasn't Carmona or Simons, so I assumed it was Flake, but I wasn't entirely sure.
So I wrote to the moderator, Ted Simons, who kindly responded to my inquiry as follows:
"Regarding your question regarding a 50% cut in govt comment during AZ Horizon's debate: I can't be sure about this but it appears it was Rep. Flake who said, "that's right," considering both Mr. Victor and I turned to him. But again, I'm not at all positive about that. And my impression is that the remark was in response to more of what Mr. Victor was saying about cutting govt and not just the 50% remark. Not much help, I know, but it's the best I can do for you..."
So the moderator at the table also thinks it was likely Flake who seconded Victor's rather radical notion that we need to cut government by 50% to start. Though, charitably, Simons interprets Flake's shout-out as more generalized agreement with Victor, not specifically the 50% cut. I don't need to be so charitable; nor do you.
Does Flake really agree with cutting government expenditures so deeply? Someone needs to ask him. Even if he denies it, his blurted agreement with such wing-nuttery reveals something deeply radical about Flake's real agenda. Considering that even Romney thinks that just the cuts from the so-called "fiscal cliff" would drive us back in recession, how is this responsible leadership from a man who wants to be a Senator?
Also revealing is Flake's answer to Simons' next question. Clearly, Simons wanted to know what lessons about the economy that Flake had learned from being in Congress during the Great Recession starting in 2008.
Flake's answer is so shallow as to be risible. Flake opined that "you have to have an environment conducive to economic growth and we did not have that." Further, "you have to have certainty on taxes and now we have certainty on regulations coming up." So, Flake's lessons learned are the emptiest economic nostrums of his Party: pro-growth, low and stable taxes, and less regulation. Wow, what insight!
But perhaps most disturbing is that I don't think that Flake even knew what Simons was actually asking about. Flake starts talking about the book "The Forgotten Man" by historian Amity Shales. It's a good book. It's a book I've read. It is an interesting ground-level view - of the Great Depression.
Flake extols the virtues of the book, saying, "It is a great tale of why some of the common knowledge about the Great Recession and how we got out of it does not square with the facts." Um. Not.
How confused Flake must be to confuse the Great Depression - and a book about it - with the recent and arguably on-going Great Recession caused by the debt bubble bursting? Is he really so clueless as to think that Simon wants his opinion of the Great Depression during a 2012 Sentorial debate, or is he just dodging the question in a particularly obtuse fashion?
It is clear from Flake's entirely content-free answer prior his to delving into historical reinterpretation, that Flake has no real idea why our economy melted down on his watch, or how to prevent it from happening again except that we need to, you know, grow the economy...
Following up, no doubt in some confusion about the nonsense he just heard from Flake, Simons asks Flake whether he thinks that supply-side economic policies over the last thirty years might have had anything to do with precipitating the Great Recession.
Flake's answer: "No. No." That's it. No insight, no discussion, no elaboration. Just a flat denial that Republican economic policies (or even some choice Democratic ones) had anything to do with our economic heart attack in 2008.
What was the cause then, Jeff? Let me guess. Too much regulation of Wall Street and their risky derivatives? Banks being forced at gun-point to lend recklessly to people who couldn't pay? Whatever...
How can anyone take this man seriously?
This is a major flub by Flake. He comes across as either completely zoned out, unable to tell the Great Depression from the Great Recession, or entirely evasive and lacking any real insight into our economy and how to tend it, keep it healthy, and keep it growing to improve our citizens' lives. Either way, the prospect that this ideologically blinkered political gad-fly could become a U.S. Senator just astounds me.