Rhetoric heats up in Terry, White debate

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October 14th, 2010

Terry and White debate for the second time at the Omaha Press Club (Photo Robyn Wisch)

By Robyn Wisch

Lee Terry and Tom White stepped up the rhetoric in their second televised debate Thursday. The two are fighting to represent Omaha in the U.S. House.

The debate centered, much like the first one, on spending and taxes. White, a Democrat and state senator, has tried to paint Terry, a Republican running for his seventh term in Congress, as a cheerleader for Wall Street. White said Terry supports big tax breaks for the wealthy, while shortchanging the middle class. Terry countered White is trying to villainize job creators and strangle economic growth. Terry hit White on his support of two large spending bills, the healthcare overhaul and the federal stimulus package.

“I think it’s time that instead of creating government jobs in gray buildings in Washington DC,” Terry said, “that we start focusing on policies that are going to create jobs on Main Street.”

White responded, “Well, first of all Congressman, the stimulus spending was, one third was tax cuts for the middle class. Now why is it that when it’s tax cuts for Wall Street, that’s a tax breaks but when it’s tax cuts for the middle class, that’s deficit spending.”

The two also battled over the war in Afghanistan, taking different stands on whether fighting terrorism abroad should include nation-building. White said while he supports pursuing anyone who kills Americans, fighting a war in every terrorist base is unrealistic. “We cannot afford to keep doing, quote, the right thing by the people of Afghanistan when we’re not doing the right thing for the people here at home.” He added, “We can’t rebuild other countries as our country’s infrastructure comes apart. We cannot seriously say we’re going to go after Al Qaeda and rebuild every country that they go to and have a base of operations.”

Terry countered that White’s position straddles both sides of the argument, saying you can’t go after terrorists without dealing with their country of operation. “If you say you’re going to go after terrorists, then that’s what we’re doing now, Tom.” He added if the war in Afghanistan, sparked by the terrorist attacks of Sept. 11th,“doesn’t qualify as going after terrorists… when do you go after them? And I’ll tell you what, if there’s terrorists setting up camps to attack American citizens in Yemen or Somalia, yeah, let’s go get ‘em.”

The debate got heated at times. White called on Terry to listen to him even though, as he said, he’s “not a lobbyist.” Meanwhile, Terry egged White on, implying he’s in the pocket of teachers’ unions. The two will face off for their third and final debate Tuesday, Oct. 19 at Bellevue University.

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