For a preview of the upcoming presidential debate, you could do worse than taking a look at the video or transcript of the hourlong debate that happened September 20 between Elizabeth Warren and Scott Brown, the candidates for U.S. Senate in Massachusetts.
Some of the issues were particular to the Massachusetts race, with Senator Brown calling on Professor Warren — he called her Professor Warren throughout the debate — to release her Harvard personnel records to demonstrate what role, if any, her claimed American Indian status played in her hiring. Senator Brown also faulted Professor Warren for personally contributing to the high cost of college by earning nearly $300,000 a year, plus zero interest loans, to teach one class. And he faulted her for taking $250,000 from the Travelers insurance company to consult on denying claims for asbestos poisoning.
But other themes in the debate are likely to be heard in the session between President Obama and Mitt Romney.
Professor Warren sought to depict Senator Brown as a friend of billionaires and big oil companies, asking "whose side do you stand on?" She said she favored a "balanced approach" to deficit reduction — one of President Obama's favorite euphemisms for tax increases.
Senator Brown sought to depict Professor Warren as a tax-increaser, and he genially deflected her attacks. "Her criticism of me is that I'm not gonna raise taxes, and that's an accurate criticism," he said. At another point, he said, "The criticism you're hearing...I don't want to raise taxes. Guilty as charged." He said of Professor Warren, "she's obsessed with raising taxes....The first thing, every single time, is to raise taxes."
Responding to Professor Warren's criticism of him for a vote she described as cutting oil subsidies, Senator Brown noted that gas prices are $4 a gallon, and said, "I'm no friend of big oil. I'm a friend of the motorist." Professor Warren retorted that what she called the "big five" oil companies made $137 billion in profits last year.
Senator Brown also rejected Professor Warren's attempt to divide Americans into the top 3% versus everyone else, or billionaires and oil companies versus everyone else. "Fingerpointing, us versus them, the haves and have-nots," he said.