Senate debate brings out contrasts, fireworks
U.S. Sen. Dick Durbin and Republican challenger Steve Sauerberg staked out contrasting positions on everything from the economy to Iraq in an hourlong, caustic debate Thursday.
Sauerberg said he opposed the $700 billion financial sector bailout and would have backed corporate tax breaks instead. Durbin voted for it, saying "doing nothing would have been criminally negligent."
Sauerberg supports keeping troops in Iraq until the country is stable.
"We are winning the war in Iraq," the Willowbrook physician said at the radio broadcast debate at Knox College in Galesburg.
Durbin, a Springfield Democrat, wants the troops out to focus on Afghanistan.
On health care, Sauerberg proposed dismantling employer-provided health care in favor of an open market system that eliminates pre-existing condition restrictions and tightens a patient's ability to sue their doctors.
But he offered no specifics on the size of the tax breaks and vouchers he backs to help the uninsured.
"It is conceptual," Sauerberg said of his plan.
Durbin favors an employer-based system with publicly funded coverage for the poor.
Aside from the issues, the debate took a negative detour when Sauerberg was asked about his campaign rhetoric painting Durbin as unpatriotic.
Sauerberg often blasts Durbin for comments he made in 2005 against the treatment of Guantanamo Bay prisoners and comparing it to something done by "Nazis, Soviets in their gulags or some mad regime."
Sauerberg defended the campaign attacks Thursday, saying "The facts are I go around the state and people question Dick Durbin's patriotism. These behaviors are unpatriotic. I see the ramifications of his poor judgment."
Durbin called Sauerberg's comments the "lowest form of politics."
"Listen, I meet thousands of people who say things about you that I wouldn't dare repeat and that I don't believe," Durbin shot back.
Sauerberg then went further, saying Durbin's statements "probably" have led to "more troop hazard in Iraq."
"This emboldens the enemy," he said. "This probably puts our soldiers in danger."
Durbin replied, "You are digging this hole so deep."
"I will tell you doctor, I don't know where the bottom is anymore in your campaign. You really are reaching so low," he added. "I know you are new to politics, but I will tell you something: Common decency still works, not only in politics but medicine and real life."
Sauerberg said, "I agree it does still work and you should have shown it with your remarks about our troops. That is not common decency."
Durbin said he wasn't talking about troops, but about torture, which was rebuked by the U.S. Supreme Court and opposed by Republican presidential candidate, Sen. John McCain.
The debate is the last scheduled public meeting between Durbin and Sauerberg. Election Day is Nov. 4 and early voting begins Monday, Oct. 13.