Guthrie in the debates

This is what 1.2 million dollars bought Bruce Guthrie: the largest media outlet in Seattle telling the world that he won the debate.

From the Seattle PI:

Democratic U.S. Sen. Maria Cantwell and Republican challenger Mike McGavick exchanged mostly familiar verbal blows Tuesday in an hour-long debate, a sedate event except for a barbed zinger by Cantwell about her opponent’s tenure as Safeco’s chief.

But if anyone “won” the televised exchange — Cantwell’s and McGavick’s second and final formal debate — it was a third candidate, Libertarian Bruce Guthrie, just by being there.

You can watch the debate in its entirety here, or read Guthrie’s writeup about it here.

From Guthrie’s blog:

I made some definite mistakes. I said Um and Uh and You Know way too many times, and I had those two lapses in my closing statement. Fortunately, I had written out my closing statement on the note pad in the 15 minutes before the cameras started rolling (we weren’t allowed to bring in any notes) so that I was able to get a cue and continue. But these flaws show that I am human. It should be noted that Cantwell and McGavick knew months in advance that they would be in the debate. I only had about a week to prepare. My position statements and closing remarks were not completed until two or three days before the debate. Not enough time for rote memorization.

Guthrie did trip up a few times, but I agree with his assessment-it didn’t hurt him. The fact that he could pull off such a powerful performance without the advantages available to the duopoly just makes him all the stronger of a candidate.

Debate skills are key and knowing one’s constituency is key. Guthrie does both quite well and I would expect that he should be able to grab a large percentage of the vote because of this.

Stuart Richards

Stuart Richards is a 26-year-old land surveyor based out of Portland, OR. He is a left-leaning geolibertarian and (theologically) liberal Christian, and has been blogging on and other libertarian sites since 2004.

  1. Guthrie is normally a very polished speaker, but in this debate he seemed tongue-tied. I can’t fault him, because as he pointed out, he only had a week to prepare and could not bring in notes. I personally would have shit my pants right in front of 250,000 television viewers, even before my opening statement.

  2. It will be interesting to see what impact this has.

    My experience in congressional politics taught me that debates mean nothing. No one watches them, and those who do already have their minds made up. However, a statewide race may be a little different. Still, I bet that libertarians are going to find out that all the fighting to get into the debates does not produce instant results. People don’t vote for the best candidate, even when they are exposed to them.

  3. One of the questions: What is your plan to SAVE social security?

    It assumes you actually want to “save” social security.

  4. I saw it in CSPAN today. I was mostly impressed. There were a couple of answers I found a little surprising, but I thought it was good that he didnt come-off as an extreme/whacko… Though if you read comments on some of the blogs and newsites people say he was “not serious” and had unrealistic answers, some saying he “wasted voters’ time” and took too much time away from the “serous candidates.”

    I wonder if they were watching the same debate I saw- where Cantwell in particular seemed to avoid answering questions and Guthrie gave the most complete answers.

    That said, I have to give some thought to the fact that I felt his positions were rather “moderate” but voters still found him to be “extreme.” Makes me wonder if 99% of the world will just never agree with Us ( Libertarians) no matter what and it’s not worth trying to even seem mainstream.

  5. Aso try to be objective and present the whole picture… I searched Google News today for every blog and local news article I could find.. and the author who said Guthrie “won clarified his staement both in his comments and comments and emails to other articles that he did NOT think that Guthrie “won the debate” based on his performance but he empthasized he “won just by being there.”

  6. “CLARIFICATION: Modie left a comment objecting to the line I wrote that said “Modie declares Guthrie the winner of the debate.” You can read his whole message in the comments, but I wanted to be sure to add his clarification here:

    I trust that other readers recognized that I was saying merely that Guthrie probably gained the most from the debate because it gave him exposure he had never had before, and probably never will again – and not, as you mis-concluded that I concluded, that he “won” the debate on substance.)”

  7. Guthrie does both quite well and I would expect that he should be able to grab a large percentage of the vote because of this.

    I hope so. From what I’ve seen, I like his message a lot better than the other leading LP candidates this year.

  8. Graham,

    There’s nothing extreme about advocating a voluntary order. Libertarians should stick to principle.

  9. Three of the different newspapers I picked up had the word “Libertarian” in bold letters on the front page in reference to the debate. Good P.R.

  10. There’s nothing extreme about advocating a voluntary order. Libertarians should stick to principle.

    There’s nothing extreme about advocating a voluntary order, but there are good and bad ways to go about it.

    A rule of thumb I always follow when discussing politics: always make both a moral argument and a practical argument on each issue. By presenting a moral context I advance the principles of liberty. By making a practical argument I connect those principles to the reality of the listener.

    It is not enough to simply be principled. We also need to present our principles in ways which can be embraced and acted upon by others.

  11. Well said, Derrick. I usually bust out the morality argument first, then practical arguments.

    I also love to talk about how government solutions are utopian, ie. incompatible with human nature. This turns the tables on those who would dismiss my ideas as utopian and not worthy of further discussion. Focusing on reality without dismissing idealism is a big key.

  12. This is GREAT! I worked under McGavick and I can advise you that he fired many people within 1 month of being hired. I managed to stick through everything and saw my company morale go to the most extreme low I’ve ever wittnesses in the businessworld.

  13. Bruce did a credible job. He will have to become a better debater and communicator on the TV if he will want to make even further progress in future debates. The best thing that came about out of it is that he didn’t make us look like kooks. His ideas all seemed reasonable. If he could have done a better job of communicating (ie not so many breaks and looking down at notes, etc) he would have easily won the debate outright. Actually I think because the R’s and D’s are so bad on ideas and past history we can easily win nearly every debate that we have with them if we can communicate effectively. Our problem is that it is very tough to do especially in front of a camera. Libertarians just have not had as much experience in doing that. Now that we are starting to get into some debates we will have to take it to the next step and become better communicators and debaters. We already have the better ideas.

  14. It is not enough to simply be principled. We also need to present our principles in ways which can be embraced and acted upon by others.

    I agree.

    I also love to talk about how government solutions are utopian, ie. incompatible with human nature. This turns the tables on those who would dismiss my ideas as utopian and not worthy of further discussion. Focusing on reality without dismissing idealism is a big key.

    Excellent tactic.

  15. Now that we are starting to get into some debates we will have to take it to the next step and become better communicators and debaters.

    Another benefit of reaching out to the left/libertarian area is that many professional communicators – educators, journalists, artists, etc – already hold those views.

    Right now, they tend to be leftist because “conservative” economic views are associated with the right wing, the home of the theocrats, corporate fascists and warmongers. Those people are the enemy, so anyone who holds views in common with them becomes the enemy as well by association. The LP’s
    rightward message tilt excacerbates the problem.

    Yet, if the LP emphasized its peace and civil liberties views, and opposition to corporate-government collusion, we would no longer be the enemy, and we would find many people on the left for whom ecnomic views are secondary and who would be willing to consider an alternative position on those issues if it’s not perceived conservative.

  16. As a WA voter, let me say that Guthrie came across in the debate as not as libertarian as I would have liked, but he was very credible and not at all wacky. He is the sort of candidate the Republicans should be running in Washington (in fact, the candidates the Republican Party runs in local elections in eastern Washington sound a lot like this, but then they run evil neo-Cons for federal office). I think Cantwell will probably be reelected no matter what we do, but I expect Guthrie to get enough of the vote to attract a great deal of attention, and to restore the LP to major party status in Washington (which it lost in 2004).

    I would like to support him more enthusiastically but (1) he is a little too moderate, and (2) the WA state LP join the republicrats in suing the voters twice in the last four years. Still, he’s by far the best option off those presented in the debate, and I think that many people who don’t ordinarily vote for third parties will see that as well.

  17. Perhaps his website conveys a different impression than the debate. I haven’t seen the debate, but the website does not make him sound anything like a Rapepubliccon.

  18. Well, Republicans in rural areas out west are not like the Republicans running around in DC. Many of the people who run for state legislature from eastern Washington as Republicans are still classic American conservatives (like Barry Goldwater or Ronald Reagan), which is to say that they have strong libertarian leanings, support the real free market (as opposed to just propping up big business and calling that capitalism), and don’t necessarily support the stupid things the national Republican party is doing. Unfortunately, in order to win the Republican primary for a federal office one needs the support of the RNC, which is why terrible candidates end up running. By saying he’s the sort of candidate the Republicans should be running in Washington, I simply mean that he comes off as much more moderate than most of the LP.

  19. Let me give an example of him not being libertarian enough for me, in case anyone is confused: he said in the debate that a “social safety net” – a sort of high deductible emergency health insurance plan, supplimented by a health care savings account – should be provided by the feds to every American. Sure, that would be better than Medicare/Medicaid/welfare, but it’s still forced redistribution of wealth, i.e. theft.

  20. Kenny not to get into the specifics of Bruce’s comments, but
    I have some idea where he is coming from on this specific issue. Bruce’s late wife suffered through something like 17 years of cancer. I’ve seen a similar problem in my family.
    Some of us can plan all we want, have all the insurance in the world and still lose everything to medical problems.
    How do we cover that until society has built its own safety net? And that will be a long way off.

  21. Kenny, could you give us some examples in Eastern Washington of these “Goldwaterite Republicans” you speak of? Is there a specific state legislator, besides Western Washington’s Toby Nixon, that leans libertarian in the WA State House?

    BTW, there’s a Republican Congressional candidate in the Seattle area who is hardcore libertarian – Behrens running against McDermott. I’ve been shocked that WA Libertarians haven’t rallied behind him.

    (I was stationed in Bremerton for a year, and my former wife lives in Port Orchard. So, I have strong ties to your State.)

  22. Paulie, these days it’s the Republicans who support civil liberties more than the Democrats. I can’t think of a single civil liberty, outside of abortion rights, that the Democrats favor.

    I don’t see or hear any Democrats favoring marijuana legalization?

    Yet, I DO see them advocating politically correct speech and repealing free speech on the university campuses for anyone who doesn’t toe the radical left line.

    I do see the Democrats working hard to take away my gun rights.

    And it’s the Democrats who want to tell me to wear a Mother-F*@Q#$#@#$@ seat belt in my car.

    And they ain’t doing a goddamned thing to stop the rise of Islamo-Fascism in the United States; to repel those who want to clothe my wife/girlfriend in a burka from head to toe.

    The Democrats are the ultimate Nanny-staters AND ISLAMO-FASCIST APPEASORS. They are no friends of liberty.

  23. For those who still think that Democrats are “more civil liberties-oriented” than Republicans, remember, that every single year Congressman Ron Paul introduced a Bill to abolish the Draft. And every single year Paul receives only Republican Co-Sponsors.

    And it was Rumsfeld who said, that we’d “bring back the Draft, over my dead body.”


    Republicans = Anti-Draft

    Democrats = Pro-Draft

    And yet some here, still say, with a straight face that Democrats are somehow friends of civil liberties advocates?

  24. I have not followed the WA legislature closely enough to know if these guys actually vote this way or if they renigue on their promises like most politicians, but Republicans running in eastern WA consistently try to portray themselves in the way I have indicated. Here are some examples for the current voters’ guide:

  25. I’ve personally spent time lobbying in Olympia and let me tell you there are only two libertarian leaning people in office. One is Toby Nixon (R), the other is Tim Sheldon (D). Neither are from Eastern Washington.

    In fact, I’ve been surprised to discover just how socially “conservative” the Republican legislators and WA-GOP leadership is. I had one state senator pull out a bible and explain to me that his sole purpose was to make it the law of the land. He seriously told me that all textbooks should be removed from the grade schools and replaced with the New Testament.

    The fact is that the WA-GOP has become increasingly radical, especially with the recent change in leadership. They are more concerned about saving their babies from terrorists who are hiding in gay bars and Mexican restaurants and who, according to Mike McGavick are funded by American use of gasoline (will R’s start driving hybrids?) than preserving liberty.

    Compared to the R’s and the D’s, we are the sensible center.

  26. Kenny,

    Regarding healthcare, let me ask you: How would you shift from our current employment-based, insurance-driven mess to a system where individuals can afford healthcare and are more free to choose the treatments they take? How would you shift Medicare and Medicaid to a system that costs FAR less (less redistribution) and preserves medical freedom? How would you shift government employee medical coverage from the fastest growing expense to a stable system that costs taxpayers less? And how would you fend off the coming storm of the “single-payer” (read total government monopoly) system?

    And “the free market will fix it” is NOT an answer – it’s an excuse not to answer.

    I suggest you check out to more learn about the inspiration behind Bruce’s proposal. The employees of Kent, WA are switching to this model because of a Libertarian on the city council, saving millions.

    Is it perfect? No. But given where we’re starting from it is a big step in the right direction

  27. Eric,

    Yeah right, the NSGOP favor civil liberties. Like torture, wiretapping, secret prisons, a federal marriage amendment, an anti-flag burning constitutional amendment, increased FCC censorship, and the list goes on and on.

    There’s no such thing as islamo-fascism, as we’ve already discussed. But Bush Regime Fascism is very real.

    Many more Democrat voters support legalizing marijuana than NSGOP supporters. It’s true that the party leadership sells them out on this, and many such issues.

    Similarly, rank and file Democrats are more likely to be opposed to the draft; it’s true that some Damnocrat politicians are for it, though.

    No one is going to force your wife to wear a Burqa. They haven’t the means.

    Republicans want more money for the cops, and who enforces seatbelt laws?

    Kenny: what is the evidence of Ronald Reagan’s alleged libertarian leanings, other than rhetoric?

  28. I do agree that the government needs to clean up the messes it has made as it deregulates, rather than deregulating all at once, and these messes include the monopolies it has given to HMOs and the AMA, as well as FDA drug regulations, all of which contribute to the high cost of healthcare. There are a number of possible ways of dealing with this, of which this appears to be one. However, in order to be a truly libertarian solution, it has to be part of a plan to ultimately eliminate redistributive welfare programs, including government health plans. Guthrie did not say anything about a next step after this, as he did in the case of decriminalization of drugs. I have no problem with moving slowly, as in Guthrie’s drug proposal, but I want to know where he intends us to be going, and if this “social safety net” is the goal, rather than one step on the way to complete privatization, then it is not a libertarian solution.

  29. Eric: Reagan was certainly more libertarian than Bush (which, I am painfully well aware, is not hard to do). I’m not defending any of them, nor am I an expert on their records, but he did lean libertarian, as compared to today’s Republican party. It may be, as you say, that it was all rhetoric and that he did little to actually accomplish the things he claimed to support. If this was the case, then it would probably create an even stronger parallel to the people I compared with him, whom I suspect of doing the same. At any rate, his official platform was all about laissez-faire capitalism, and he took official (if not actual) libertarian stances on a number of issues. This is not to say that he was a libertarian – he compromised in a number of areas libertarians wouldn’t – but I don’t think my initial comparison was misguided.

  30. “Eric: Reagan was certainly more libertarian than Bush”

    Saying that somebody is more libertarian than Bush doesn’t say much. Ronald Reagan was basically a con artist. He talked about limiting government but spent his entire political career expanding government.

    Ronald Reagan’s Good Rehtoric, Bad Policies, and Vile Followers

  31. Kenny,

    Eric might actually agree with you. I won’t.

    His official program was about militarism/warmongering, social conservatism/theocracy, and watered down limited government capitalism. His actual record was more government in all three areas.

    Bush is even worse, but that does not make Reagan any kind of libertarian.