Brown Fumbles Supreme Court Answer in Debate

By Michael Warren, The Blog - October 2, 2012

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The second debate between Republican Scott Brown and Democrat Elizabeth Warren was a contentious one, with Brown deploying a few well-placed lines that may have given him the edge over Warren.

Moderated by David Gregory of NBC and held at the University of Massachusetts Lowell, Monday's debate featured an aggressive back and forth between the candidates on issues of Warren's Native American heritage, both candidates' legal work, and their positions on a variety of political issues. Brown cited his bipartisanship in the Senate, while Warren argued she would be a more reliably liberal vote on behalf of "working families."

Warren, who began the debate looking comfortable and speaking smoothly, was tripped up when she answered a question from Gregory about which Republican senators she would like to work with.

"Probably Richard Lugar comes to mind," said Warren, referring to the Indiana Republican who lost his primary in May and will not be returning to the Senate. When Gregory pointed this out and asked her to name a Republican "who will be there in the Senate," Warren replied that her answer "depends on what the subject matter is."

But Brown supplied the most electric moment of the night when, after Warren had criticized him for voting against the jobs bills and against extending unemployment insurance in the Senate, he began to respond. 

"If you're going to comment on my record, I would at least have you refer to it," Brown said. Warren started to interrupt, causing some crosstalk before Gregory told Brown to complete his answer. Then, Brown dealt the blow.

"Excuse me, I'm not a student in your classroom," Brown said, looking right at Warren. "Please let me respond, okay?"

The line earned a mixed reaction from the audience, which, based on applause, was full of both Warren and Brown supporters. But the reactions from the candidates indicate they both knew Brown had landed a good one. Watch the video of the exchange below:

But it wasn't all zingers for Brown. Asked a fairly straightforward question about who his model Supreme Court justice is, Brown answered Antonin Scalia, the conservative justice. That answer prompted a round of boos, so he quickly and awkwardly added Anthony Kennedy (the more moderate swing vote) and Sonia Sotomayor (a liberal Obama appointee). The answer was a low moment for Brown, with the usually politically astute senator sounding more like a pandering centrist. Warren's answer to the same question was simple: "Elena Kagan," she said, with a smile on her face. Kagan was once dean of Harvard Law School, where Warren is a professor.

For the final question of the debate, Gregory asked both candidates about the Boston Red Sox dismal season and whether they believed team manager Bobby Valentine should be fired. Warren answered first, and after expressing her dissatisfaction with the Sox's performance, said she believes Valentine should be given another year. Brown, on the other hand, gave a rambling, noncommittal answer, saying the decision was with the team. But given the team's bad record under Valentine's direction--the team is finishing its first losing season in 15 years and its first season with at least 90 losses since 1966--perhaps Warren's answer was worse.

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Article TAGS:

2012 Elections, Congress, David Gregory, debate, Elizabeth Warren, Massachusetts, Scott Brown, Senate

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