In a “woe is the state of political discourse and civility” editorial today, the Arizona Republic endorsed Rep. Kyrsten Sinema for U.S. Senate. Don’t believe the attack ads. Here’s who Kyrsten Sinema and Martha McSally really are:
Both U.S. Senate candidates have been wearing false fronts since the primary, and everyone knows it. But Sinema and McSally continue with the fiction, somehow thinking their masks are going to make them look better.
That’s the pity of this race.
All either candidate had to do was be herself –– or, at least, the self both displayed as U.S. House members – and the race would be just as competitive, particularly among independents and moderates. Because the real Sinema and McSally are centrists, accomplished women with moxie and class and the ability to work with people who aren’t like them to get stuff done in Congress.
Is Kyrsten Sinema really a radical?
McSally and other groups have painted Sinema as a tutu-wearing leftist who – repeat it with us, because we know you’ve seen the ad –– was protesting our country while McSally was on a combat mission defending it.
It’s true. Sinema did wear a tutu. She told a Libertarian talk-show host that she had no problem with him joining the Taliban.
This mischaracterizes what Sinema said. Unhinged Martha McSally doubles down on accusing Kyrsten Sinema of ‘treason’:
What Sinema Actually Said
As part of her effort to publicize a February 2003 antiwar protest in Patriots Square Park in Phoenix, Sinema appeared on the radio show of a local libertarian activist. The host, Ernest Hancock, laid out a rambling hypothetical situation — difficult to follow at times — and concluded by asking Sinema if she would be okay with him joining the Taliban.
“If I want to go fight in the Taliban army, I go over there and I’m fighting for the Taliban. I’m saying that’s a personal decision,” host Ernest Hancock said.
“Fine, I don’t care if you want to do that, go ahead,” Sinema replied, before adding: “What we’re talking about here are two different things. When you say, ‘We owe something to the world,’ my definition of owing something to the world does not involve war and destruction.”
She then added that she wanted to get back to discussing her antiwar position.
If you listen to the audio of the interview, it is even less than you might imagine. This is Sinema effectively saying “Yeah, whatever Dude, do whatever you want. Can we get back to talking about what I want to talk about?” No reasonable person could take away that Sinema was advocating for the Taliban.
Back to te editorial:
But she also was one of the few Democratic state lawmakers who was willing to try to work with then-Senate President Russell Pearce, who authored the tumultuous Senate Bill 1070. She also became close friends with former Republican U.S. Rep. Matt Salmon.
People change. They learn and grow. And Sinema’s record in Washington proves it.
More than 60 percent of the bills she co-sponsored this session were introduced by Republicans. She voted just a couple of weeks ago to make some of the tax cuts permanent in last year’s Republican-led bill – making her one of three Democrats to do so.
Sinema sides with Trump’s agenda 62 percent of the time, according to an analysis by the website FiveThirtyEight – less so on social issues than on the economy and defense. But it’s hard to argue that the Sinema of the last few years is some sort of commie – not when Andy Biggs, perhaps one of Arizona’s most right-leaning politicians, votes with Trump only 74 percent of the time.
Is Martha McSally really a hardliner?
McSally’s foes have painted her as a negative hardliner who voted to ruin your health care. Sinema’s campaign even ran an ad claiming McSally voted to cut Medicare, saying, “If she’ll lie about our Medicare, she will lie about anything.”
For the record, McSally voted in 2017 for a Republican budget resolution that sought to slow cost increases by expanding the role of private insurance in Medicare. But nothing’s actually been cut, and the debate’s out on whether that plan would turn Medicare into a voucher system, as Democrats allege.
This portion of the editorial is obviously written by The Republic’s resident GOP apologist Robert Robb, who cites his own drivel in a circular argument. Here is how Reuters reported the House vote at the time. Republicans’ next health reform act targets Medicare:
A 2018 budget resolution that the House Budget Committee approved last week calls for major Medicare reforms, along with some changes to Social Security. The most dramatic changes would raise Medicare’s eligibility age, and shift the program to a flat premium-support payment, or voucher, that beneficiaries would use to help buy either private health insurance or a form of traditional Medicare.
Premium support, a longtime dream of House Speaker Paul Ryan, would replace today’s defined set of promised Medicare benefits with an annual voucher that enrollees would use to buy health insurance. Starting in 2024, Medicare enrollees would buy health insurance from among various competing plans, which could include both traditional Medicare and plans offered by commercial insurance companies. The federal government would pay part of the cost of the coverage through an annual payment, or voucher.
The big proposition is that injecting more private health insurance competition will solve what ails healthcare. Yet over the past three decades, the per-capita cost of Medicare rose at just a 5.6 percent pace, compared with 6.9 percent among private plans, according to government data.
This would be a big, risky experiment, conducted in real time on our largest healthcare payment system – and on an elderly population with the most intensive healthcare needs. The impact on premiums and total out-of-pocket costs would depend on the specifics of the plan, which are not known at this point.
The Trump administration has been quietly pursuing the House budget resolution. Max Richtman, president and CEO of the National Committee to Preserve Social Security and Medicare explains, “In February, 15 Senators sent a letter to CMS Administrator Seema Verma expressing concern over a Fall, 2017 Request for Information (RFI) regarding a “new direction” for Medicare’s Innovation Center — and the agency’s subsequent failure to make public the more than 1,000 comments it received.” GOP’s proposed Medicare voucher program would lead to demise of the system:
At the heart of the Senator’s concerns is ambiguous language in the RFI that suggests a shift toward converting Medicare into a voucher program, which would, “fundamentally restructure the guaranteed benefit traditional Medicare provides to older adults and people with disabilities.”
“We applaud your efforts to seek input on the Innovation Center’s work,” write the Senators, “However, we are alarmed that you opted to solicit input on such an ambiguous concept.”
In other words, if CMS is truly considering a “premium support” or voucher model, CMS should have made that abundantly clear in the RFI so that Congress and “diverse stakeholders” could comment appropriately.
Since CMS has not made public the comments from the RFI, there is no way for Congress to evaluate the input the agency received or know how to meaningfully add to it.
The Senator’s concerns are well-founded, since Republicans in Congress (most prominently, Speaker Paul Ryan) have long-dreamed of privatizing Medicare by turning it into a voucher system — something that we and other senior organizations adamantly oppose.
We call it “coupon care,” because (as the Senators point out), instead of receiving a guaranteed health benefit, patients would be given what amounts to a coupon with which to purchase traditional Medicare or private insurance.
“A voucher system could eventually lead to the demise of traditional Medicare.”
More importantly, if Martha McSally goes to the Senate, she will vote in lockstep with Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, who declared last week that Republicans are coming for your healthcare, Social Security, Medicare and Medicaid. Believe them. There should be no doubt in your mind what the agenda of a Republican controlled Congress is next year. Your only defense is to deny Republicans a majority.
McSally does vote with Trump’s position on issues 97 percent of the time. But she is not the ideological hardliner that many make her out to be, and you can see that in how she approaches legislation. Like Sinema, McSally studies issues deeply, works to make compromises within the legislation and, in the end, votes based on whether the bill is better than the status quo.
Perhaps most illustrative of her approach –– and completely lost in the campaign rhetoric on both sides – is how McSally handled Obamacare. She voted for repeal, but when that effort failed, she joined a bipartisan group that offered solutions to shore up the program – and noted in an op-ed that you fight the battle you’re in, not the one you wish you had.
This “Problem Solvers Caucus” thing is a joke, for both McSally and Sinema. This group has literally solved nothing. It’s all just for show.
So, who’s best in this race?
If the real candidates had just stood up, making a choice in this race would have been nearly impossible. Because there aren’t a lot of stark, black-and-white differences between Sinema and McSally. One has governed from the center-left. The other has governed from the center-right. In an era of hyper-partisanship, that makes both rare –– and valuable.
As the website ProPublica notes in its comparison of their voting records, “It is unusual for two members of different parties to agree on so many votes. Out of 1,043 votes in the 115th Congress, they have agreed on 522 votes, including 118 major votes.”
But the choice becomes clearer if we’re judging the two simply on their campaign performance. Because Sinema has worn the better mask.
Maybe the vitriol of a hard-fought primary got to McSally. But she looked like the smaller person in their only televised debate, repeatedly calling Sinema a liar and, later, a traitor for her decade-old Taliban comments. McSally even sent out a press release saying the penalty for treason was death (though she later clarified that she doesn’t mean Sinema should die).
Sinema has stepped over the line at times, too (case in point: that attack ad on McSally’s Medicare record). [Again, it is accurate. Get over it, Robb.] But McSally has hurled a near-steady stream of attacks against Sinema – and unapologetically so. Because to McSally, this is how you play the game.
It shouldn’t be.
We need to get back to a saner time, when senators didn’t call each other names –– or if they did, they could put it all aside after the vote and go get a beer together. There is too much “us and them” in D.C., and it hurts how we are governed.
The real Martha McSally and Kyrsten Sinema know that. But Sinema is the only one willing to say it (repeatedly) from behind her mask.
Political times call for one over the other
If you have grown tired of the toxic culture that has taken over Capitol Hill; if you long for more collegial leadership focused on solving problems, not settling scores; if you want a federal government that works, not wages constant war; you must send people to Washington who can change it. People who not only talk bipartisanship but determinedly practice it.
There may be no better example of politics by collaboration than Sinema. She literally wrote the book on it –– “Unite and Conquer” (2009). She leads with an arm extended to the other side and a promise to work together.
She has traveled a long ways from the street-marching activist she once was to the good-natured centrist she now is.
In a Washington in which rancor and malice are disturbingly normal, Sinema is the antidote. Leaders like her can come from any party and they are needed more than ever.
That’s why in the race to elect Arizona’s next United States senator, The Arizona Republic recommends voters chose Kyrsten Sinema.
It was a convoluted argument, but it eventually arrives at the right destination.
UPDATE: In case you were wondering, In historic move, the Arizona Republic endorses a Democrat for Senate for the first time in 18 years.