2010-10-29 / Columnists

The Rockaway Beat

Turner Stumbled, Despite Room Packed With Republicans
Commentary By Howard Schwach

The tent at the Bungalow Bar was packed with Republicans a week ago Thursday, when their candidate for the House of Representatives, Bob Turner, took on Congressman Anthony Weiner. Or, I should say, tried to keep up with our incumbent Representative.

It wasn’t even close, despite the constant heckling by some of Turner’s people and the obvious dislike of Wei-ner by my co-moderator, Pointer co-publisher Mike Schramm.

Now, it’s fine for a party to pack the house. That has been going on as long as there have been political parties. It’s quite another thing to try to keep one of the candidates from making his points.

At one point, I had it with both the hecklers and Schramm and told one young heckler, “All you are doing is diminishing yourself and diminishing your party.”

He sat down and shut up for a moment, but the partisan crowd booed me for my efforts. They should have booed themselves. In fact, any viable candidate with that kind of partisan crown would have told the hecklers to sit down and shut up. I guess that Turner enjoyed his friends and supporters trying to shut Weiner down, because that is what passes for politics in the Republican Party these days. Must have picked it up from the Tea Party crazies.

It was that kind of forum.

Turner stumbled often, in my opinion. He failed to answer questions, declined to use his time, saying that the question was pretty well answered and often made partisan points right out of Fox TV without actually saying anything.

This is not the first time that Turner fumbled and stumbled during a faceto face with Weiner.

He even stunned his own supporters with some of his comments.

Republican Wave columnist Stu Mirsky wrote about it in his column last week.

“Turner stumbled when he likened government work to ‘being on the dole,’ as he tried to point out that the key to job creation lay in policies which reduce economic impediments, not those which add to them,” Mirsky wrote. “Delighted with the gaffe, Weiner pounced. ‘You had me until you referred to firemen, policemen and teachers as being on the dole, Bob,’ he said smoothly. People at the Turner table audibly groaned. Their man had misspoken and they knew it.”

While Turner had the crowd at the Bungalow Bar on Thursday, Septem- ber 22, it did not seem to slow Weiner down a wit. A seasoned pol, he thrives on the hecklers and packed rooms.

At one point he invited his hecklers up to the podium. “You want to debate with me on this?” he asked. There were no takers. They all knew that nobody else in the room, including Turner, was in the same league.

The crowd was on Turner’s side when he walked into the room, and few minds were changed by the end of the forum, but it was instructive nevertheless.

The differences in their philosophies and what they see for Rockaway and the nation were glaring.

A question from the audience, for example, asked for both of the candidates’ views on teaching “intelligent design” in the public schools.

Turner went first, giving a threeminute diatribe on why religion is important and how the Founding Fathers were all Christians who wanted a Christian country. He did not answer the question, however, so I noted that he never answered the question and I asked it again.

He said that he believed that Intelligent Design should be taught in the schools, because it is “God’s truth.” He got a big hand, loud cheers and hoots for his answer.

Intelligent design must be big in Breezy Point, where the maj-ority of those in the room make their home.

Weiner said, “I guess you can call that a yes. Put me down for a no. I am in favor of parochial schools, yeshivas, and other religious schools, but the Constitution says we shouldn’t teach religion in the public schools, and I believe in that.”

The crowd booed him roundly, as Turner stood at the podium, smiling away.

Turner also got loud cheers for coming out against same-sex marriage, while Weiner was roundly booed for taking the opposite position.

When a question on Gateway National Recreation Center came from the audience, Turner said that Weiner has done nothing for the community in terms of assisting the national park, arguing that the public should have a say, something that is already going on. When Weiner tried to point out what he had done, pointing out in the direction of the park across Jamaica Bay, the partisan crowds shouted, “You’ve done nothing,” and Schramm indicated that Weiner had pointed in the wrong direction.

He got a laugh.

Not very journalistic, but Schramm seemed happy with the laugh at Weiner’s expense.

The fact is, however, that Weiner was instrumental in bringing lots of money to the park and in the development of Aviator Sports, the entertainment complex that is quickly becoming important to Rockaway residents. At a meeting at The Wave office a few weeks ago, Turner was not even sure where Gateway’s various units could be found.

Education is my seminal issue, the most important. Not only does Turner want to turn the public schools into religious schools, he wants to do away with the U.S. Department of Education, an agency that pumps lots of money into the local schools. While don’t always agree with the U.S. Department of Education, I don’t want to see it go. There were lots of differences between Weiner and Turner.

Turner wants to repeal the new health care act that Weiner helped to pass. When Weiner pointed out all of the good aspects of the bill, Turner’s supporters chanted “Repeal it, repeal it.” When asked for alternatives, Turner could only say that there must be better ways to achieve the same aims. That’s the way it went, and Turner and his loud supporters should quickly go to the obscurity they deserve.

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