Photo by Brian LeBlanc
Conservative talk show host Michael Medved, left, debates with Congressman Jim McDermott (D-7)

McDermott, Medved put on educational debate

Brian LeBlanc

Last week, Congressman Jim McDermott (D-7) faced off against popular conservative talk show host Michael Medved.

The educational debate, titled “Mind The Gap: 2012 Issued Debate,” was put on by the Student Freedom Project at the University of Washington. The debate, which was determined as not a campaign event, was rebroadcast on UWTV and can be found at

The debate moderator was Dr. Anthony Gill, a professor in the UW Political Science Department and the debaters were given the questions in advance. The first part of the debate featured prepared questions and was followed by questions submitted by the audience. 20-30 UW students packed the front rows nearest the stage and 40-50 slightly older members of the general public sat in the rear of the auditorium.

Questions included topics such as whether the wealthy should pay more taxes, what government spending should be eliminated, whether there was too much regulation on businesses, whether there should be a second $2 trillion stimulus and what the purpose of college was and the government’s role in protecting it.

McDermott’s ongoing election campaign was not mentioned except by Medved, who mentioned the Congressman was “in the midst of a nail-biting campaign” where he “might fall below 85% of the vote,” which elicited laughter from some in the audience.

The answers from both men fell into predictable patterns based on their positions along the ideological spectrum, with Medved on the conservative end and McDermott on the liberal one.

McDermott aggressively defended the role of the government as investing in the citizens through education and other means, being a creator of jobs and having a role in regulating the excesses of business. He advocated for a “fair system” of taxation “where you take from (the people at) the top and they benefit from it.” McDermott also took the opportunity to blame the low approval rating of Congress on the Republicans who he said refused to compromise.

Medved defended the role of the free enterprise system, suggested that the federal government spends taxpayer money recklessly, had become in some instances an “intrusive nanny-state system” and that issues such as education were best left up to the states. Medved thinks that we need a more simplified tax system and “more reasonable regulation.”

Medved found himself in agreement with McDermott on several points, particularly on the necessity of some environmental regulations, noting that Lake Washington had been cleaned up by government regulation.

While discussing whether another stimulus package is needed, Medved stated talking about government fund railroad improvements as an example of a wasteful use of taxpayer dollars. In particular Medved brought up a railroad line currently being built in California that has been funded partially with stimulus money that he called a “train to nowhere.”

Rather than discuss the particular issue, McDermott countered with the fact that “we can talk endlessly about the problems of transportation,” and shared that he sometimes rides “the bus in the tunnel (in Downtown Seattle) to find out what people are going through.”

Ron Bemis, McDermott’s opponent for the 7th Congressional District, initially questioned the timing of the event, taking place just a few days before election day. Read this week’s article, “Op-Ed: McDermott debates … but not the right person” for more details.

McDermott and Bemis did appear together on KUOW, a clip of which can be found at

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