Declaring that the United States is an economic "scrap heap with casinos and fast food stands and video entertainment on top," political extremist Lyndon LaRouche held an unusual satellite TV debate Monday with Bruce Sumner, Orange County Democratic Party chairman.
In the half-hour exchange, LaRouche, who has run for President several times and is a declared 1988 presidential candidate, peered through steel-rimmed glasses to advance a gloomy vision of international and domestic policy, arguing at one point that the United States faces "an economic blowout" by late 1986.
By contrast, retired Superior Court Judge Sumner, a write-in candidate for the 40th Congressional District against a LaRouche follower, read excerpts from LaRouche's writing in an effort to prove that his views were "bizarre."
Quoting LaRouche's claims that Queen Elizabeth II of England was "involved in pushing drugs," for example, Sumner argued that LaRouche did not belong in the Democratic Party. He further alleged that the Leesburg, Va., writer personally attacked those who disagreed with him and that, if elected, LaRouche "would be the first U.S. dictator."
The debate took place on a satellite television hookup, with Sumner speaking from a studio in Hollywood and LaRouche in a studio in Washington. The two split the $6,000 production costs for the broadcast.
Although both Sumner and LaRouche had hoped to educate voters by their debate, it was not clear who would view it, apart from a handful of reporters who watched the taping in Los Angeles. By late Monday, no television station had agreed to air the entire broadcast.
The debate came after Sumner contended that his opponent in today's primary, LaRouche candidate Art Hoffmann, the only Democrat listed on the 40th Congressional District ballot, merely echoed LaRouche's ideas.
Sumner on May 22 challenged LaRouche to a debate on whether he belonged in the Democratic Party. On Friday, LaRouche, who said he is backing several thousand candidates for public office this year, agreed to a debate. However, he demanded different ground rules, requesting that the topic be Democratic policy in foreign and domestic affairs for the next two years.
But as LaRouche tried to follow that format Monday, Sumner doggedly quoted excerpts from LaRouche's writing, contending that LaRouche was "anti-Semitic" and "a menace."
Annoyed by that tactic, LaRouche turned angrily to Sumner as the broadcast ended and called the judge's comments "lying McCarthyism."
LaRouche added: "What do you want in Congress? Do you want Judge Sumner up there making speeches on the LaRouche menace? . . . or do you want Art Hoffmann who is dedicated to some very real issues--strategic defense and other foreign policies, some important domestic issues, including the threat of a general banking collapse. . . . The judge has exposed himself."
Sumner responded that whoever disagrees with LaRouche is "personally attacked."
(Hoffmann has claimed that Sumner's write-in campaign is being pushed by "organized crime" circles, a charge that Sumner called ludicrous.)
Whether LaRouche is politically to the right or to the left, "the extremes do meet in a common ground of intolerance," Sumner contended. He challenged LaRouche "to run under your own banner. You are neither Republican nor Democrat."
After the broadcast, Sumner and Khushro Ghandhi, the West Coast coordinator for LaRouche's National Democratic Policy Committee, argued briefly. Ghandhi accused Sumner of breaking faith with LaRouche by attacking him rather than discussing party policy.
Still, Ghandhi said later, LaRouche was glad to have participated in the debate. Since March, when two LaRouche supporters won the nominations for lieutenant governor and secretary of state in the Illinois primary, "the problem has been that nobody will debate him. The generally agreed-on policy (by Democratic leaders) is not to discuss the issues, simply to attack (LaRouche) as crazy."