SAN FRANCISCO — Meeting for their second debate in as many days, Democrat Dianne Feinstein and Republican John Seymour agreed Sunday that the United States has a moral obligation to play world peacekeeper, but the two U.S. Senate candidates agreed about little else.
Former San Francisco Mayor Feinstein said the United States should work to protect human rights in the war-torn republics that once made up Yugoslavia, even if such an effort requires strategic air strikes by a multinational military force.
Seymour, whose first vote as an appointed senator last year was to authorize force against Saddam Hussein, said the United States has a responsibility as the world's only superpower to act as "the cop on the street."
But in a refrain repeated throughout the hourlong debate, Seymour sought to raise doubts about Feinstein's sincerity and commitment, even on an issue where they agreed. Seymour accused Feinstein of "double talk," claiming her proposed defense cuts would cripple the military and make it impossible for the United States to play such a world policing role.
"With the Cold War over, it is time for the lion to lay down with the lamb," Seymour said. "But one thing we must always remember: We must be the lion."
Later, in an angry response, Feinstein turned toward Seymour and demanded that he not misrepresent her views on reducing military spending.
"The thing we need to do, I believe, is not decimate our armed services, John," Feinstein fired back. "I wish you would give me the credit of stating my positions correctly. Not decimate them, but reconsider what kind of post-Cold War military we need. . . . We need to take these dollars, return them home (and) invest them in America."
Seymour, trailing in the contest to finish the two years of the Senate term given up by Gov. Pete Wilson, used the debate to continue an increasingly harsh assault on Feinstein, attempting to depict her as a tax-and-spend career politician who lacks his business savvy and appreciation for working people.
A former state senator and mayor of Anaheim, Seymour warned that the California dream "is in danger of becoming a nightmare" and that the answers to the state's problems do not lie in a vastly expanded role for government.
"My opponent, having spent her entire professional career in government, sincerely believes government has those answers," Seymour said in his closing statement. "I, on the other hand, say government has a role to play, but it should be a minimum role, and then step out of the way to let the magic work of the free enterprise system."
Feinstein, in turn, attempted to cast her views as those of mainstream Californians, emphasizing her support for water project reform, her commitment to abortion rights, her advocacy of education reform and her endorsement of a crime bill opposed by Seymour that would provide money to hire more police officers nationwide. At the same time, she derided Seymour's brief legislative record in the U.S. Senate, saying he had failed to get any significant initiative passed into law.
"The most critical thing I can do is see that we put government in a proper working perspective with business, to see that we create new jobs, that we have the incentives that are necessary, and to see that we do some pump-priming right now to build the infrastructure we need," she said in closing.