As it turns out, Vice President Joe Biden and Rep. Paul Ryan weren’t the only two candidates engaged in a spirited debate Thursday. Rep. Howard Berman and Rep. Brad Sherman, who are vying to represent the 30th Congressional District, nearly came to blows during their debate at Pierce College.
So what could possibly cause these two former allies to behave more like WWF wrestlers than policy wonks? Immigration.
Sherman, it seems, took issue with Berman’s claim that he helped write the first Dream Act legislation in 2001. That bill would have helped legalize tens of thousands of young immigrants who were brought to this country illegally as children. Congress has since failed to pass subsequent versions of the Dream Act.
Sherman’s decision to challenge Berman’s history eventually got ugly, with both men shouting at each other and Sherman eventually putting his arm around Berman, asking him, "Do you want to get into this?" A sheriff's deputy eventually walked over, and both men calmed down.
By Friday, both sides were spinning their version of events and getting lots of ink over what is essentially a very silly spat. But what really strikes me as absurd is that these incumbents are fighting over an issue that they agree on. Both Berman and Sherman support the Dream Act, and both have similar voting records on immigration legislation. So what are they fighting over?
Some will argue that Thursday’s debate was more comical than substantive. Certainly some of those who attended the event thought so and can be heard laughing on videos that have surfaced. Others say this is what happens when two Democrats who hold such similar views on issues face off: The race gets ugly, emotions run high and the candidates, in a desperate attempt to set themselves apart, argue over matters of little consequence.
Frankly, it was sort of sad to see two very smart politicians behave as if they were auditioning for the Jerry Springer show. The audience deserved better.