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Sen. McCaskill held several town hall meetings today (Monday,) and I attended the one in Washington, MO.  That is the “hotbed of Republicanism” in Franklin County, and the Senator came prepared to win their hearts and minds.  

She listed her priorities, some of which she says she’s accomplished.  Being a deficit hawk is her MO and she’s proud of the fact that some of her “wildly liberal” colleagues have come around to her point of view.  I thought that was an unnecessary way to describe progressives who want to get our fiscal house in order but not by punishing the people who were hurt the most by gamblers on Wall Street.  McCaskill seems to have absorbed the neo-con mantra that “shared sacrifice” means the working and middle class get to do most of the “sharing.”

To her credit, the Senator is not afraid to look at the Pentagon for some of the cost reductions needed to come anywhere near a balanced budget.

She’s also proud of getting rid of secret holds on bills and nominees in the Senate as well as making the work of agency watchdogs more transparent.  She said she and her staff have saved about $1.6 over 4 years just by running her office more efficiently.  She gives that money back each year and wants other Congressmen to do the same.

Then came the fish bowl routine.

Sen. McCaskill’s routine is to ask for someone in the audience who would “never, ever” vote for her to hold the big bowl with questions from the audience.  I give her credit for this because I attended one of these things where Reps. Todd Akin and Blaine Leutkemeyer had a staff member screen the questions and drop the ones they didn’t want in the wastebasket – right in front of us.

The man whose wife was holding the fishbowl picked his own question first.  That lightened the mood somewhat.  He asked about TARP and why the money that is being repaid isn’t going to the treasury to pay down the national debt.  McCaskill told him the money IS going into the treasury, and she made sure the man knew that TARP was during Bush’s tenure, not Obama’s.  This same man then went on to blame the Education Department for turning out “dumber and dumber kids,” which brought a low murmur of dissent from the audience.  He also hates the EPA and thinks we should get rid of it.  The latest thing the righties are having a fit over is the switch to energy-saving lightbulbs.  That topic was also on the evening news tonite, and we saw President Bush signing that law in 2007.  So, if anyone crabs about having to buy new lightbulbs, remind them that the law was passed with bipartisan support and signed by Bush.

One of the questions was about why the government couldn’t do more to create jobs.  The Senator obviously was playing to her audience by repeating that all govt can do is “get out of the way by reducing regulations.”  That would have been a good time for her to mention the many benefits we all enjoy because of govt regulations.   But being proud of progressive accomplishments doesn’t seem to be part of her playbook.  She’s proud of her independent streak and knows she makes some people mad. She claims not to be one of those politicians who won’t cast a tough vote for fear of losing the next election.  She loves Missouri, has a great family and would be very happy to go home if that’s how it works out in 2012.

When an audience member called Social Security an entitlement program, that would have been a great time to explain that it is an insurance program, not a handout, for the majority of those who participate.  She blasted those of us who say scary things like (in a big, bad bear voice) “You’re going to cut my Social Security.”  She said not to let people use that “political 2 X 4” to frighten us. (No comment)

I have to give her credit for being bold and clear about her vote to repeal Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell and her thoughts on women’s reproductive rights.  Two different male audience members shared their beliefs about what a “real” family should look like and all the harm done by allowing homosexuals to serve in the military.  The good Senator clearly stated that it is not the government’s business to define what a family should look like and that our country is stronger for the many varieties of relationships that constitute a family.  

As for DADT, she said she asked Gen. Petraeus, Secretary Gates and others if they had served in the military with gays, and they said yes.  She asked them if there were any problems, and they said no.  She defends the right of any American to serve his/her country – period.

On abortion, she said she is solidly pro-choice (I hate that word because it makes abortion sound like someone shopping for shoes.)  She took to task those who cut off funding for contraception and  then complain about abortion rates.  She would like to see abortion be safe, legal and rare.

Someone brought up jobs and unions again which gave the Senator a chance to strongly support the workers in Wisconsin.  She clearly had done her homework on how Gov. Walker had given away millions of dollars in tax breaks to corporations before he turned to the public sector workers and asked them to make concessions. She said, “That battle is not about solving a fiscal crisis.  It’s about getting rid of collective bargaining and busting the unions.”  Bravo.

If I were keeping score, I’d say her statements in support of progressive values like funding for education, defense of labor unions, women’s reproductive rights and the freedom to form family units without harassment from religious extremists outweighed her pandering to the neo-conservatives on fiscal and monetary issues.

Caregivers 7.  Mad Hatters 2.