In the spirit of Twitter, Pittsburgh Post-Gazette editors asked the candidates for U.S. Senate in Pennsylvania - Republican Pat Toomey and Democrat Joe Sestak - to answer 15 questions in 60 words or less. Here are their responses, courtesy of the Post-Gazette:
Q. Best/worst things Barack Obama has done?
Joe Sestak: President Obama made some tough decisions — and did what was necessary — to control the damage that had been done to our economy. But I firmly believe we should have focused our recovery efforts on small businesses from the beginning, as they create 80 percent of all jobs.
Pat Toomey: The president has worked to increase educational choice which I very much support. The president has supported policies that have increased taxes and created huge deficits. These policies are preventing our economic recovery and the job creation Pennsylvanians deserve.
Q. Best / worst positions taken by your rival?
JS: I appreciate his willingness to get involved in a public office, even though I disagree with his policies, such as his proposals to privatize Social Security and eliminate all taxes for large corporations.
PT: My opponent and I agree with President Obama’s efforts in Afghanistan. My opponent has supported all the taxpayer-funded bailouts, the stimulus, the cap-and-trade energy tax, government-run health care, record-breaking deficits, hundreds of billions of dollars in new tax increases, and still he argues that these policies do not go far enough.
Q. Most inaccurate / annoying thing your rival has said about you?
JS: My opponent has claimed I voted to eliminate private health insurance. I voted against such a measure, but supported moving forward with consideration of the larger bill as a whole. My daughter battled brain cancer, and is now on the kind of private plan that would have been eliminated. This is a deeply personal issue for me.
PT: My rival has tried to discredit my seven years as a small business owner during which I owned and ran several restaurants with my brothers in the Lehigh Valley. I am very proud of my background as a small business owner and it is unfortunate that Congressman Sestak felt a need to issue personal attacks.
Q. Which politician during your lifetime do you most admire and why?
JS: President John F. Kennedy, who served when I was growing up, has always been a personal hero. But, over the course of my career, I have had the privilege of working with leaders like President Bill Clinton and Republican Sen. Chuck Hagel. I’ve been inspired by their service and honored that both of them have supported my campaign.
PT: Ronald Reagan’s optimism in America and his belief in American exceptionalism has greatly inspired me.
Q. Pittsburgh’s airport greets visitors with statues of George Washington and Franco Harris. Add one more and explain why (not yourself):
JS: A steelworker, to represent the hardworking people who built Pennsylvania’s prosperity in years past. My grandfather was a steelworker, having come to Coatesville from Czechoslovakia in the 1920s. We should invigorate the industry and manufacturing that used to define our commonwealth and make sure it’s as important to our future as it has been to our past.
PT: Dr. Jonas Salk, the famous medical researcher who developed the first safe and effective polio vaccine at the University of Pittsburgh.
Q. Would you be OK with a shale-gas well in your neighborhood?
JS: Only once it’s safe. I fully support the responsible development of the Marcellus Shale, with commonsense regulations, so that we can avoid risking our health or safety while harnessing these resources, creating jobs and spurring economic growth in Pennsylvania.
PT: Yes, provided there is adequate space.
Q. Are you OK with Muslims building a community center two blocks from Ground Zero?
JS: This is a decision that can — and should — be made only by New Yorkers, as long as freedom of religion and the separation of church and state are not infringed. I served in the Navy to defend these rights for 31 years.
PT: It is provocative in the extreme to build a mosque in the shadow of Ground Zero. Islamic leaders should be encouraged to move the mosque elsewhere.
Q. Top three ways to enhance confidence in the federal government:
JS: We should elect leaders who will engage in principled compromise without compromising their principles. Second, we must eliminate the destructive influence of money on campaigns by having public financing, and make it clear that special interests cannot turn elections into auctions. Third, we should establish, as my legislation would, an independent Office of Congressional Ethics.
PT: First, cut federal spending and get the deficit under control. Politicians have to live within their means and stop wasting taxpayer dollars. Second, institute policies that actually create jobs, like commonsense tax cuts. Third, end the ridiculous practice of forcing taxpayers to bail out irresponsible companies like Wall Street banks, the auto companies, and Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac.
Q. Where could the federal government save the most money:
JS: We should close tax loopholes for big corporations that ship jobs overseas, eliminate redundant programs and trim wasteful spending on out-of-date defense programs. As former deputy chief of naval operations, I have experience making these tough decisions.
PT: For starters, we could end the wasteful stimulus program and the taxpayer-funded bailouts. We should also end earmarks that allow politicians to make taxpayers pay for wasteful projects like the Bridge to Nowhere. These earmarks are used to convince lawmakers to vote for ever-larger spending bills and eliminating them would help keep spending at more reasonable levels.
Q. Book that’s influenced you the most (not the Bible):
JS: “The Best and the Brightest” by David Halberstam, because it shows that one should have humility.
PT: “To Kill a Mockingbird” by Harper Lee.
Q. Favorite TV show:
JS: “The Colbert Report.” I don’t often get the chance to watch TV, but when I do, I enjoy a humorous take on the news. I also had a great time with Stephen both of the times I appeared on his show.
PT: Football on Sundays.
Q. You OK with gay marriage, civil unions or neither?
JS: Marriage should be defined by churches, according to the precepts of individual belief systems. However, I firmly believe that equal treatment and full benefits under law are issues of basic civil rights. I will always fight to extend these rights to all Americans.
PT: I believe marriage is between a man and a woman.
Q. How do you measure success?
JS: Whether you are applying all of your faculties toward excellence.
PT: Working hard, sticking to my principles and spending time with my family.
Q. Describe a dream vacation, including place and activities:
JS: Camping with my daughter, Alex, on the shores of Lake Erie.
PT: Taking my family on a tour of Ireland to show my children where my grandparents grew up.
Q. Tell us something most people don’t know about you:
JS: I met my wife on a flight to Russia, when we were both serving as part of an official delegation. I was in the Navy and she was studying the Russian language. I proposed to her only a couple of days after meeting her. She said yes … eight years later.
PT: I’m a lousy piano player.