October 2, 2018 10:36:32 AM
OXFORD -- Unbeknownst to my media colleagues, the nominal Republicans on Mississippi's Nov. 6 special election ballot have already debated. Yes, U.S. Sen. Cindy Hyde-Smith and state Sen. Chris McDaniel hashed things out at the Tutwiler Civic and Social Club. No media was present, but here's a transcript:
Moderator: Thank you for being here. If it's OK, I will ask a question and you take turns answering. Let's get right to it. Our leaders have struggled over immigration, how to welcome needed and productive workers and how to block loafers and criminals. What is the first step toward a solution, in your view?
Hyde-Smith: Thank you for the opportunity to be here, and for the opportunity to speak to this important issue. I think the main thing to know is that President Trump loves me. Thank you.
McDaniel: I am also grateful for the opportunity to speak. Voters vote best when fully informed, and for that reason I must say that President Trump really loves me more, but has been boxed in by the RINOs and can't speak his mind.
Moderator: Crime, especially inner-city crime, is alarming. On TV every night are stories of young people killing each other. Can this be stopped?
McDaniel: Great question. As everybody should know by now, I support keeping Mississippi's state flag.
Hyde-Smith: President Trump, who endorsed me, and I have talked about this at length. We agree it is a bad thing and invite a continuing conversation.
Moderator: If a person asleep 100 years awakened and walked through cities in Japan and Germany, saw all the new buildings, the cleanliness, the pristine infrastructure and a vibrant quality of life, then visited the American cities where decay and poverty are prevalent, it might be hard to convince that person that America - not Japan or Germany - was on the winning side of the last world war. How would you explain this?
Hyde-Smith: My family and I own a cattle farm, so we know all about hard work, and that's the key to everything.
McDaniel: She is really a Democrat. They don't know anything about work.
Moderator: As you know, President Trump has approved trade sanctions he expects will boost the U.S. economy in the long term although they are financially harmful to Mississippi farmers, manufacturers and consumers in the short term. For farmers, Trump has pledged federal cash to make up for their losses. Is this good fiscal policy?
McDaniel: Well, America First, you know. I respect farmers and feel their pain, but remember there was no buy-out when the feds took our slaves.
Hyde-Smith: I want to be clear: I support everything President Trump has said or done and whatever he will say or do. He is, with my help, going to make America great again.
Moderator: Indicators show Mississippi's economy lagging other states experiencing a more rapid recovery from the bad events of 2008. What should the state do to close the gap, and how will you put your ideas into action?
Hyde-Smith: The main thing is to support our president and build the wall.
McDaniel: I remember 2008. That's when my opponent voted for Hillary Clinton.
Moderator: Mississippi did not join the Medicaid expansion that was part of Obamacare, and today is the state with the largest proportion of citizens without health insurance. What are your ideas for helping more Mississippians avoid catastrophic expenses that come with serious injuries or illness?
McDaniel: We have laws that protect our Confederate heritage and monuments, and those laws must be enforced to teach people to stand for what's right.
Hyde-Smith: I think my response would be, "Be safe." I think the best thing people can do to guard against medical bills is be safe. And let me add, if I may, that I did vote in the Democratic primary in 2008, but I don't remember who I voted for.
Moderator: There is, of course, a third widely known person on the ballot. Mike Espy has experience in Congress and as a cabinet officer. How do you counter that?
McDaniel: By pointing out (1) he's a Democrat, (2) he's a liberal, and (3) he's not the same color as us.
Hyde-Smith: You went out of turn, Chris. Anyway, I would just point out Trump loves me, not McDaniel and certainly not Espy.
Moderator: Brief closing statements?
Hyde-Smith: This is an important election, and this must be stressed: Trump loves me.
McDaniel: Three things: (1) state flag, (2) state flag, and (3) state flag.
Fake news? Yes ... but barely.
Charlie Mitchell is an associate dean of journalism at the University of Mississippi. Email reaches him at [email protected]