- The Washington Times - Tuesday, October 10, 2006

RICHMOND — U.S. Sen. George Allen and James H. Webb Jr. last night sparred over taxes and the war in Iraq during their last debate before next month’s general election.

Mr. Allen, a Republican first elected to the Senate in 2000, opened by reminding Virginians that he has cut taxes, abolished parole and reformed the welfare system as governor in the 1990s. He also said that Mr. Webb would raise taxes, costing each Virginia family $2,000.

“If you allow me a second term … I am going to make the best of it,” Mr. Allen said, adding that he will be a senator “who will stand with John Warner and not Hillary Clinton.”

Mr. Allen, who also is a former congressman and state delegate, repeatedly tried to paint his opponent as a liberal who would take his cues from “friends” such as Mrs. Clinton.

Mr. Webb, a Republican turned Democrat who served as President Reagan’s secretary of the Navy, said that the tax accusation isn’t true and told voters there is a disparity between the wealthiest Americans and corporate executives and everyday Virginians.

“America needs leaders who understand these divisions and want to repair them,” he said. “Leaders whose views on foreign policy are informed by experience, not sound bites.”

Mr. Webb, a decorated Vietnam veteran whose own son is serving in Iraq, has portrayed Mr. Allen as a rubber stamp for President Bush who failed to prevent the country from going to war.

“We need to get a diplomatic solution,” he said, criticizing Mr. Allen for using “propagandistic” phrases such as “Stay the course.”

Mr. Allen repeated his campaign line that he wants U.S. troops “to come home as soon as possible … in victory and not defeat.” He added that he differs from Mr. Webb in thinking that “we’re not occupiers, we’re liberators in Iraq.”

Mr. Webb said that Congress has failed to provide oversight of some of the Bush administration’s programs, included the National Security Agency’s terrorist surveillance program.

On torture, Mr. Webb said the U.S. should take the “moral high ground” and act according to the Geneva Convention. “I know what it’s like to be out there worrying about if I was going to be taken prisoner,” he said.

The the League of Women Voters was host of the debate held at the Richmond studios of Community Idea Stations. It will be rebroadcast in the Richmond area at 9 p.m. Thursday, at 3 p.m. Oct. 22 and at 9 p.m. Oct. 31. It is also scheduled to be replayed on C-SPAN.

Independent candidate Gail Parker, whose main issue is securing funding for Metrorail in Northern Virginia, was not invited to participate. Last night she sat in the front row.

“If I wasn’t in this race, there would be no candidate for me to vote for,” she said before the debate.

Mr. Allen scored points when he called for a “taxpayers’ bill of rights” and then asked Mr. Webb how many Virginians have benefited from Mr. Bush’s tax cuts, which Mr. Webb has criticized and the senator wants to make permanent.

Mr. Webb did not answer, and Mr. Allen responded that 3 million residents have been helped by the cuts, which are set to expire.

However, Mr. Webb said the costly Iraq war makes tax cuts for the wealthy impractical. “You can’t keep spending like this without increasing revenue,” he said.

Republicans have given many of the wealthiest people and the largest companies tax breaks while health care and education costs for the poor and middle class have skyrocketed, Mr. Webb said.

Mr. Allen said that he favors a proposed state constitutional amendment that would define marriage as “a way to protect the values and views of the people of Virginia from judges who want to impose their own elitist views.”

Mr. Webb said that he thinks marriage should be between one man and one woman but added that he opposes the measure because it is unnecessary and would harm unmarried heterosexual couples.

On immigration, Mr. Allen said he opposed the “comprehensive” Senate immigration bill because it rewards illegal aliens.

Mr. Webb said the Bush administration has “failed” to deal with immigration problems, and noted that day-laborer shelters such as the one in Herndon are a good short-term solution for businesses plagued by loitering.

Mr. Allen opened himself to scrutiny in August when he called an Indian-American Webb volunteer “macaca,” which is considered a racial slur in some cultures.

After that, several people who knew Mr. Allen when he was a University of Virginia student accused him of regularly using a racial slur to describe blacks.

Last night, Mr. Allen dismissed the stories as “baseless,” saying they don’t reflect “who I am” or how he was raised. He added: “I don’t recall using that word.”

Mr. Allen has apologized frequently for the “macaca” comment, saying he made up the word.

Mr. Webb has been criticized for his 1979 article “Women Can’t Fight,” which questioned the role of women in military billets.

The debate was crucial for each candidate, as there is less than a month remaining before the election. Polls show Mr. Allen with a slight lead or tied with Mr. Webb.

Today is the deadline for Virginians to register to vote in the Nov. 7 election.

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