Seeking A Seat, a series of appearances by candidates in November’s elections, took place on three days in October at Temple B’nai Abraham in Livingston.
Republican Jeff Bell, who is running for U.S. Senate against the incumbent, Democrat Sen. Cory Booker, spoke Oct. 14; Booker appeared Oct. 19.
Democrat Mark Dunec, who is challenging Republican incumbent Rep. Rodney Frelinghuysen for the Dist. 11 congressional seat, spoke Oct. 6. Frelinghuysen declined to take part in the series.
NJJN covered all three talks.
The series was offered under the auspices of TBA’s Congregational Learning, cochaired by Alyce Sands Miller and Steve Delman, and cosponsored by the Community Relations Committee of Jewish Federation of Greater MetroWest NJ.
Jeff Bell, the Republican economist who is seeking to replace Democrat Cory Booker in the United States Senate, told an audience at Temple B’nai Abraham in Livingston Oct. 14 that the United States “can’t be content with containing a movement” such as Islamic State in Iraq and Syria (ISIS).
Bell characterized the administration’s current policy as a “pinprick approach.”
“We have to kill them,” he said of ISIS. “I’ve even advocated that we have a debate as to whether a state of war exists. I think that would be healthy. It would bring Congress and the American people at large into the debate, and if they approve a declaration of war I think we will be committed to victory, not to a kind of pinprick strategy that rules out doing anything serious in advance.”
Bell’s statement came during a question-and-answer session after a speech largely devoted to economic issues.
Bell is making his third try for a Senate seat from New Jersey. In 1978 he defeated liberal Republican Clifford Case to win his party’s nomination, but lost the general election to Democrat Bill Bradley. Four years later Bell was defeated in the GOP primary by moderate House member Millicent Fenwick, who in turn was beaten by Democrat Frank Lautenberg.
A poll aggregation by Real Clear Politics puts Booker — seeking his first full six-year term after last year’s special election — ahead of Bell by 12.3 points. About a dozen members of the public attended the TBA forum with Bell.
Bell — who has been a consultant to conservative Washington think tanks since 1988 — favors a return to the gold standard, deregulation of banks and businesses, and a raise in interest rates.
“The interest rates are too low for community banks to make much money lending to small business,” and the Federal Reserve Bank “is printing money to finance Congress’s deficits and increased debt at low interest rates. It has taken the pressure completely off Congress to cut federal spending.”
He lamented the lack of bipartisanship on Capitol Hill, implicating Booker. “Sen. Booker is talking a lot about micro-bills he has introduced with conservatives. He doesn’t say what the bills are in his 30-second television commercials, and he doesn’t say who the senators are. If he said, ‘I’ve got a bill with Ted Cruz or Rand Paul,’ it might upset his own base. But the bills aren’t going anywhere and they are trivial, even if they did.”
Bell was also critical of President Obama. “If you go in to negotiate with him, he says, ‘I want 95 percent of what I’m asking for.’” That, said Bell, “does not set up very many incentives for negotiation.”
He charged that Booker “is in lockstep with President Obama. He never disagreed, as far as I know. I don’t think he has ever voted against the president in the one year he has been in the Senate, and he rarely if ever uttered a scintilla of criticism against President Obama.”
But, Bell said, Obama’s predecessor is also to blame for America’s current economic problems. “They happened under Bush and he had no idea of how to deal with them.”
Bell also attacked Obama’s 2012 rival for the presidency, Mitt Romney, who advocated tax cuts for the nation’s wealthiest people.
“Why would you make the center of your economic policy something that says, ‘The guys who are really important here are not you wage-earners; it’s your boss,’” he said.
In another departure from typical Republican positions, Bell told a questioner that Social Security “is by far the most successful and well-designed program of the New Deal. There is absolutely no justification in talking about turning it upside down or talking about privatization.”
Bell resides in Leonia with his wife, Rosalie. They have three sons, one daughter, and one granddaughter.