Joseph Kennedy III Makes 1st Debate Appearance

Joseph Kennedy III, right, laughs while listening to NECN host Jim Braude during a candidate's debate for the 4th Congressional District Thursday. With Kennedy are Herb Robinson and Rachel Brown. (AP)

Joseph Kennedy III, right, laughs while listening to NECN host Jim Braude during a candidate’s debate for the 4th Congressional District Thursday. With Kennedy are Herb Robinson and Rachel Brown. (AP)

NEWTON, Mass. — With Primary Day 20 days away, debate season is picking up the pace. The Democrats vying for their party’s nod in the 4th Congressional District met up for a live TV debate on NECN Thursday night.

The three candidates included a political newcomer with an old name.

Joseph Kennedy III has made 160 campaign appearances in the 4th district this year. But this was the first time large numbers of people could hear him fielding questions on a wide array of topics. He did his best to provide generic answers. But NECN’s Jim Braude managed to press Kennedy into giving more specific responses. For example, on whether Vice President Joe Biden should apologize for saying to a largely African-American audience in Virginia that Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney “would put you all back in chains:”

“You have two very different views of where the country should go,” Kennedy started to say.

“Should Biden apologize?” Braude insisted.

“I think… I think he walked his comments back a bit, and clarified what he meant by that, and I think it’s really up to the presidential campaign,” Kennedy replied.

Braude also pressed Kennedy on how he would make sure Social Security stays solvent.

“The biggest thing you can do to help is get people back to work, ’cause you get more people hired, more people are paying payroll taxes, that’s gotta be priority No. 1,” Kennedy said.

“How about changes within the system itself?” Braude pressed. “Would you raise the cap above which people pay taxes?”

“If you gotta start anything else, I do think raising the cap is the place to start,” Kennedy replied.

“Do you raise the retirement age?” Braude asked.

“I don’t think you need to,” Kennedy answered.

“Do you means test the beneficiaries?” Braude inquired.

“Absolutely not,” Kennedy responded.

The talk then moved to whether Kennedy would support cutting defense spending.

“I certainly support rolling back the defense budget,” Kennedy said.

He was also asked whether the U.S. embassy in Israel should be moved from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem.

“I think that the, uh… capital of Israel is Tel Aviv,” Kennedy said.

This debate among Kennedy and the other two Democrats running to succeed Rep. Barney Frank was a reminder that Kennedy does have two opponents in the primary next month. One of them is Newton engineer Herb Robinson. He has been a candidate before; he dropped out of the Senate primary race. He was clearly nervous in this, his first live TV debate.

“I am the candidate with 30 years’ experience doing creative problem-solving for private industry,” Robinson said. “Examples of that creative problem-solving are bottom-line regulation and capital gains tax reform.”

And then there’s Rachel Brown, a political organizer who lives in Quincy, not in the district. She had to answer how people can take her seriously when she campaigns with a poster of President Obama with a Hitler mustache.

“Right, well, a lot of people do,” Brown replied. “I’ve qualified the mustache, particularly with Obama’s health care plan, which includes the IPAB board, which is modeled off of the T4 program in Nazi Germany.”

IPAB stands for Independent Payment Advisory Board. T4 was the Nazi euthanasia program.

Back in Massachusetts, Friday is the last day voters can register to vote in the primary.

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