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Washington County political leaders debate national issues

October 30, 2008|By ERIN CUNNINGHAM

HAGERSTOWN -- The line of Republican leaders comparing Barack Obama's economic policies to socialism grew longer Wednesday as Del. Christopher B. Shank, R-Washington, echoed that claim.

Hagerstown City Councilman Lewis C. Metzner countered Shank's remark by reading the definition of socialism and saying that the recent federal bailout of financial institutions in the United States is actually similar to socialist ideals.

Local political leaders argued on behalf of their presidential candidate of choice Wednesday during a forum at Hagerstown Community College, taking sides on everything from the war in Iraq to health care.

GOP presidential nominee John McCain was represented by Philip Baker-Shenk, a member of Washington County's Republican Central Committee; Liz Jones, chairwoman of the McCain-Palin committee in Washington County; and Shank.

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Those taking the position of Democratic nominee Barack Obama included Washington County Commissioner Kristin B. Aleshire; Mike Harsh, an HCC professor; and Metzner.

Moderator and HCC Associate Professor Spring Ward asked questions of each side and participants also answered questions from the nearly 50 people who attended Wednesday's forum.

Ward asked that both sides remain civil.

"This is not the Jerry Springer show," she said.

Baker-Shenk said McCain's leadership led to the surge in Iraq, which Baker-Shenk said is working.

"That war was bungled until John McCain's idea of a surge took hold," he said. "Obama, to this day, has not acknowledged the surge was successful."

Metzner said that the war in Iraq has lasted longer than WWI, WWII and the Civil War, and said now is the time for the Iraqi government to take over their own country and their own defense.

"It is Obama who will get us out of Iraq with a political solution," Metzner said.

Most of the overall themes of the presidential race, which will be decided in the Nov. 4 general election, were discussed Wednesday, including the economy and job development. Even Joe the Plumber was mentioned.

Of Joe the Plumber, Aleshire said he heard the man, who he said is actually named Sam, discussing foreign policy recently.

"I can't even stand to hear (about the man)," Aleshire said.

Harsh said that McCain's plan to maintain tax cuts put in place by President Bush that went to the nation's wealthiest residents was bad for the economy.

Shank said that he got a tax cut under Bush's plan.

"I'm not fabulously wealthy," Shank said. "Joe the Plumber is not fabulously wealthy. I got a tax cut. I kind of like that tax cut. (Obama) wants to take that away."

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