Vermont’s congressional delegation, especially junior Sen. Bernie Sanders and Congressman Peter Welch, are familiar faces on cable TV. But their interviews are normally brief and comments fairly cautious.
On Sunday morning, however, Welch was a bit more candid during more than an hour on “UP with Chris Hayes,” a weekend MSNBC panel show. He offered analysis and opinions during wide ranging discussions of small business and issues that should have come up – but didn’t – during the recent presidential debate. He also used every opportunity to mention his home state.
Welch said he was “astonished” by President Obama’s recent debate performance, describing it as a major missed opportunity. “The president had an opportunity to show he was a fighter when Romney stole the show. That was the time to hold him accountable,” Welch said.
He found the general tone of the debate “beltway-centric.” As for the Romney’s performance and positions, Welch quipped, “What planet are we on?”
During the first hour, Welch traded views with the Hayes, the garrulous, left-leaning Washington editor of The Nation, and panelists JJ Ramberg, an MSNBC business show host, former White House Commerce official Ro Khanna, and Chris Rabb, author of “Invisible Capital.” The discussion explored the definition of small business, which enterprises create the most jobs, and why smaller businesses should be given special preferences.
Is some of the deference to small business “political cant?” asked Hayes. Welch agreed, and noted the tendency to avoid a clear definition. “But some small businesses get the job done,” Welch said, and both large and small enterprises are necessary for a healthy economy. “Small business talk needs to focus on demand,” he said.
Welch talked about the difference between being a state legislator in a colleagial environment and dealing with the polarized process in the U.S. Congress. He also weighed in on the importance of education and infrastructure development to business success, specifically mentioning the need for more broadband service in Vermont.
After the first hour, Welch remained at the table with three new panelists, including Salon.com writer Rebecca Traister, university professor John MacWhorter, and comedian Liz Winsted for the debate postmortem.
When Hayes mentioned a marijuana legalization referendum on the Colorado ballot and argued that the presidential candidates should be pressed on the drug war, Welch chimed in about Vermont’s medical marijuana law. However, he neglected to mention that a similar legalization vote is on the Burlington ballot.
He was also disappointed that the presidential debate did not mention student loans and college debt, one of Welch’s key issues in recent months. As he often does, Welch mentioned that Vermont college students end up with an average $30,000 in debt.
“What will get us back on track?” he wondered. “They didn’t talk about that at all.”
Hayes found the lack of campaign debate over climate change “frustrating, maddening, depressing,” and accused Romney of flirting with “climate denial.” Welch agreed that it is a “huge issue” that “requires confidence to take it on,” and then found another way to insert a Vermont reference.
“We believe in efficiency and alternative energy,” Welch said.