Second Debate for US Senator Mostly Ignores Foreign Policy

Second Debate for US Senator Mostly Ignores Foreign Policy

(L-R) Rep. Adam Schiff in Los Angeles on May 26, 2023. (Jerod Harris/Getty Images for Demand Justice); Rep. Katie Porter in Washington on April 18, 2023. (Tasos Katopodis/Getty Images for Patriotic Millionaires); Rep. Barbara Lee in Oakland, Calif., on May 21, 2023. (Kimberly White/Getty Images for Demand Justice); Former Dodgers baseball player Steve Garvey in Los Angeles on October 7, 2013. (Stephen Dunn/Getty Images)

John Seiler

John Seiler


Updated: 2/15/2024

The second debate for U.S. Senator from California should have been a lot better. Moderators Nikki Laurenzo of FOX40 in Sacramento and Frank Buckley of KTLA in Los Angeles asked almost no foreign policy questions of the four candidates: Democratic Reps. Adam Schiff, Katie Porter, and Barbara Lee, and Republican former Los Angeles Dodgers and San Diego Padres star Steve Garvey.
Yet foreign policy is the Senate’s main responsibility. Unlike for the U.S. House of Representatives, it is only the Senate that approves or rejects treaties with foreign countries. And only it approves or disapproves the president’s nominees for the cabinet departments of State and Defense; and the heads of the CIA, Army, Navy, Air Force, and numerous other positions.
Yet China came up only twice, in passing. First, in an early question on the border crisis, Mr. Garvey said, “On day one, the president [Joe Biden] opened the floodgates and created a crisis in the United States. He should be the one to step up and close the border. He should be the one. Let’s stop the infiltration of the [Mexican] cartels. Let’s stop drugs, rampant drugs coming into this country from China, by the way. Let’s stop human trafficking. We do have a system in place. A system that has worked for a hundred years. A pathway for coming to these United States legally.”
Later on, China came up, oddly, under a question was about age limits for political office. The context was last week’s report from Special Counsel Robert Hur on President Biden’s storage of classified documents in his home. It found he could not stand trial because, “At trial, Mr. Biden would likely present himself to a jury, as he did during our interview of him, as a sympathetic, well-meaning, elderly man with a poor memory.”
Mr. Biden is 81 and former President Trump is 77. The Senate seat the candidates are vying for was held for three decades by the late Sen. Dianne Feinstein, who died in office last year at age 90. At the debate, the first to respond was Ms. Porter, at 50 the youngest of the candidates. Ms. Lee is 77, Mr. Garvey 75, and Mr. Schiff 63.
Ms. Porter said, “President Biden and his administration have delivered for Californians. We know. We hear this when talking to people about the fact that insulin, for example, is now $35. That we’ve invested in bringing back manufacturing jobs here to the United States. And that we’re investing in clean energy to help us compete with China.” So she avoided answering the question. At least China got a mention.
Democrat Rep. Katie Porter, Senate candidate, speaks during a debate in San Francisco on Feb. 12, 2024. (KRON4/Screenshot via The Epoch Times)

Democrat Rep. Katie Porter, Senate candidate, speaks during a debate in San Francisco on Feb. 12, 2024. (KRON4/Screenshot via The Epoch Times)

Taiwan came up briefly toward the end, in relation to aid to Israel and Ukraine. Asked about the White House requesting $75 billion in aid for the wars in Ukraine and Israel, and whether there should be a cap, Ms. Lee was first to respond, “There should be accountability. U.S. taxpayers deserve to know that their tax dollars are going for a purpose which assures there’s accountability and transparency. It is very important also to make sure that all of our international laws are complied with in terms of the rules of engagement with regard to countries that are engaged in warfare. And the Ukrainian people deserve our support. [Russian President] Putin, of course, is trying to dismantle democracy in Ukraine. Eastern Europe is not disconnected to what Donald Trump has tried to do in terms of toppling our democracy here in America. So I don’t believe we can say there should be a cap. But there should be accountability.”
Mr. Garvey said, “I agree with Ms. Lee. We have to be diligent. We have to have accountability. Again, we carry the torch for democracy around the world. We support our allies. We stand with them. We stand there for their needs. The humanitarian loss alone, with men and boys, and a generation of the future shows us we stick fast with the needs of our allies.”
Mr. Schiff said, “What Vladimir Putin did in invading Russia”—he misspoke and meant Ukraine—“threatens not only democracy and the sovereignty of Ukraine, but threatens all of us, threatens democracy all around the world. I wouldn’t put any kind of artificial cap. There should be accountability, but I wouldn’t put a cap on it.” He attacked Republican House Speaker Mike Johnson for holding up the aid package.
Ms. Porter finally brought up Taiwan and, implicitly, the threat to it by communist China. She said, “The United States needs to stand up for freedom, for democracy, and for human rights. And we need to do that around the world. Our own democracy is only going to be safe if we are fighting for those values around the world. So I support aid to Ukraine and aid to Israel. I support aid to Taiwan. I think it is important that we are requiring that that aid be given and comply with all foreign and international laws. I drive a minivan with the license plate OVERSIGHT. I really care about how we spend our tax dollars.”
That was followed by final, irrelevant questions on what were the candidates’ favorite movies and books. What a wasted opportunity to delve into their views on Russia and China, or for that matter India, Brazil, Venezuela, Cuba, Indonesia, Vietnam, etc.
Democrat Rep. Adam Schiff, Senate candidate, speaks during a debate in San Francisco on Feb. 12, 2024. (KRON4/Screenshot via The Epoch Times)

Democrat Rep. Adam Schiff, Senate candidate, speaks during a debate in San Francisco on Feb. 12, 2024. (KRON4/Screenshot via The Epoch Times)

Other Issues

There was a good discussion on aid to Israel in its war with Hamas, and on Iran’s involvement in aiding Hamas and other militant groups in the Middle East. But all the candidates pretty much agreed on backing Israel and doing something about Iran.
The main difference among was on a two-state solution to the Israel-Palestine crisis. The Democrats all supported it. But Mr. Garvey said, “To think there could be a two-state solution is naive, because one of those states will always try to annihilate Israel.”
To return to the age issue, Mr. Schiff clarified he did not favor age limits for Supreme Court justices, but term limits, to rotate justices off the court. These questions basically were irrelevant because it would take an amendment to the U.S. Constitution to make any changes, and that isn’t going to happen. In particular, elderly senators aren’t going to pass an amendment that would remove them from office.
Mr. Schiff’s position is ironic for an old conservative like me. I remember in in the 1960s, when I was first getting interested in politics, it was conservatives who wanted term limits to the court. They hated the ultra-liberal Warren Court and charged it was “nine old men” wrecking the Constitution. There also was a movement to “impeach Earl Warren,” the chief justice.
In those days conservatives were angry at the court’s far-left rulings. Today it’s leftists upset about the court’s recent rulings overturning the 1973 Roe v. Wade decision that had imposed abortion nationally, banning affirmative action, and affirming Second Amendment gun rights.
But if Mr. Biden is reelected, new appointees likely will reverse all those rulings. After which there will be no more talk by Mr. Schiff or anyone on the left about term limits for the court.
Another waste of time was the discussion of the minimum wage, which at the federal level is $7.25 an hour. Both Ms. Porter and Mr. Schiff have called for a higher amount, from $20 to $25. Which would kill jobs in such low-cost places as rural Tennessee and Arkansas.
Democrat Rep. Barbara Lee, Senate candidate, speaks during a debate in San Francisco on Feb. 12, 2024. (KRON4/Screenshot via The Epoch Times)

Democrat Rep. Barbara Lee, Senate candidate, speaks during a debate in San Francisco on Feb. 12, 2024. (KRON4/Screenshot via The Epoch Times)

Ms. Lee then was asked about her support for a $50 minimum wage. She said she only meant it for California, because of the high cost of living here. But that would kill many millions of jobs in this state. For the record, for Californians currently the minimum wage is $16. For most fast-food workers it’s $20 starting April 1. And over the next several years, for health-care workers, it rises to $25.
Mr. Garvey then was asked about the high cost of housing. He reiterated his call to cut regulations and “just get back to free-market capitalism” to build more housing. It’s a theme he’s been emphasizing lately and makes a good contrast to the “government always is best” approach of his opponents.

Conclusion: It Should Have Been Better

A main problem with this debate is it was just an hour. That’s way too short for four candidates. Two hours would have been much better, allowing more time especially for a discussion of foreign policy.
The latest USC poll showed Mr. Schiff ahead at 25 percent, followed by Ms. Porter and Mr. Garvey at 15 percent each, with Ms. Lee trailing at 7 percent. As I noted in my Feb. 12 Epoch Times article, “What Political Flyers Show Us About California’s March 5 Election,” Mr. Schiff is sending out flyers trying to boost Mr. Garvey, so Ms. Porter, his fellow Democrat, is not on the Nov. 5 ballot.
Ballots already have been received by most voters. So at this point, the key will be TV and social media ads. According to Ballotpedia, Mr. Schiff leads in campaign funds with $28 million to $25 million for Ms. Porter, $4 million for Ms. Lee, and $610,921 for Mr. Garvey. That was as of the last reporting period on Dec. 31. The numbers no doubt are higher now, especially for Mr. Garvey.
The third and last debate will be Feb. 20 at Universal Studios Hollywood. That’s appropriate in this time of mass media manipulation. Let’s hope the candidates at least discuss foreign policy for more than a couple of minutes.
Republican Steve Garvey, Senate candidate, speaks during a debate in San Francisco on Feb. 12, 2024. (KRON4/Screenshot via The Epoch Times)

Republican Steve Garvey, Senate candidate, speaks during a debate in San Francisco on Feb. 12, 2024. (KRON4/Screenshot via The Epoch Times)

John Seiler

John Seiler


John Seiler is a veteran California opinion writer. Mr. Seiler has written editorials for The Orange County Register for almost 30 years. He is a U.S. Army veteran and former press secretary for California state Sen. John Moorlach. He blogs at and his email is

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