Kyrillos and Menendez Debate at Temple Beth Shalom in Livingston
Tuesday, October 23, 2012 • 9:53am
LIVINGSTON, NJ- With Governor Mitt Romney and President Barack Obama holding their final debate before Election Day, congregants at Temple Beth Shalom in Livingston were privy to their own debate Monday night. State Senator Joe Kyrillos and United States Senator Robert Menendez squared off in a Candidates Forum sponsored by the Community Relations Committee (CRC) of Jewish Federation of Greater Metrowest and N.J. State Association of Jewish Federations.
The questions were asked by the CRC government affairs co-chairs Ken Rotter and Janice Schindler and the audience. The main issues discussed were Iran, Syria, the debt, senior programs, Medicaid and the Affordable Care Act.
Both candidates agreed Iran is a threat to the U.S. and Israel and expressed their support for the Jewish nation, as well. Kyrillos said sanctions against Iran are vital, but appear to have been implemented too late.
“Iran is the greatest threat to our country and Israel,” Kyrillos said. “We need to stand shoulder to shoulder with the Israelis.”
What is going on in Syria is horrific and should not be tolerated, he said. A ”thug” like Syrian President Bashar Assad should not be in power, he said.
America is staring the debt crisis in the face and it’s not going away anytime soon, he said. He said it’s not one person’s fault, but it must be fixed.
“We have a huge crisis in our country that we have to fess up to,” he said.
Assisting seniors and improving Medicaid are essential as the nation heads into the future, Kyrillos said. However, he said social security and Medicaid could cease to exist if they are not reformed.
America does not spend money wisely and, as a result, hospitals and healthcare are being negatively affected, Kyrillos said.
“We need to spend our money smarter,” he said. “I think when we make big dramatic changes in our American society we need to do it in a bipartisan way.”
Menendez said he is pro- Israel and is surprised Obama has not yet met with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu. Netanyahu calls for a red line and Menendez said he agrees with him. He is fearful of what Iran could do to Israel.
“Iran cannot have nuclear weapons,” he said. “Iran cannot have capability to have nuclear weapons.”
While Iran is the biggest threat in the Middle East, Menendez stressed not to forget about Syria, Lebanon and Hamas. There is too much bloodshed and lives lost every day, he said. Because of Syria’s deep air defense and their Russian set of ships, they are a complicated nation, he said.
“I am concerned about weapons that are going to the most fundamental elements inside of Syria and that is not in our long term national interest,” he said.
The biggest problem America is facing is the debt crisis, he said. If it isn’t fixed soon, it will get worse, he said. He is on a committee to reduce it, but it’s going to take time, the senator said.
There needs to be cuts all across the board, Menendez said. Big oil companies shouldn’t be given $24 billion and $6 billion shouldn’t be doled out to farmers producing ethanol either, he added.
“The challenge is finding the right balance and the right mix,” he said.
The Affordable Care Act, and improved Medicaid and social security are essential for society, he said. Medicaid needs to be more effective and efficient, the senator said.
Randolph resident Meyer Rosenthal, who has seen Menendez speak before, said he attended the debate because this is one of the most important elections in a long time and he wanted to hear the candidates' thought on various issues. He was impressed with both candidates, but felt Menendez had the upper hand.
“Despite the presidency being up for election, the Senate is very critical for what’s happening,” Rosenthal said. “I think Senator Menendez clearly has a much better handle on the issues.”