The ‘Meet the Press’ Senate debate — advantage Kirk; here’s why

On Sunday, “Meet the Press” moderator David Gregory staged the first of the one-on-one weekly debates between Senate candidates in the lead-up to the Nov. 2 elections.

In this week’s match-up — for Barack Obama’s Senate seat in Illionis — between Republican Congressman Mark Kirk and Democratic Illinois Treasurer Alexi Giannoulias, neither man came away looking like a hero. In the setup piece, the Chicago Sun-Times’s Lynn Sweet characterized the race this way: “If all you're looking at is the negative side, you have a choice between a serial embellisher [Kirk] and a mob banker [Giannoulias].”

Still, the “mob banker” got the worst of the duel — even though he zinged the “serial embellisher” with some good one-liners —  because of the following devastating exchange with an exceedingly persistent David Gregory, who asked Giannoulias about loans his family’s bank (since shut down by the feds) made to felons, some with mob ties:

MR. GIANNOULIAS: Look … the way a, a community bank does business — I know when you run for office, these stories get sensationalized. When a bank decides who to give a loan to, they look at the credit worthiness of the borrower, they look at the credit score of the borrower, they look at the appraisal value of a property. So any, any bank, of course there are some individuals that — with colorful pasts that we didn’t want to do business with. But that doesn’t represent the thousands of people that ...

MR. GREGORY: But my question, Mr. Giannoulias, were you aware that there were crime figures who were getting loans by your bank?

MR. GIANNOULIAS: As ...

MR. GREGORY: You were a loan officer there.

MR. GIANNOULIAS: As I, as I continue to mention, as I continue to say, if I knew now what I know — if I knew then what I know now, these aren’t the kind of people that we do business with.

MR. GREGORY: All right.

MR. GIANNOULIAS: But that’s not how banks work.

MR. GREGORY: So you’re saying you didn’t know, you didn’t know? I mean, that’s the, that’s the easy question. Did you know that they were crime figures that your bank was loaning money to?

MR. GIANNOULIAS: As I’ve said, I didn’t — we didn’t know the extent of that activity. But again, if you look at any bank ...

MR. GREGORY: You didn’t know the extent, but you knew that they had — that they were ...

MR. GIANNOULIAS: If you knew — David, if you look at, if you look at any bank, an even bigger bank, you’re going to find hundreds of individuals that ...

MR. GREGORY: That’s not what I’m asking. Mr. Giannoulias, did you know that they were crime figures that you were loaning money to?

MR. GIANNOULIAS: I didn’t know the extent of their activity, of course not.

MR. GREGORY: Didn’t know the extent of it.


Cue to Mark Kirk’s next commercial.

Disclosure: My husband has contributed to Giannoulias.

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