Ringside at the Berman vs. Sherman Heavyweight Bout

Joel Fox
Editor of Fox & Hounds and President of the Small Business Action Committee

One could imagine a capacity crowd at the old Olympic Auditorium venue for many an LA boxing match, with the turnout at Temple Judea in Tarzana last night to see Democratic Congressmen Howard Berman and Brad Sherman slug it out in a debate. Republican Mark Reed was on the scene, too, and he got in a few sharp blows.

Because the two veteran Democratic congressmen were placed in the same district with overwhelming Democratic registration, some experts believe the contest will last all the way to November under the new top-two primary rule.

The debate hosted by the Jewish Journal saw the temple’s main sanctuary filled to capacity with a couple of overflow rooms set up with monitors for those who couldn’t squeeze into the main event.

Like a prize fight of old, the audience was studded with notable personalities who came to watch the action, including LA County Supervisor Zev Yaroslavsky, LA City Council members Dennis Zine and Jan Perry, Assembly member Bob Blumenfield, and city attorney Carmen Trutanich.

The combatants wasted no time trying to bloody their opponents.

Berman said he often accomplished success by working with others but not always taking the credit. However, he declared early on he was at the debate to “blow the trumpet more loudly.”

They battled over who offered the toughest sanctions against Iran to stop that country from developing nuclear weapons. Sherman said the US was too slow in supplying severe sanctions. Berman offered that he was the author of the most severe sanctions.

The sanction issue brought a series of jabs back and forth with Berman angrily denouncing Sherman for, he said, knowingly distorting his record. “For him to invert the truth is … Brad!”

Reed fired off a couple of roundhouse hooks that seemed to light up many in the audience when he charged that the policies of both Sherman and Berman had failed for thirty years and that his candidacy represented the voters against the status quo.

Sherman and Berman locked up in clinches pounding away on who best supported Israel, the positions they took on military intervention in Libya and their stand on the Stop Online Piracy Act.

Berman was a key supporter of the SOPA measure, a position recognized by the entertainment industry. Sherman said he was a co-sponsor, a position mocked by Berman.

The two traded punches on Sherman’s call for Berman to sign a pledge not to accept money from Super PACs. Berman called the pledge request “a gimmick.”

Pointing out that Berman opposed the pledge not to accept Super PAC money, but at the same time called for a constitutional amendment that would outlaw Super PACs, Sherman counterpunched, “You can’t have your Super PAC and eat it, too.”

The Super PAC issue was involved with Senator Barbara Boxer’s decision earlier in the day to jump off the fence and endorse Berman. She reacted negatively to a mailer sent by the Sherman campaign that tied Berman to the PG&E utility company and the deadly 2010 San Bruno pipeline explosion because PG&E gave money to Berman through a Super PAC.

Maybe the most telling punch was delivered inadvertently when questioner Bill Boyarsky, former Los Angeles Times editor and now a writer for the Jewish Journal, said it was time to “get down to the street level.” He was attempting to segue into a discussion on roads.

Berman took it another way. “Let’s get up to the street level,” he said.

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