Case was asked about his vote in favor of the Iraq war, a critical matter that, to my knowledge, has not been brought up in this U.S. Senate campaign — certainly not on live television broadcast across the state.
Case explained that, like many people including top Democrats, he believed a brutal dictator possessed weapons of mass destruction and had a history that showed he would use them.
The lesson learned, he said, was that Congress has to be much more critical when U.S. presidents present them with information that indicates war is the only option.
She said the other three members of Hawaii's congressional delegation at the time had the same information as Case yet voted against the war. Points for Mazie.
There were other revelatory moments in the debate, too, like where the candidates stand on use of unmanned killer drones and how they would evaluate a nominee to the U.S. Supreme Court.
Those are major issues for our next U.S. senator, yet Hawaii voters will likely not have the chance to hear the candidates debate them, directly and side by side.
Unless Oahu Democrats reschedule a forum they canceled last month, the Senate primary debates are pau.
Case accepted Boylan's offer to return to "Insights" for the Aug. 2 and 9 shows, the latter show just two days before the primary. But Hirono passed.
In this, Case scored points by stating that Hirono's plan for the next 58 days is to "go dark." Calling Hirono's refusal for more debates "a real tragedy," he argued that voters deserved more debates.
But Hirono said there had been plenty of debates and, besides, voters deserve a senator that "shares values."
Debates to be Rebroadcast
PBS Hawaii will likely rebroadcast Thursday's debate, too, or at minimum post it on its website.
I recommend viewing both; each served up clear differences (and not a few similarities) between the candidates.
Let's not use this space to recap the PBS show, except to say that Hirono's main argument for her candidacy is that she has a collaborative style that will enable her to work across the aisle to get things done in D.C. while Case frames the election about Hawaii having an opportunity to elect a national leader for the next generation.
But, as with the Iraq war and the debate over debates, several issues illustrated important differences between the candidates.
Hirono said she did not find the Obama administration's use of drones "terribly reassuring" and said she thought there should be parameters established to reduce civilian deaths.
Case said there is an "appropriate place" for drones in warfare because the country is at war. He agreed parameters were needed but said civilian deaths are always a risk in wars, and so he does not oppose drones if action is deemed necessary.
Asked about what they thought was important in a Supreme Court nominee — given, as Boylan said, the high court these days seems to have more influence in the country than the other two branches of government — Hirono mentioned legal skills and fairness.
But Case had more to say on the matter.
Noting that he had practiced law for most of the last 30 years, he would look for "superior legal ability" as well as fairness. He argued that Congress and the president should retain the lead on policy matters and that, while there should be no litmus test for justices, he would ask questions to determine whether nominees were too far to the left or right.
Case also expressed a little humility — a trait that most people do not associate with him — when he said he had learned from his losses for governor (against Hirono, and not Linda Lingle, as Boylan mistakenly said) and for senator against Akaka.
"Losses are more instructive than wins," he said.
Asked the same question, Hirono said her mother taught her to never give up and to stay rooted in values.
One other observation: Civil Beat was part of the debate.
Hirono criticized Case for voting to extend the Bush-era tax cuts, but Case countered that it had been disproven by the media (i.e., us).
In fact, a Civil Beat Fact Check determined that Hirono was wrong to say in a TV ad that Case voted for the Bush tax cuts. Voting to extend them is another matter, however. It's kind of complicated. Read our Fact Check.
Case also pointed to Civil Beat's recent poll on the Senate race that showed Case has a 16-point advantage over Lingle in a general election matchup compared with Hirono's 5-point lead over the Republican.