GOP candidate for Congress Chris Collins reportedly has a history of saying things he maybe shouldn't, and his opponent in the race for the NY-27 has shown she's willing to use those statements against him in the campaign.
“All of us are human," Hochul said in an interview Thursday. "It’s important if you misspeak that you own it and say you made a mistake."
But, she added, “When there’s a pattern, then it’s trouble. If it’s an honest mistake that is a different category.”
As for criticizing Collins for saying people no longer die from cancer in an interview with The Batavian, Hochul said she thinks the comment raises legitimate policy concerns that should held up to scrutiny.
“He said it was out of context," Hochul said. "It looked like it read in context to me. He also said he misspoke, but either way, if you’re going to engage in this level of debate and criticize health policy that provides care to people with preexisting conditions, if you want to have these conversations, it’s important to state your position clearly."
Collins readily admits he makes statements that are easy targets for his political opponents, but he said that's just a byproduct of his straightforward style.
“Clearly, I’m not a politician," Collins said. "I come out of the private sector. I speak very directly. I actually answer questions. I’m not someone who filters, who is consistently filtering everything you say.”
As for the cancer comment, Collins thinks it's ridiculous that anybody would believe he thinks people no longer die from cancer.
Opponents concentrating on just one portion of his full quote miss the overall point he was making, Collins said.
Clearly what he said is there've been advances in health care, Collins said, and new treatments are more costly, above any increase in inflation, than what existed even just 10 yeas ago.
"The result is we live a lot longer and people today are surviving where they may not have a decade ago," Collins said. "Thanks for advances in cancer treatment that saved my sister’s life."
Over the course of Collins's several years of public life, the former Erie County executive has been criticized many times for public statements, most notably in 2009, when Collins compared Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver to Hitler, and in 2010 when Collins was reported to have offered a woman a seat at an event in exchange for a lap dance.
“I will say, about the Shelly Silver comment, it was a poor attempt at a joke in front of a friendly audience," Collins said. "It didn’t come across and in hindsight, I should not have said that.
"As for the lap dance remark," Collins added. "It never happened. I can’t apologize for something I never said.”
During her year in Congress, Hochul has gotten into trouble for an apparent misstatement once.
Republicans jumped all over a statement by Hochul at a political forum in Erie County where she reportedly said, “Well, basically, we’re not looking to the Constitution on that aspect of it. Basically, the decision has been made by this Congress that American citizens are entitled to health care.”
Hochul thinks that the public is ready to forgive a politician a genuine mistake, but when they do say something inappropriate they should own the mistake.
"If you’re not adding anything positive to the policy debate, then you have to deal with the consequences," Hochul said.
In his interview published in The Batavian on June 24, Collins made other remarks that could be construed as politically sensitive misstatements, but Democrats have not pursued those comments as aggressievely as the cancer statement.
Most notably, Collins made statements that could lead one to conclude that the GOP nominee doesn't believe in civilian control of the military and that the president is commander-in-chief -- two concepts enshrined in the Constitution.
When asked if there was an opportunity to cut spending by cutting the military budget, Collins said, "It’s not my call. I would say you look to your military commanders, you say what is our mission and you look to the experts on how to achieve that mission in in the most cost-effective way, making sure they’ve got the tools they need to accomplish their mission."
Collins then added that President Barack Obama has been out of line in his handling of the military in Afghanistan.
"Whereas our current president has tried to micromanage the military," Collins said. "He’s replaced commanders in Afghanistan because they don’t agree with his policies."
In an interview Friday, Collins said he certainly supports civilian control of the military and understands the president is commander-in-chief.
“President Obama has politicized his position beyond what you would call a professional commander-in-chief," Collins said. "That’s just my opinion. Others may have a different opinion, but I know many people who share my opinion.
“The Constitution is the Constitution and he can do what he’s allowed to do, but that doesn't mean that what he does is right," Collins added.
From Hochul's point of view, Collins's remarks regarding the president's handling of Afghanistan is misplaced criticism.
"Regardless of party affiliation, the president of the United States remains the commander-in-chief," Hochul said. “When the president made a decision to take out Osama Bin Laden, some said that may have been too big a risk. I understand he overrode a lot of people when he made that decision, but I thank him on behalf of the people of this country that he did.”
Finally, as is often the case in taped interviews, the original statement from Collins on advances in health care was quite long and was trimmed to make for shorter reading. While we believe the quote as printed in the origional article fully explains the point Collins was attempting to make, for transparency's sake, below is his full statement. The part of the quote used in the original article is in bold.
"The fact of the matter is, healthcare today is different than healthcare was five, 10, 20 years ago. We didn’t have Lipitor, we didn’t have robotic surgery, we didn’t have what we have for prostrate cancer. People just died. People now don’t die from prostate cancer, breast cancer and some of the other things. The fact of the matter is, our healthcare today is so much better, we’re living so much longer, because of innovations in drug development, surgical procedures, stents, implantable cardiac defibrillators, neural stimulators -- they didn’t exist 10 years ago. The increase in cost is not because doctors are making a lot more money. It’s what you can get for healthcare, extending your life and curing diseases, and drugs that step in for high cholesterol and high blood pressure and everything else. Those are expensive, if anyone thinks that’s just free, we didn’t have them 20 years ago, so when people, I think, erroneously say, the increased cost of health care is more than inflation, they’re forgetting about, you’re getting a different product. Do you like the product you’re getting today or not? That’s decisions I think people have to make."