WOODBRIDGE – On the same day Murray Sabrin denounced as "fascist" a work written seventeen years ago by state Sen. Joseph Pennacchio (R-Morris), the two Republican candidates for U.S. Senate intensified their debate at a forum sponsored by the Woodbridge Township Republican Organization.
Sabrin, an economics and finance professor at Ramapo College, last night stood by his characterization of Pennacchio's self-published work, The Nationalist Agenda, a Blueprint for the 21st Century, as a "fascist manifesto" and reiterated his demand that Pennacchio drop out of the race.
"Calling for the government to put people in camps is un-American and nothing that Americans should be advocating," said Sabrin, referring to ideas in a chapter from Pennacchio's book titled "Solving the Homeless Problem." "To single out a group of people for being placed in a government military camp is unacceptable and repugnant policy."
Sabrin likened the idea to the U.S. government holding Japanese Americans in internment camps during WW II.
Firing back prior to the debate, Pennacchio labeled Sabrin's comments about his 94-page work as the desperate and hateful words of a fringe candidate.
Pennacchio, the front-runner after tangling with Sabrin and former U.S. Senate candidate Anne Evans Estabrook in nearly half a dozen county contests, said he wrote about housing homeless people in abandoned military bases in the years following the end of the Cold War when the government anticipated base closings.
"We're talking about putting roofs over people's heads, giving them housing, blankets, food," said Pennacchio, a dentist and first term state senator. "Nobody's saying you should be forced to go. How do you draw a nexus between that and concentration camps? How dare he. How dare he. Shame on him."
The passage in question from Pennacchio's The Nationalist Agenda, reads: "Why not put many existing domestic military bases to good use? These bases in many instances are self-contained miniature cities. Housing, grounds, military fire and police protection are all in place. Our national defense should not be limited to defense of foreign invaders. The enemy within, consisting of poverty and despair can be a far more immediate and destructive force. Taking these people and separating them into various military camps would be a first step in the mainstreaming of our homeless back into society."
Pennacchio said Sabrin's selection of the word "fascist" indicates his rival's ill-fitness to hold public office as a U.S. senator. "What happens when he disagrees with you?" Pennacchio asked. "He's going to call you names?"
Urging people to read the work in its entirety before they judge, Pennacchio said his positions on abortion and gun control and some other issues have evolved from the time he wrote The Nationalist Agenda – not an uncommon occurrence for a politician, he noted. U.S. Sen. John McCain, the presumptive GOP nominee for president, changed his position on the issue of illegal immigration from what it was six months ago, said Pennacchio. Abraham Lincoln, he said, at first intended only to preserve the union, not free the slaves.
"Now imagine Murray Sabrin going to Washington, with such rigidity," said Pennacchio. "Shameful.
"This is about how we can help people, can you imagine the idea of trying to help people?" added Pennacchio, who would not discount the idea of housing homeless people in abandoned military facilities. "It's a feasible idea, not a fascist idea."
When they faced the small crowd and fielded seven questions from the Woodbridge GOP, Sabrin stood by his call from earlier in the day for Pennacchio to exit the contest.
"Regrettably, I called on my opponent to leave this race because of things he called for," said Sabrin. "I had to do that as a matter of conscience."