Tuesday, October 05, 2004


I saw two senatorial debates last night on C-Span, and both were quite interesting. In PA, Dem Joe Hoeffel was up against Arlen Specter, along with two fringe crazies: Clymer from the Constitution Party, and a scary lady named Betsy Summers from the Libertarian camp. (Have you noticed how these Libertarians--whenever they're allowed in the debates--are always the stupidest people you've ever seen? They sound almost literally retarded, as though they have no clue what language is. They're like sub-Republicans but with an anti-war bent.)

Specter--who very nearly lost to wingnut Clymer in the Republican primary--tried to do his "I'm being attacked from the far right and the far left, and here I am in the center" dance. Hoeffel is really a good candidate--smart, appealing, engaging, unfortunately bald--it's a shame he doesn't seem to stand a chance in this race, if the polls are to be believed. Specter looks like the dyed- and rouged-up old fop from Death in Venice. A tired old man who may have done some good things for his state, but who serves at the pleasure of criminals.

The other race was pretty incredible--Democrat Brad Carson vs. Tom Coburn for the Oklahoma seat being vacated by Don Nickles. If you've never seen Oklahoma politics in action, it's really something. You have to mention faith or God in every line. Carson truly looked evangelical, possessed by some kind of otherworldly grace. He alluded positively to President Bush whenever he could. He's basically running as a conservative Republican, with Tom Coburn as a kind of off-the-map goblin. I've never seen a worse candidate than Coburn. He looks and sounds miserable. He's made gaffe after verbal gaffe in this campaign, insulting Indians, western Oklahoma, Oklahoma City, and the working class. He's been hounded by a resurfaced news story in which he was found to have sterilized a woman without her consent during an operation (Coburn is somehow a doctor).

And yet, he's still running close with blond, golden-faced, golden-tongued (but conservatively Democratic) Carson. That tells you something about Oklahoma, a state that can endure any amount of abject economic suffering and still cite gay marriage as its number one issue of concern.

So: Edwards. Does he go all Smily Nice Guy to preserve his positive image and contrast with Darth Cheney? Does he echo Kerry's potent homeland security themes from the first debate, or leave Kerry's message to Kerry? Does he go on the attack and try to press Cheney on some of Cheney's most egregious, stubborn lies (like the Saddam-9/11 connection)? Does he beat the Halliburton drum, shaking a little Enron in there, and connect it to larger economic themes? What does he do when Cheney, sneering and speaking in a soft, measured tone, unabashedly lies into the camera?

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