Chatty and batty

    On November 2, the voters of Delaware have a golden opportunity to debase our civic culture and make their state the laughingstock of the nation. To accomplish these goals, they need only award a Senate seat to Sarah Palin’s batty kid sister.

    Christine O’Donnell put on quite a show last night, during her first scheduled debate with Democratic opponent Chris Coons, demonstrating in vivid fashion why she trails in the polls by double digits. The stuff she doesn’t know could fill a phone book, but it was actually worse than that. She doesn’t even seem to know what she doesn’t know. She just hurtles along, speed-chatting with the certitude of a talk radio talking head, blissfully oblivious to certain fundamentals of factual reality.

    For instance, the tea-party icon said: “We have got to tackle the deficit and the debt because our deficit is almost becoming equal to our national GDP. When your deficit – a country’s deficit equals your GDP, that’s when your currency collapses, your market collapses.” Huh? What? Somebody should take O’Donnell aside and teach her the basic difference between the deficit and the debt. The deficit is the amount by which expenses exceed revenues in a single budget year. The debt is the cumulative total of past deficits. A qualified Senate candidate would have referenced the debt, not the deficit.

    At another point, she was asked to cite any recent Supreme Court ruling that she opposes. Her response: “Oh gosh, give me a specific one.” She was then reminded that it was her job to cite a ruling. (After all, a qualified Senate candidate should not need to be fed the answers in advance.) Her response: “I’m sorry…I know that there are a lot.”

    At another point, she said: “Well, if you remember, when we were fighting the Soviets over there in Afghanistan in the ’80s and ’90s, we did not finish the job. So now we have a responsibility to finish the job.” Huh? What? Did I miss something while living in the ’80s and ’90s? Did an entire war, complete with American troops and body bags, somehow escape my consciousness?

    At another point, she warned that China has a plan to take over America. She said that she learned this in a briefing while working for a humanitarian group. Gee. I wasn’t aware that humanitarian groups receive such high-level briefings about impending national crises. She said, “We do have to look at China, because they own so much of our debt…Look at what’s going on. Right now, monetarily, China could take us over monetarily before they could militarily.” Yes, it’s true we’re increasingly in hock to China, but I wonder if she knows why. China’s investment in U.S. government debt more than tripled between 2001 and 2005 – largely because George W. Bush borrowed heavily from the Chinese to pay for his needless war in Iraq. A war that O’Donnell supported.

    At another point, O’Donnell was asked whether she still believes (as she stated on Bill Maher’s show a decade ago) that evolution is a myth. She dodged that one like a typical politician: “I believe that the local – I was talking about what a local school taught and that should be taught – that should be decided on the local community…Local schools should make that decision.” When she was urged to simply answer the question, she said, “What I believe is irrelevant…What I will support in Washington, D.C. is the ability for the local school system to decide what is taught in their classrooms and what I was talking about on that show was a classroom that was not allowed to teach creationism as an equal theory as evolution.” Bingo! In her mind, evolution is merely “an equal theory.” And, by the way, U.S. senators in Washington, D.C. have no jurisdiction over local schools.

    Most notable, however, was her extended foray into red-baiting McCarthyism, her return to the darkest days of the 1950s:

    “My opponent (Chris Coons) has recently said that it was studying under a Marxist professor that made him become a Democrat. So when you look at his position on things like raising taxes, which is one of the tenets of Marxism; not supporting eliminating death tax, which is a tenet of Marxism — I would argue that there are more people who support my Catholic faith than his Marxist beliefs, and I’m using his own words.”

    And, moments later, addressing Coons: “You writing an article saying that you learned your beliefs from an articulate, intelligent Marxist professor and that’s what made you become a Democrat, that should send chills up the spine of every Delaware voter…”

    Twenty five years ago, as a college student in Amherst, Coons wrote an article about studying abroad in Kenya. He never once stated that this particular professor made him become a Democrat; he actually made it quite clear in the article that his Amherst experiences shaped his views as a Democrat. But the Joseph McCarthy method is all about connecting nonexistent dots in order to craft a smear.

    O’Donnell tried a number of those. Note how she said that “raising taxes…is one of the tenets of Marxism.” Really? I guess, by that definition, conservative icon Ronald Reagan was a Marxist, too. Reagan was a Marxist in 1982 when he signed into law two tax increases – one of which was later characterized, in a Treasury Department study, as the largest peacetime tax hike in American history. Reagan was a Marxist in 1983 when he signed a Social Security payroll tax hike. He was a Marxist again in 1984 when he signed a tax hike in the Deficit Reduction Act. He was a Marxist in 1985, and again in 1987, when he signed tax hikes in a pair of budget reconciliation acts.

    Meanwhile, I wonder how the voters of New Castle County, Delaware feel about O’Donnell’s McCarthyism. After all, she basically said last night that those voters were duped into twice electing a guy with “Marxist beliefs” to serve as their county executive. Some voters might well view her insinuation as an insult. Especially since this “Marxist” managed to sustain the county’s Triple-A bond rating.

    A few hours before the Delaware debate, Mike Castle, the moderate who was beaten by O’Donnell in the GOP primary, framed the political stakes during an interview on CNN: “We’re now raising the serious question of whether or not we can elect very conservative candidates – extremists in some cases,” referring specifically to Delaware. Last night, the extremist in Delaware did little to enhance her chances.

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