Yesterday's Delaware Senate debate showed how much Christine O'Donnell has learned from her Mama Grizzly mentor, Sarah Palin. Here, five ways she read from Palin's playbook.
1. She is unable to name a recent Supreme Court case she disagreed with.
O'Donnell stumbled and then said, "I'm sorry, I'll put it up on my Web site, I promise." Blitzer supplied Roe v. Wade, but O'Donnell pointed out that they'd asked for "recent." Palin flubbed this exact same question in an interview with Katie Couric. The moral of the story is that far-right conservatives only care about the Supreme Court when they want to use it as a big, bad babykilling villain (or conversely, when it's enabling unchecked corporate spending on their campaigns.)
2. She makes shit up.
This wasn't limited to the debate, but opponent Chris Coons got the chance to call her out on it, referring to the material on her website as follows: "Some of them are just flat out lies, some of them are mischaracterizations, some of them are just factually untrue."
3. She makes vague, unsubstantiated accusations about a candidate's past to tap into Sixties culture wars.
Coons once wrote a joking article in college in which the headline referred to being a "bearded Marxist." According to The Times, O'Donnell "said the influence of a Marxist college professor on Coons' political beliefs should 'send chills up the spine of every Delaware voter.'" Palling around with terrorists, anyone? "If it were accurate, if it were true, I'd agree," Coons responded. "It's not accurate and it's not true." He also said, "If you take five minutes and read the article, it's very clear that it's a joke! I am not now, and I have never been, anything but a clean-shaven capitalist!" Joe McCarthy would be proud.
4. She makes vague, unsubstantiated accusations about health care reform.
It may not be a lie of "death panel" proportions, but O'Donnell repeated, "Uncle Sam has no business coming in the examination room." Coons said, "That's a great slogan, you toss it around everywhere you go." He asked her what it actually meant, but she obviously didn't know.
5. She pretends to be down with Saturday Night Live mockery
Coons continued to try to take the high road when it came to O'Donnell's past statements and personal financial difficulties. At which point O'Donnell joked, "You're just jealous you weren't on Saturday Night Live. She's one round of mockery away from gamely bopping away alongside her imitator.
At The Atlantic, James Fallows argues that O'Donnell is both better (in the TV sense) and worse (in the real-life politics sense) than Palin. Even Palin squirmed when it was found that she had no fucking clue what she was talking about.
In this debate tonight, O'Donnell has not seemed uncomfortable for one second** — even in her most obvious dodge, about whether she really thinks evolution is a "myth." The difference is, she is a talk show regular. Among the many things wrong with talking-head gab shows, which have proliferated/ metastasized in the past generation — they're cheap to produce, they fill air time, they make journalists into celebrities, they suit the increasing political niche-ization of cable networks — is that they reward an affect of breezy confidence on all topics and penalize admissions of complexity, of ignorance on a specific topic, or of the need for time to think.
O'Donnell comes across as a perfect, unflappable product of the talk-show culture.
Let's hope she maintains her pathetic showing in the polls and goes back to TV where she belongs.