I held off on talking about Delaware Senate candidate Christine O'Donnell until I could see and hear for myself what she sounds like in a debate or interview setting with a serious journalist. Those criteria were met Wednesday night with CNN anchorman Wolf Blitzer co-moderating a debate between O'Donnell and Democrat Chris Coons at the University of Delaware in Newark.
To be honest, I was distressed by how much of the mainstream press has been acting like a bunch of snobby teenagers putting O'Donnell down for not being as supposedly cool and clever as they are. Seeing them mock her in their columns or on TV talk shows, one instantly understood why so much of American hates the press.
That said, I do have to acknowledge O'Donnell is a real piece of work. Listening to her talk about how we have to "cut off Uncle Sam's spending" and how "Uncle Sam has no business coming betwen you and your doctor," it almost sounds as if she believes there's a tall guy in striped pants, suspenders and top hat walking around Washington creating all kinds of fiscal mayhem. And if we can just get him under control, all our problems will be solved.
And she does seem a little over the top when she says "it should send chills up everyone's spine" that her opponent allegedly said he "learned his beliefs from a Marxist professor" while in college. Even if it's true, if we can forget all the crazy stuff she's admitted to being involved in during her 20s, maybe being overly impressed with a leftist professor could be forgiven, too. Don't you think, Christine? And "chills" up the spine?
I tried to look past all the wild stuff said about her to see what it was about this candidate that led to her upset victory in the primary race, but I honestly couldn't find any real takeaway. I wanted to see some honesty and new answers, but I saw nothing much to get excited about.
I was especially distressed by some of her answers to Blitzer when he pressed her with very specific, sound questions.
"Do you think evolution is a myth?" he asked pointedly.
"That should be dealt with on the local level," she replied.
"But what do you believe?"
"What I believe is irrelevant," she insisted, "because I would leave it for the local school system to decide."
That is not a fresh and honest voice. That's a lips-are-moving-platitude-talking-empty-suit answer.
Blitzer, who is an excellent questioner, asked her if she wanted to repeal the healthcare reforms that she referred to Wednesday night as "Obamacare."
She said she did.
He then asked her if she was against the reforms because they "mandated" that people had to purchase health insurance.
When she said she was, he asked her what she would then do with someone under her ideal system of voluntary health insurance who did not buy any coverage, but then showed up at the energency room in medical distress seeking care. Should they be treated? If so, who should pay for it?
That was where she insisted "Uncle Sam has no business coming in the examination room, coming between you and your doctor."
Blitzer did a nice job of exposing how much she relies on a few platitudes rather than a political philosophy. Good for him. But bad for CNN, the way it cut away from the debate at about 8:20 to take us to a studio desk that featured Eliot Spitzer, Kathleen Parker and Candy Crowley presumably anchoring coverage of the run-up to the last miner being rescued in Chile. I say presumably because I have no idea what Spitzer and Parker were doing there.
My one thought after about 10 seconds of Spitzer: I should have watched on C-SPAN if I really wanted to see this debate. Why did I trust CNN, which is clearly struggling these days and nights to figure out whether it is still committed to journalism or the likes of Eliot Spitzer.
Right after I finish this post, I am writing another one about the banality of the Parker-Spitzer chatter during this monumental event in Chile.
My last thought on this, O'Donnell is kind of pathetic. But after saying what a disappointment I found her to be, I still like her better than the drab, smarmy guy she's running against, Coons.
Delaware has my sympathy if this is all the voters there have to choose from for a Senate seat.