‡Oct 3, 2012
(As an aside: I don't buy the media spin that it was a gaffe when Warren started to answer a question about which Republican now in the Senate she could work with on major issues by citing Dick Lugar. Dick Lugar is "now in the Senate," as David Gregory phrased the question, even if Lugar won't be there once the next Congress is sworn in. And while a Democrat might be able to work with, say, Marco Rubio on immigration reform, or Rand Paul on limiting government surveillance of private citizens, on "major issues," the Republicans who will be calling the shots if Scott Brown is reelected have no interest whatsoever in working with any Democrats.)
Last Friday in the race to succeed retiring Senator Herb Kohl, former Wisconsin Governor Tommy Thompson and Madison area Congressman Tammy Baldwin met in what was billed as a debate. It was no such thing; the format consisted them taking turns answering questions from four TV/radio people. They each got to give one answer to each question, and there was no opportunity for rebuttal or response to each other. The one time a questioner asked what he called a follow-up question, he changed the subject from abortion to marriage equality. Well, that's not a follow-up question; that's a question asked out of turn.
Having breezed through several debates in his races for governor, Thompson was at ease with the format, repeating his favorite talking points frequently but as if they were fresh new thoughts each time -- so that any given one of those sound bites could be used in news reports or his own campaign commercials. Baldwin faltered a bit more at the outset, with enough umms and uhhs that I began to wonder if she had only crammed for the event on the drive to the studio. But she addressed the questions directly, with detailed facts, and without harping on a select few talking points all night; and she seemed more comfortable by the end of the hour.
And, unlike Thompson, Baldwin did not come off as downright scornful of her opponent. It rang strange when, after Baldwin had given her answer to a late-in-the-debate question asking what could be done to keep Asian carp out of the Great Lakes, Thompson blurted out with mock astonishment, "I'm absolutely surprised! That's the first time I haven't been blamed for something or George W. Bush!"
Thompson brought up his wife three times during the debate, although, curiously, he never said her name. Now, admittedly, that's fewer times than he said that he'd cut taxes 91 times, but one wonders what kind of point he was trying to make. There was nothing all evening that he said that he hadn't planned beforehand to say. I have to suspect that this was a "dog whistle" to the people whom he wanted to remind that Ms. Baldwin is one of those scary lesbians.
What else went on during the evening?
We learned that somehow, when nobody was looking, Tommy Thompson built a hospital in Afghanistan. The morning-after research finds that not all is well with that particular project:
A contractor's assessment of the hospital found that Afghan physicians at the hospital often did not have basic knowledge of anatomy and physiology and lacked skills needed to resuscitate women and infants. In addition, the hospital routinely lacked basic supplies, including surgical gloves and antibiotics.More impressively, he also built Wisconsin. He even claimed to have brought Wisconsin unemployment down below 2%. (Politifact disagreed with an earlier claim of 2.1%.) But don't blame him for any of today's problems. He's not in Congress, he's a private sector.