Monday, October 4, 2010

The Fox Debate

About that Rand Paul - Jack Conway debate, moderated yesterday by Chris Wallace: seems to me that it was a draw. Nobody said anything so outrageous or sagacious as to change the election. That means that Paul will likely retain his lead.

Having watched it three times, I was continually struck by the difference in the appearance of the candidates. Jack Conway looked like what he is: a rich trial lawyer -- rich enough to run a horse in the Derby. His suit (Canali, perhaps?) was exquisite, beautifully tailored. Between the suit, the Hair and the Jaw, he made quite a dashing image.

Rand Paul, not so much. His suit didn't even fit. Television make-up for men can be tricky, but Paul needed some translucent powder; the shine on his forehead was distracting. He looked pale and sickly. The up-side for Paul is that no one would mistake him for the career politician in the race.

On the merits, Paul was able to put into context some of his past remarks that form the basis of Conway's advertising. Paul was particularly strong about the $2000 deductible for Medicare. He made clear that he would not vote for such a deductible for current recipients, but asserted that younger voters recognize that the system is unsustainable without serious reform, including possibly a deductible. It was the most honest and adult portion of the debate.

Regrettably, Paul did not do as well regarding past remarks on mine safety or the drug issue. He did go on offense and criticize the increase of meth labs on Conway's watch as Attorney General. But his general observations that local control is better was unpersuasive on a drug problem that spans not just states but countries.

The same for mine safety: Paul's stated preference for local control rather than federal regulations did little to reassure, particularly after Conway's melodramatic assertion that the federal mine safety regulations are "written in the blood" of dead miners.

Paul did not respond to attacks about the applicability of the A.D.A. and Civil Rights Act of 1964 to private entities, and given how much he has said on this, that was the right call.

Chris Wallace, at one point, corrected Paul, who had stated that Obamacare applies to illegal aliens. The Courier-Journal coverage notes only half of this exchange, which creates the misimpression that Wallace schooled Paul. Here's what the C-J omits: Paul then corrected Wallace by pointing out that though Obamacare does not apply to illegal aliens, it is illegal to ask whether a patient is legal or illegal. Republicans, as Paul explained to Wallace, repeatedly tried to close the loop-hole, but Democrats outvoted them. For Paul to catch Chris Wallace in such a factual mistake showed Paul's considerable mastery of the nuances of Obamacare, a central issue in the campaign.

Jack Conway was likewise taken to task by Wallace for flip-flopping on cap and trade and bailouts. Conway asserted -- repeatedly -- that he has been consistent, but all he could offer was just the bare assertion with no details. Paul pounced on his inconsistencies.

Wallace highlighted that Conway's positions line up with both the Daily Kos and, including support for a single-payor healthcare system. Doesn't this put Conway to the left of President Obama?, Wallace asked. Conway denied it and trotted out the cliche that he would "put Kentucky first."

Regarding party leadership, Conway seemed to suggest that it was premature to speculate whether he would support Sen. Harry Reid because Reid "is in his own race" -- what, and might not win? Conway should be so lucky.

Paul said he presumed Mitch McConnell would emerge from the party caucus as party leader and that Paul would support him, but his voice became almost inaudible. This caused Wallace to repeat the question from several different angles. Bottom line: Paul said he would support McConnell but he appeared to be whispering so as not to enrage the Tea Partiers who don't like McConnell's earmarks.

Perhaps the most surprising moment was when Conway said how proud he was to run "for Wendell Ford's seat," and Paul responded that he thought it was "the people of Kentucky's seat." Good for Paul for seizing upon Conway's gaffe.

The shock here is that Conway appeared not to have noticed that Massachusetts held a special election last year in which Martha Coakley was skewered by Scott Brown for referring to the seat as "Teddy Kennedy's seat." The sound-bite was played over and over. Scott Brown even alluded to it in his victory speech.

For Conway to set himself up this way gave rise to two inferences: (1) he was oblivious to the special election in Massachusetts after Teddy Kennedy died or (2) -- and this is more likely -- he figures that ordinary Kentuckians had not paid attention to the Massachusetts race and Coakley's mistake. Memo to Conway: Kentuckians have been paying attention, close attention, to the elitism that threatens to ruin our country. Conway unwittingly painted himself as an elitist.

1 comment:

commoncents said...


Common Cents