Saturday, September 29, 2012

Format Produces Unsatisfying Senate Debate; Baldwin Wins On Points

I posted this over at Purple Wisconsin:

Suppose they gave a US Senate debate and the format was so stifling you wouldn't watch the next one?

That precisely describes last night's first-of-three televised debates 'joint appearances' with US Rep. Tammy Baldwin, (D), and former Governor Tommy Thompson, (R) - - and, yes, I did my due diligence and live-blogged it, here - -  but without cross-talking and immediate responses, or tough, researched questions, The Friday night show was more a pair of interviews that could have been conducted in separate studios.

So - - no surprise that there were no surprises - - or bombshells or strong blows landed or revealing flubs or truly memorable lines - - so I'm left with a few impressions.

*  Tommy was the more animated of the candidates, but he spent way too much time stating and repeating and repeating what he did when he was Governor - - he left office in early 2001- - which was a long time ago, and more importantly, in a far different era economically when a rising tide temporarily lifted all boats - - along with the job creation totals in Wisconsin he kept touting, too.

And while you might say, "well, that's just Tommy," he displayed an irritating grandiosity about things in the past that were clearly team efforts  - - "I built Wisconsin...I built a hospital..."and so on.

*  As for Baldwin: she answered questions more directly without bombast or references to the past than did Tommy and struck me as more current on issues.

She spoke passionately about the value of Social Security in the context of its value to the grandparents who raised her, but on other issues she was more cerebral and measured than emotional.

I don't know Baldwin well enough to know if that is simply who she is, or if she needed to present herself to viewers who might have been seeing her for the first time as cool, calm and collected to avoid the trapping, no-win allegation of 'look at that emotional woman' that can bedevil strong female candidates.

US Sen. Claire McCaskill in Missouri is feeling some of that from her male opponent, the disgraced Rep. Todd (Legitimate Rapes) Akin, and Karl Rove's SuperPac has put up an ad playing on the same double-standard in Wisconsin that shows Baldwin making a strong speech and using the words "damn right!"

The Horror!

But after watching and blogging and thinking about it, I have to grade Tommy down.

He laughed inappropriately or smiled insincerely when Tammy was speaking, or in response to her: I thought it was openly condescending. Also condescending to viewers is the canard that he's just a Wisconsin farmer who never left the state. Stop, please.

He also seemed to be on unsteady ground when talking about how "The Army Corps of The [Sic] Engineers should go about keeping asian carp out of the Great Lakes, and twice referred to Iranian president Ahmadinejad as Ahmadinejohn. These things hit your ear, grate and raise questions. Does he know the facts, and why does he stumble over them?

And when discussing energy options, he repeated a conservative meme about how oil drilling in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge would have as little impact on the environment there as putting a postage stamp on a football field.

That's where he lost me, this new, less-substantial Tommy continually off too far to the Right.

The myth of environmentally-neutral drilling in ANWR is oil industry propaganda. It principally focuses on the square footage taken up by drilling pads and a few ancillary items, but not, for example, the presence of machinery trucked in to set up well fields, and the infrastructure like roads.

And it distracts from what it would take to get to and repair broken pipes and clean up spills. Postage stamp on a football field? Don't condescend us.

Baldwin talked about greener energy alternatives, so, again, I credit her with having a greater command of of the issues, this being 2012.

So - - the winner is Tammy Baldwin, by a TKO, on points - - for the uninitiated, that is is a boxing reference (a technical knock out, rather than literally counted out "1...10")  - - and I base my decision on her preparation, level-headedness, grasp of contemporary matters and more consistently looking forward, not backwards.

I think viewers saw her as a competent Senator-in-waiting.

Tommy - - well, he should stick to that private-sector consulting and schmoozing.

He told us tonight that he does a lot of living in the past.

Reminiscence doesn't lead.

And if the next two so-called debates are set up and managed like this one - - and I mean this - - call them off and let the candidates go meet some voters or raise some money so we and they can do something more productive with the time.


Anonymous said...

Tommy Thompson clearly dominated the debate as I heard it on the radio and he sounded much more competent than Baldwin.

I had thought about not voting this election but after listening to the debate I now have a reason to vote for at least one candidate, and that would be for Tommy.

enoughalready said...

Tommy made me laugh out loud three times, each unintentionally at his expense. What an absurd figure!

I have never been a Tommy Thompson fan, and never will be. Especially empty were his criticisms of Tammy for being in Congress and doing nothing. He never could reply to her charge that he had supported putting the Bush tax cuts, two wars and Medicare Part D on a credit card, while she had voted against all three. So much for Tammy being a wild-spending "liberal."

And when Tommy claimed Tammy was too partisan to get things done, she effectively reminded everyone that Tommy himself had once signed into law a bill she had co-sponsored with Scott Walker. That was a good solid blow landed, I thought.

Hands down, Tammy beat Tommy. (And he knew it, hence his ridiculous carping about "all she does is complain.") Tommy could not even admit plainly that he will vote to do away with Obamacare! Tammy caught that and let everyone know about it, at the same time taking credit for her own role in advancing one provision of the law. I have always liked Tammy Baldwin.

Tommy, on the other hand, sounds like he belongs on FOX News or right wing radio. Not exactly the picture of an elder statesman, is he? I think he is pretty sad.

Paul Berge said...

Tommy seemed more sure of himself than Tammy, and why not? For the most part, he spent the hour repeating well-rehearsed talking points that would have fit on a post card.

This format, which denied the candidates any opportunity to challenge what the other had said, was terrible. I'd rather see them required to answer four questions, spending ten minutes on each one.

Anonymous said...

Tommy Thompson - Boastful, egotistical, arrogant, overbearing person with a grandiosity complex. Floored me when he said, "I built Wisconsin."