Wednesday, October 20, 2010

Attention, Christine O'Donnell: They're not laughing with you

Delaware tea party Senate candidate Christine O'Donnell seemed to be the only person in attendance at Tuesday's debate who didn't know that the audience was laughing at her, not with her, as she went after Democratic opponent Chris Coons on evolution and separation of church and state.

O'Donnell, trying to close a double-digit gap in polls over the next two weeks before the election, was intent on trapping Coons in a "gotcha" moment to show off his supposed lack of constitutional understanding. So intent, it seems, that she ended up displaying her own far greater misunderstanding instead:
Coons said private and parochial schools are free to teach creationism but that "religious doctrine doesn't belong in our public schools." "Where in the Constitution is the separation of church and state?" O'Donnell asked him. When Coons responded that the First Amendment bars Congress from making laws respecting the establishment of religion, O'Donnell asked: "You're telling me that's in the First Amendment?"
Her comments, in a debate aired on radio station WDEL, generated a buzz in the audience. "You actually audibly heard the crowd gasp," Widener University political scientist Wesley Leckrone said after the debate, adding that it raised questions about O'Donnell's grasp of the Constitution.
I suppose the Post could call it a "buzz" or a "gasp" if they want, but after skipping to about 2:37 in a YouTube video of the debate, I'd tend to describe the crowd's reaction as "raucous derisive laughter."

As an incredulous audience member is heard muttering, "Oh God," O'Donnell looks up at the crowd as if unsure about the exact subject of their laughter. Quickly she seems to decide their response is to the cleverness of her "gotcha" question, and grins back at the audience as if to share their joke. Really, the only thing missing was a Sarah Palin Wink ©.

O'Donnell's satisfaction after the exchange is really quite entertaining, considering how remarkably asinine her entire point was. Of course the exact phrase "separation of church and state" is not in the Constitution. Neither are the phrases "direct election of senators" or "three-fifths compromise," but everyone knows should know what they refer to without quoting chapter and verse. If you really want to get into details, the word "God" isn't even in the Constitution. "What she got right was the technicality," CNN host Anderson Cooper said Tuesday night. "What a lot of people* think she missed was everything else."

The exchange, especially when viewed in context of the full debate, made it painfully obvious how unprepared Christine O'Donnell is for the United States Senate. A few questions later, an audience member asked her opinion on the movements to repeal the 14th, 16th and 17th amendments. O'Donnell was able to talk her way through the 17th Amendment (direct election of senators), but that was as far as she got. “I’m sorry I didn’t bring my Constitution with me," she beamed at the questioner. "Fortunately, senators don’t have to memorize the Constitution.”

No, Christine, they don't. But when you've just quizzed someone on the Constitution's exact wording, one would expect you to be at least on par with a 9th-grade civics student. It's especially interesting that O'Donnell couldn't name the 14th and 16th amendments (birthright citizenship and the federal income tax), considering how important those issues are to the tea party. 

But I suppose O'Donnell is simply yet another example of a group which spends far more time pretending to revere the Constitution than they've spent actually reading it. O'Donnell couldn't even name a single Supreme Court case she disagrees with, which is exactly what happened to Palin in 2008. Christine O'Donnell makes Sarah Palin look like Eleanor freaking Roosevelt. And that's without even discussing O'Donnell's thoughts on masturbation and witchcraft.

Also, there's this:

*In teevee journalism, of course, anything from "some people say" to "a lot of people say" is always code for "I say," but still -- a LOT of people say Christine O'Donnell is an idiot.

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