TPT Senate Debate reaction

Coleman, Franken, and Barkley debated each other on TPT’s Almanac program last Friday. It was mostly moderated by Cathy Wurzer, who is MPR’s local host for Morning Edition. When does that woman sleep?

Here’s a link to the video. It’s an hour long, and not as glitzy as the presidential debates, but it’s not that parochial either – it really is more about national politics and issues than Minnesota politics and issues.

I think that on points, style, and substance, Norm Coleman probably won the debate, sad to say. But here’s what I thought of each guy:

On Al Franken

Al Franken’s position on most issues matches mine. Out of Iraq, and soon. We need to institute more progessive tax policies. Better national health care (though he’s kinda wishy washy) He’s for a green economy (they all are, but he’s made it a priority in the campaign at least.)

But here’s the thing with Franken. When he speaks, he doesn’t articulate. I’m pissed off by his tone. He’s not respectful of the other guys on the dais. He questions motives rather than records. (see Joe Biden’s excellent debate response on the subject)

On his debate performance, specifically. I think he held his own on taxes and on Iraq. He squirmed a bit on being for or not for the bailout – but I don’t fault him for that too much, because I myself can’t figure out my feelings on that. But then again, that’s the job of a senator.

The thing that really stuck out were Franken’s responses to the 2nd Amendment question and to the Catholic question. He should have taken the opportunity to say that he supports the second amendment to hunt, to collect, to protect yourself – but not weapons that do none of those things. Weapons that are being used in Minneapolis and Chicago and Boston to kill people. Etc. So I think he missed an opportunity to articulate a positive vision for public safety.

On the Catholic question, he was too skittish about coming across as “other”. He’s got a Roman Catholic wife, case closed, he wanted to say. But he missed an opportunity to talk convincingly about why satire is useful. Those Roman Catholic priests? They were hardly being Catholic when they abused their power and little boys, right? Their hypocracy needed to be exposed, and that’s what satire can do well…something like that.

On Norm Coleman:

Norm Coleman, in this debate, is running hard from the Republican party. He said in this debate: “I represent a part of the Republican Party that’s unfortunately disappearing.” Basically, he’s betting – or hoping, anyway – that the Sarah Palins and Michele Bachmanns of the world won’t run rampant with the Republican Party now that Bush has wrecked the party’s image (along with the country and the rest of the planet)

What’s the part of the Republican party that’s disappearing? Norm said that he doesn’t want the Republicans just to be a party of the west and south. I think that’s code for bigots. I could be wrong, but I think that Norm was implying that the Republicans have been on the wrong side of the culture wars, and that the Republican party he longs for is the same one that David Brooks longs for. Well, if that’s really the case, good for Norm. Because the Republicans are going to be out of power for a good while now, and they should be thinking about how to move forward. Calling the other side “anti-american” because they embrace multiculturalism and dialogue is not a winning strategy anymore.

Dean Barkley, along with other political realities, has forced Norm Coleman to talk about bipartisanship. Barkley has run on being against partisan bickering. And I think that Norm thinks there are Obama voters out there who are against partisan bickering and might be turned off by Franken. (um, is that me? AHHHH)

Franken isn’t trying to be the guy who can reach across the aisle. If he’s elected, he won’t have to, anyway. So his best tactic is to snipe at Coleman’s attempt at grabbing the bipartisan mantle. Franken points out that Coleman is up for a very explicitly partisan position, the chair of the National Republican Senatorial Committee.

Coleman rebuts: “if the job requires the way politics are now, I don’t want to be the head of the NRSC.” What a laugh – as if he would turn down the job on the grounds that the political environment is too nasty. No way he would turn down that job. That comment rates pretty high on the you-must-be-joking meter.

I think that Coleman was at his best when he was being straightforward about having to vote for bills that have items in them that you don’t like. Or the political reality of some issues never getting an up or down vote. It came up again and again, because Coleman wanted to cast himself as a pragmatist and his opponents as naive in the ways of senatorial power. Dean Barkley called him out, saying that his recommendation to have a committee come up with a social security fix was lacking in “courage.”

Coleman responds with the best line of the night: “this is like watching Carlos Gomez of the Minnesota Twins. Kinda fun to watch, but if you don’t know the fundaments, you can’t win the game.” That is to say, it’s well and good to pretend that you’d have the courage, but it wouldn’t get you anywhere in the Senate.

On Dean Barkley

This guy hardly merits a mention. He’s out of his league. He’s not playing to win, because he knows there isn’t a path to winning. So he’s doing it because he finds himself doing it. As a result, he can only react to the real candidates as some kind of special class of pundit.

From here on out

So did Norm win?

I have no idea what Minnesota voters are like, what they look for in a candidate, or what they care about. I’m a new Minnesotan, so I don’t have extreme reactions to the other Minnesota politicians that were mentioned, those being Paul Wellstone, Jesse Ventura, and Tim Pawlenty. (I’ve seen Jesse on TV making an absolute fool of himself with just moronic pronouncements about Democracy and Freedom which simply make no sense to me.) T-Paw I know just because he was supposed to be McCain’s running mate, but then got the shaft. Paul, I know that he had a lot of energy and is as close to a saint in the state’s recent history as you can get.

That being said, how can I judge how Minnesotans will see Al Franken? Will they see him as the champion of the Left that took to much crap from the Right? Al Franken won the nomination because of his name recognition and the fact that he’s bloodied up the other side but good over the years. And they deserved it. From Ann Coulter to Sean Hannity to Rush, to Bill-O, those people are hateful, xenophonic bloviards, and Franken was our guy to counter them. And more power to him. “Lies” was great.

But the DFL should have had a REAL primary campaign to determine who would being their candidate, not this DFL endorsement crap. It’s totally bizarre how Franken became the nominee. I know that the Feb 5th caucuses had no bearing on it. And the the primaries in september had no bearing either. just Crazy.

If there had been a rigorous DFL process, then Barkley wouldn’t have had an opening, and we wouldn’t be talking about it.

It’s hard for me to type, “I’ll vote for Al Franken for Senator.” And this is from a guy who volunteered for Obama in the primaries. I’m a democrat, and lifelong. I certainly can’t type “I’ll vote for Norm Coleman for Senator.”

This is a tough situation. Maybe I can just vote “present.”

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2 Responses to “TPT Senate Debate reaction”


  1. 1 mike October 27, 2008 at 6:41 pm

    Dean Barkley wins this race, learn your political history.

  2. 2 ishum October 27, 2008 at 9:26 pm

    You mean he’s already won?


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