A commonly held opinion on Connecticut Atty. General and Democratic Senate hopeful Dick Blumenthal is that he is an accomplished speaker, television personality and debater who chooses his words deliberately and wisely, and never says anything that hasn't been well thought out beforehand.
If that commonly held opinion was true, it should have followed that Blumenthal would have crushed Republican challenger Linda McMahon in their widely viewed debate Monday night at the Bushnell Theater in Hartford. So much for commonly held opinions.
McMahon, who was the Chief Operating Officer of World Wrestling Entertainment until she stepped down to run for the US Senate and has never held public office, more than held her own in the debate and on several occasions hit Blumenthal with shots that obviously rocked him.
You probably won't see that in media reports on the confrontation, but the reports I have seen today, several of them as a matter of fact, also are tepidly neutral, which is proof that the Republican held her own and the Democrat did not. If McMahon had slipped or been thrashed in the debate the headlines would have been crowing "Blumenthal Victory" from Hartford to Timbuktu.
Here are a few examples. Blumenthal said he agrees with President Obama that we should withdraw from Afghanistan based on a timetable, not a military victory. This came after he claimed to be a boxer who has fought "above my weight." Well, if he boxed - this is the first I have heard about that, he always is portrayed as a long-distance runner and there is some controversy about an alleged false claim that he was captain of his university swim team - he should know what anyone who has ever squared off against an opponent in the pugilistic arts knows damn well. You don't telegraph your punches. At least, you don't if you want to keep your head on your shoulders.
As soon as I heard Blumenthal say he supported an unconditional withdrawal from Afghanistan, based on political rather military or security conditions, I figured that if he did box in his youth, he got hit in the head too many times.
But wait, there's more. Blumenthal took a shot at McMahon for the amount of her own money she is pouring into the race. There is of course the question about why anyone would spend millions to get a job that pays less than $175,000 but that argument is somewhat specious when you consider that other politicians spend millions of other peoples' dollars for the same seat. McMahon is spending her own money and told Blumenthal that it is money she earned, her money, and if she wants to spend it on a Senate race, she will. Point McMahon.
When Blumenthal brought up McMahon's financial status earlier in the debate, apparently to portray her as an out-of-touch rich kid who doesn't understand the average working family, McMahon shot right back with "If you don't talk about my money I won't talk about your family owning the Empire State Building." Whammo. I knew Blumenthal comes from a rich background and that McMahon has worked her way into the American dream, but I didn't know his family owned the Empire State Building. Whammo again. Two points for McMahon.
Blumenthal hit at McMahon for allegedly supporting a reduction in the minimum wage. Besides the fact that as soon as the minimum wage goes up, costs follow right behind and people who are content to remain at that level with no promotions, no education and no drive to do better end up with a zero increase in spendable income, the fact was McMahon was adamant throughout the debate - perhaps more than was necessary - that she never said she supports a reduction. She turned to Blumenthal after he made that claim and accused him of an outright lie, which is very, very unusual in these forums. Point McMahon.
Then Blumenthal claimed McMahon's WWE had no health care policy for the wrestlers. She nailed him on that one too, outlining in specifics exactly what they have for health care in case of injuries. I don't know if the WWE has a good policy, great policy or mediocre policy, but you don't claim that your opponent has no policy if your opponent has a policy. Point McMahon.
Then Blumenthal dropped what he probably thought was going to be the blockbuster of the evening, revealing that the state of Connecticut has launched an investigation of the WWE's labor practices. But again, McMahon turned it right back on him. She noted that it is a very peculiar coincidence that the WWE has been headquartered in Connecticut for decades, with essentially the same business model and labor practices, but has never been subjected to a labor investigation until she became involved in the campaign against Blumenthal.
Blumenthal looked anything but sincere when he responded that the investigation into her firm is criminal - I'm not even sure that is accurate - not civil, so therefore, as a Democratic Attorney General he would have no knowledge of that at all, no way, never, not a chance. Sorry, but it didn't come across as believable. Again, point McMahon.
But I think the crowning moment of the debate came when Blumenthal was asked what it takes to create a job. He didn't know. I mean it, he really didn't know. That doesn't mean he didn't talk. He did. But this is what he said:
"A job is created and it can be in a variety of ways by a variety of people but principally by people and businesses in response to demand for products and services and the main point about jobs in Connecticut is we can and we should create more of them by creative policy, and that's the kind of approach I want to bring to Washington."
Huh? What? Interpreter please. I'm not fluent in political blather. Which is pretty much what McMahon said when she responded by saying:
"Government, government government. Government does not create jobs. It's very simple how you create jobs. An entrepreneur takes a risk he or she believes in and creates a good or service that is sold for more than it costs to make it."
Blumenthal got what I believe was his only titter of laughter from his supporters all night when he responded that he would be going to Washington as a Senator not as an entrepreneur. That is what worries me. He should at least know what an entrepreneur does if he is going to represent us.
Frankly, despite Ned Lamont's claims when he and Rob Simmons were doing a post-debate analysis for Fox Television, I think Blumenthal fell below his expected threshold and I think McMahon rose above hers.
Blumenthal didn't show a lot of spark or spontaneity. He reminded me of a walking sound bite, repeating over and over "I fought for you, and I will continue to fight for you."
Do you remember Mike Boguslowski from Channel 8 in New Haven back in the 70s? "I'm in your corner!"? It seems that Blumenthal can't even come up with an original sound bite.
Tuesday, October 05, 2010