Twisted debate

Politics and other mistakes
By AL DIAMON  |  May 7, 2008

US Representative Tom Allen doesn’t want to debate his primary opponent in the race for the Democratic nomination for the US Senate. According to his campaign office, Allen has better things to do. Such as ... er ... well, let’s face it, as far as Allen is concerned, ignoring his opponent is a better thing to do.

Perhaps you didn’t even know Allen has a challenger in his bid to take on Republican US Senator Susan Collins in November. But he does, and his — or, possibly, her — name is ... uh ... Somebody You’ve Never Heard Of.

Here’s what’s known about this person: He or she is probably a human being. Who lives somewhere in Maine. And, presumably, is old enough to run for the US Senate. Oh, and he or she wants to debate. I think I recall seeing a news story about him or her making outraged statements concerning Allen’s refusal to schedule a time for the two of them to mix it up. A campaign staffer for Allen shrugged off that outrage by pointing out that an important guy like the congressman has tons of official duties in Washington and couldn’t possibly find time to debate until late June.

A couple of weeks after the primary.

I know I should feel more strongly about Allen’s calculated indifference to giving his opponent a little free face time with the voters, but I’m having some difficulty working up the appropriate load of moral indignation. Because the truth is:

I hate debates.

They’re rarely informative. They’re never entertaining. They’re always rigidly formatted, to avoid any hint of spontaneity. And they’re hosted by a Distinguished Journalist, by which I mean somebody who appears to have had a long and not particularly well-sanded stick inserted in a bodily orifice that’s not normally used for stick storage.

Columnist Russell Baker once compared debates to pro-wresting matches, in which the contestants “howl and bay at each other with a ridiculous lack of conviction ... designed to gull the rubes.”

What I’d like to see is less of that and more of the political equivalent of mixed martial arts. Put Allen and Whoever He’s Running Against — I think that’s the name that’ll appear on the ballot — in a cage. No moderator. No time limit. No politeness. No rules. Well, I suppose there could be some limitations on eye gouging, groin kicking, and waterboarding. But the point is to let them say whatever they want. Including calling into question each other’s ancestry, morality, and virility.

Might be informative. Even if it wasn’t, it would almost certainly be fun.

And how often does the word “fun” describe an event involving Tom Allen?

Above it all
The award for lamest excuse thus far in the 2008 election cycle goes to Willy Ritch, communications director for Chellie Pingree’s 1st Congressional District campaign.

Pingree, one of six candidates in the Democratic primary, has accepted money — a lot of money — from S. Donald Sussman and his associates at Paloma Partners, a hedge fund based in the Virgin Islands. Total contributions by Sussman and his pals have so far exceeded $100,000, nearly 10 percent of all the cash Pingree has collected. That’s not counting the still-growing sum the Sussman consortium is handing out in soft money to political-action committees supportive of Pingree’s candidacy, a total that — if previous elections are any indication — could amount to over $300,000.

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  Topics: Talking Politics , U.S. Government, U.S. Congressional News, Elections and Voting,  More more >
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