I just watched the debate between Frank Lautenberg and Doug Forrester on C-Span, and I only pounded my table twice and only shot soda through my nose three times. It was a thoroughly ridiculous affair, and there is a reason Frank Lautenberg did not want to debate 20 times in 20 days- he would have had his bell rung (if he did not get lost on the way to the debates). If Frank Lautenberg were running against ANYONE anywhere in the country that had fewer than 60% Democrat registered voters, he would have about as much chance winning this election as I would becoming Miss USA (even if I shaved my legs).
I will try to break my review down into categories:
Overall Demeanor and Look
Forrester seemed slightly nervous, and he smiled too much. At times I felt like he looked like someone who was trying to sell me Amway products. He just seemed a little stiff and coached, but trying real hard to seem Senatorial. At his worst, he looked like an Emcee at a convention for aluminum siding salesman in Atlantic City. His speech pattern was equal parts syrupy and stilted. All I can remember about his clothing was that he had on a RED POWER TIE and he used too much shit in his hair- it looked like a little kid’s would when his mother had to hurry to get him ready for church.
Lautenberg had an odd symbiosis going for him. He looked partially like Mr. Burns, partially like your grandfather when he can’t find his slippers and is lashing out at grandma, the dog, or whoever conspired to take away the newspaper before he was done with the crossword puzzle. Quite frankly, Lautenberg has a face for radio and comes off as the guy yelling at you to get off his grass when all you want to do is get your ball. By comparison, Bob Dole is outright lively and charming. And Lautenberg is suffering the from early stages of dementia. Period. I forget what he was wearing because I couldn’t get past the size of his earlobes.
Forrester: Defense spending, intelligence gathering, missile defense, generally not being Lautenberg or Toricelli. I am the future.
Lautenberg: I’m a Democrat.
Forrester just looked canned, but he committed no verbal gaffe’s other than a sometimes stilted speech pattern. He also had to struggle really hard to keep the fake smile, because there were times that he almost broke down laughing at Lautenberg’s general buffoon-like behavior. At times, Forrester reminded me of the SNL skit when John Lovitz is playing Michael Dukakis debating Dana Carvey’s George Bush, and you see Lovitz with that silly grin thinking to himself, “I can’t believe I am losing to this guy.”
Lautenberg simply refused to answer any question (I honestly started to think he didn’t remember them after he got three to four words into his response). Period. He did however, manager to invoke the big three at every opportunity, regardless of relevance. Vote for Lautenberg, and you are in favor of abortion, social security, and you hate guns. Lautenberg did look exceptionally stupid when he was allowed to ask a question of Forrester. He accused Forrester of cheating people on some sort of insurance coverage and showed he had no understanding of business- when someone bids less than you they win the contract. Someone bid less than Forrester’s company, thus he did not get the contract. Therefore, no one was ‘cheated’ or ‘over-charged.’ He then showed he had no clue how the IRS works by claiming that if Forrester would release his personal income tax records, that would show his business dealings and how he was overcharging people. Forrester pointed out that none of that information is on income tax records and that Lautenberg himself had refused in all his years to release his tax records. I doubtthis will score any crossover votes for Forrester- how many Lautenberg voters file income taxes, or understand them, for that matter. To be completely fair, I really don’t know what the actual business dealings are, but that is how Forrester explained it, along with the fact that the lawsuits were politically motivated. I have to take him at his word, as Lautenberg was utterly incoherent.
The worst blunder of the night was when Lautenberg attempted to defend his attacks of the age of Rep. Millicent Fenwick when Lautenberg originally ran for Senate. He actually said that 72 was too old for a Freshman Senator, which to me sounded reasonable, until Forrester pointed out that ageism is wrong, and that Lautenberg, if elected, would be a 78 year old Freshman. Woops. Doubly stupid, which in Democrat circles is cause for promotion or a Nobel Prize (see Carter, Jimmy).
Most Disgusting Moments
Both go to Lautenberg. The first was for cravenly injecting Paul Wellstone into the debate (“I just came from the funeral of one of the best Senators ever, Paul -he stumbled on the name- Wwwellstone”), as if knowing a populist progressive liberal is a reason for an establishment boardroom Democrat to be elected (which, ironically, is Walter Mondale’s new campaign platform in 30 words or less).
The second point was in his closing remark when he called Forrester a coward (in so many words) for not serving in the military but being in favor of defense spending.
Forrester seemed canned, Lautenberg seemed mean, out of it, and not in control of himself or his thought processes.
My prediction is that Forrester will get a 3-4 point bump but still lose (this is New Jersey, after all). Then Lautenberg will resign and they will give it to a 40 year old. There is absolutely no chance in hell he will last all 6 years.
*** Update ***
The NY Times clearly saw the same debate I did, but they seemed to miss something. Oh yeah. The debate portion of it.
Here is another puff piece, complete with some NY Times doublespeak:
“I think we saw today that Frank Lautenberg has been out of circulation for a while and his debating skills needed a bit of honing,” said David Rebovich, a political science professor at Rider University.
Translation: The doddering fool was trounced, but we can’t tell the voters that, so we will mention it in passing.