Column for 22 October, 2006
“Words from a wise man’s mouth are gracious, but a fool is consumed by his own lips. At the beginning his words are folly; at the end they are wicked madness—and the fool multiplies words.”
As part of our never-ending commitment to you the reader here at The Local Crank, your intrepid columnist attended the “debate” between Cong. Chet Edwards and his opponent, millionaire carpetbagger Nicholas Vancampen Taylor at Cleburne High School on Sunday, October 14th. I put the word “debate” in quotations not just to be cute, but to emphasize that this wasn’t really a debate in any forensic sense of the word, more like a joint press conference where the candidates spouted pre-formulated answers to questions they were allowed to review in advance. The format, of course, is not the fault of the debate sponsors, the League of Women Voters and this paper; no, the fault lies rather with politicians in general, fearful of anything not pre-scripted. In my opinion, any candidate for any office who can’t handle live questions from a live audience is not worthy of my vote, whether it’s for dog-catcher or President of the United States. If you ever get bored enough to watch C-SPAN, try to catch the Prime Minister’s Question Time before Parliament and observe a politician like Tony Blair who is actually expected to think on his feet. But back to the debate; there were approximately 200+ in attendance, all partisans, of course. Based upon the t-shirts and lapel stickers, the crowd seemed to be fairly evenly divided. The candidates wore virtually identical charcoal-gray suits and the requisite Texas politician cowboy boots. Rather than regurgitating my notes from the entire debate, let me just quickly summarize everything the candidates had to say:
Vancampen Taylor: I am a Marine! And a hero! There’s too much partisanship in Washington and it’s all the fault of liberal cut and run terrorist appeasers like Nancy Pelosi, whom my opponent loves and plans to marry. America faces many challenges, and they are all the fault of gay terrorist illegal aliens who want to adopt. Get rid of the tax and spend Congress by electing yet another Republican like the ones who have been doing all the taxing and spending over the last twelve years. Grover Norquist loves me, even though I didn’t bother to read his survey before I signed it, so you should love me, too. Taxes are the work of Satan. The key to victory in Iraq is doing the same thing over and over and over again and hoping for a different result. If you hate Jesus, vote for my opponent.
Chet Edwards: I am the only grown-up in this race. The Dallas Morning News says my opponent is an arrogant, self-absorbed nitwit. Veterans love me and I have already forgotten more about veteran’s issues than my opponent will ever learn. Right-Wing special interest groups love me, which shows how bipartisan I am. I support the Bush Administration’s plans to dismantle the Constitution in order to protect freedom. Not only will my opponent privatize Social Security, he doesn’t even know what “privatize” means. I will do a much better job than my opponent of keeping illegals aliens from taking over the land we stole from the Indians. All taxes are not necessarily the work of Satan, but the national debt is. I have no idea who this “Nancy Pelosi” person is my opponent keeps yammering about. Plus, I bring home the bacon for Johnson County.
And now a few highlights. Vancampen Taylor answered every question except his name with “Illegal Aliens!” or “Homosexual Adoption!!” or both. It was pretty transparent, desperate shameless pandering that Arlene Wohlgemuth does much better. And she does it without the whining. Plus, she really believes it. Just as he did during the first debate in College Station, Chet asked Taylor if he would’ve voted for his own party’s budget proposal. And, just like he did in the first debate, Vancampen said he hadn’t bothered to read it and was offended that Chet would even suggest that maybe he ought to. Now, granted, I’m no expert on how Republican campaigns work, but I’d be willing to bet that if Taylor called up to Washington, DC, someone would’ve faxed it to him. Or perhaps someone on his crack campaign staff should’ve come up with a better answer for Taylor than, “There are too many bills to read!” I lost count of all the shallow Republican clichés Vancampen trotted out, ticking them off one by one like he was on a high school debate team: frivolous lawsuits (which means any lawsuit against a Republican donor); the invading Brown Hordes; evil gay people; abortion; Free Trade is good, unless it means getting cheap drugs from Canada, then it’s bad. I noticed members of the audience starting to nod off after awhile. Fortunately, Vancampen was able to wake them up towards the end by asking Chet point blank why he hated Jesus. Well, actually, he demanded to know why Chet was against forcing teachers to ram their religion down children’s throats (i.e., mandatory school prayer). Chet, apparently genuinely irritated, twisted off on him, gathering a couple of outbursts of applause and one loud “Amen!” It was such a lame, badly orchestrated “attack,” you’d almost think Chet was paying Taylor under the table. In short, while Taylor acted more like a grown-up during this debate, and seemed to finally grasp that his opponent is Chet Edwards and not Nancy Pelosi, it’s likely too little, too late. He has already systematically alienated Republicans all across the county with his arrogance and condescension, his campaign is a train wreck, and even the National Republican Campaign Committee has written him off, canceling a planned $1.5 million television ad buy. Chet Edwards, by tacking to the right of center on crucial issues, focusing on constituent service and spending more time in this county in two years than Joe Barton or Kay Granger combined did in ten, has built a bipartisan base of support that cannot be overcome just by screaming “homosexuals!!” or “illegal aliens!!” or, even more ludicrous, “liberal!!!” And while I certainly do not agree with all of Chet’s votes, particularly for the bankruptcy “reform” bill and the loathsome PATRIOT and Legalized Torture Acts, he has clearly won over most of the opinion-makers in this county; it remains to be seen, however, how many actual votes this will translate to. Two years ago, with the George W. Bush tsunami at the top of the ticket, Edwards didn’t even break 40% here. Now, with Bush unpopular even in Texas and facing a MUCH weaker opponent, I wouldn’t be terribly surprised if Chet carries the county.