Thursday, August 30, 2012

The Great Debate: Chris Fields vs. Keith Ellison Live at the State Fair

Today was the first debate between Congressman Keith Ellison and his challenger, retired Marine and first-time candidate Chris Fields.

If I’m right, it will also be the last.  After the trouncing Ellison received today, I would be surprised if Keith actually shows up for the planned KSTP TV debate in October.  I’d imagine some type of “scheduling conflict” will be the excuse.  Ellison has already been playing the “busy schedule” card as an excuse for ducking a debate with WCCO’s Chad Hartman- and that was before his embarrassing performance today.

Now, let me be clear about something- if I were advising Keith, I’d encourage him to skip the debates too.  Despite the fact that he is a career politician and a lawyer by trade, Ellison just isn’t good at debating.  When you live your life in an echo chamber, like Keith Ellison does, you don’t have to be good at defending your positions.  When everyone who you interact with agrees with you, it’s easy to start feeling really smart.

And it was clear today that the effects of Keith’s time in the echo chamber have dulled whatever debate skills he may have once had.

I live-tweeted the debate, which I then storified, because that’s a verb now.  You can see that here, and it’s probably the best way to get the highlights of what was said on both sides.  If you want to listen to the whole debate, you can find it here.

For his part, Ellison alternated between babbling nonsensically, shouting at the audience, and talking over the moderator.  He was on the defense, and clearly agitated.  Sadly, the debate was on radio and not TV, because the eye-rolling, headshaking and general face-making on Ellison’s part reached truly Al-Gore-ian proportions.

Fields was on offense, and went after Ellison for his addiction to big money.  Fields also turned out a few memorable lines- including telling the audience that his wife owns a small business, and yes, she built that. 

Ellison, in turn, spent a lot of time blaming George Bush and the Tea Party for just about everything. He also informed us that we could create jobs by having government focus on fixing leaky roofs.  I want that to be a joke, but it’s not.  The best one-liner he could come up with was “it’s called ObamaCare, because Obama cares.”

The highlight of the debate (for me, anyway) was when the audience erupted into laughter when Ellison said he takes deficit reduction seriously.  Another round of laughter ensued when Ellison named Paul Krugman as his favorite economist.

I really didn’t know what to expect going into this debate.  After all, Keith Ellison is a trained debater.

But what I heard today was one candidate who was focused on the future, and another who is obsessed with the past.

It’s time to move forward.  It’s time to vote for Chris Fields.