It has been a sight I have seen a few times in recent weeks as the unsolicited campaign press releases come flowing into my e-mail; Republican Senate hopeful Mark Kirk insists on portraying some event he attended as a debate opportunity that his Democratic challenger skipped.
Kirk’s people seem to think they could make this into an issue of Alexi Giannoulias being afraid to confront their guy. Actually, it just means that Kirk’s scheme from earlier this year to have up to seven debates around the state never went anywhere, but Kirk wanted to pretend it did.
LIKE I HAVE written before, one of the unofficial ground rules I use to determine whose campaign is doing well is to say that the first candidate who gripes about how his opponent won’t debate him is a loser who feels desperate for attention.
It always shocked me that Kirk would want to give off that impression of himself.
Which is why I was glad to learn this week that Giannoulias and Kirk have agreed on something resembling a debate – which for all its stilted rhetoric does give us a chance to see the two candidates together operating under similar ground rules. It does matter.
No, we’re not getting anything resembling Kirk’s proposed tribute to the Lincoln/Douglas debates of 1858, which means Kirk doesn’t get to assume the role of Honest Abe (who lost that particular election, but is remembered by history as having the moral high ground for his positions).
IN FACT, THE debate is going to be the ever-so-traditional event hosted by the League of Women Voters. On Oct 19, they will conduct their debate in the studios of Chicago’s ABC station, WLS-TV, 190 N. State St.
But instead of a second event to be held in Springfield, or some other non-Chicago-area municipality as a sop to the rural Illinois vote, the two candidates are booked for Oct. 10 to be the guests on the NBC Sunday morning public policy talk show, “Meet the Press.”
I’m not sure if this means both candidates will be in Washington for this broadcast, or if we’re going to get some sort of deal by which show moderator David Gregory talks to a pair of video screens depicting the candidates from somewhere else.
I’d like to think that the two major candidates for U.S. Senate aren’t lame enough to try to resort to that tactic out of an attempt to try to impose some control and give themselves an upper hand. But I know better.
POLITICAL CANDIDATES WITH tactics are like athletes with steroids – they’re dumb enough to try anything if they think it will give them an edge.
So what should we think of the fact that “Meet the Press” is going to be the forum for what the candidates are calling their second debate?
The campaigns are saying they’re doing this because our very own Senate seat is the focus of national media attention. We are a national news story. Isn’t that special?
The problem is that “we” are national largely because “our” officials have behaved in such a butt-headed manner. That includes both of these candidates. So the nation as a whole will get to see just how dense both Kirk and Giannoulias are capable of being.
SOUND LIKE I’M not all that impressed by this particular candidate field? I’m not, and I don’t think many people in this state are. Which is how I explain all those polls that indicate Giannoulias (the alleged Mob banker) with such a slight lead over Kirk (the Liar) that they’re technically tied.
Which means that I believe the people who do bother to watch the broadcasts of these debates (Will you wake up early enough on Sunday, Oct. 10, to see “Meet the Press?”) will be looking more than anything for a gaffe, a flub, any trivial aspect they can use to justify in their minds voting against one candidate and voting (by default) for his opponent.
This year’s debates truly will be the “challenge to avoid saying something stupid” (which is how Saturday Night Live’s Don Pardo once introduced a sketch parodying the 1992 presidential debates).
One other factor from the debate rhetoric caught my attention. Kirk’s people say they still want more debates, while Giannoulias’ people hint they may add more events.
I THINK IT puts Giannoulias in control on this issue, and Kirk winds up looking like a follower, a challenger, and a loser if he doesn’t knock off this type of rhetoric. I’m surprised Kirk would want to view himself this way, no matter how much he wants to spin it that 2010 is a year for challengers).
Nonetheless, I won’t be surprised if one more such event gets added – something physically staged in an Illinois city outside of the Chicago area. Because my mind can already detect the disgust of those downstate voters who are going to see a debate in Chicago and a debate in Washington somehow snubbing their existence.
I don’t think it does, but that is a topic perhaps for a future debate.