Ok, so this diary will be rather short. But last night, I made the mistake of watching the Delaware Senate debate. It was a mistake because, even though I live in Delaware, my IQ dropped about 10 points from exposure to Christine O'Donnell thoughts (and "thoughts" is a generous term).
There were three moments in particular that stand out.
I'll start from the end and work backward.
Towards the end of the debate, during a discussion of offshore drilling, O'Donnell said something to the effect* of "If Governor (Jack) Markell and the state legislature decided that Delaware should allow offshore drilling, it would not be my place, as a Congressman, to oppose that." As I commented at the time, there are two amusingly obvious things wrong with that statement. Namely, she is a woman and she would be a Senator, so "Congressman" was a rather interesting choice of word.
Less obviously, I don't know what planet she is living on if she thinks that offshore drilling is an issue that a single state could or should be able to approve without outside input. After all, the BP spill proved that the environmental impact of offshore drilling can stretch well beyond the beaches and maritime borders of any one state. But such nuances are beyond the understanding of O'Donnell. "States good. Federal bad." That's as far as she can go.
[* I can't find the exact quote or a video clip, so I would greatly appreciate it if someone could provide me with either!]
Earlier, O'Donnell couldn't think of a single recent Supreme Court decision that she disagreed with. Given the Senate's role in confirming judicial nominees, this one really requires no explanation or commentary.
Earlier in the debate, O'Donnell made what was, to me, the most appalling gaffe of all. While discussing the war in Afghanistan, she stated:
Well if you remember when we were fighting the Soviets over there in Afghanistan in the '80s and '90s, we did not finish the job, so now we have a responsibility to finish the job and if you are gonna make these politically correct statements that it's costing us too much money, you are threatening the security of our homeland.
This statement was wrong on so many levels, but I'll stick to the most obvious ones. First, we never fought the Soviets in any war. Second, we never fought in Afghanistan in the 80's or 90's. Third, the Soviet-Afghan War that she presumably was thinking of did not stretch into the 90's.
Lastly, to the extent that we did play a role against the Soviets in that war, that role was to provide weapons and other aid the Afghans and force the Soviets to withdraw. In that sense, we finished the job in 1989, when the Soviets withdrew from Afghanistan. Of course, the Soviet empire had been crumbling on multiple fronts throughout the 80's, and their withdrawal from Afghanistan would have been a foregone conclusion even if we had never spent a dime giving weapons to mujahideen. The decision to arm Afghan militant groups was a poor one that came back to haunt us within a decade. But there was no "job" that we failed to "finish" against the Soviets, unless she expected us to send troops into Uzbekistan, cross the Ural Mountains, and march on Moscow.
Her response produced three separate flashbacks (two of which occurred before I was born, but whatevs). The first was this scene from Billy Madison:
I would have given Chris Coons a $2,000 check if he actually had said that.
The second was one of my favorite scenes from Animal House:
Lightheartedness aside, however, her statement showed a complete lack of awareness of recent history, which is dangerous for someone who is going into a position that requires understanding international relations. In that sense, her statement reminded me of the gaffe that Gerald Ford made during his 1976 debate with Carter, when he famously and emphatically asserted that there was "no Soviet domination of Eastern Europe and there never will be under a Ford administration."
In fact, there was Soviet domination of Eastern Europe. A rather bloody and stifling domination, at that. This was during the time of the Brezhnev Doctrine, which had included the violent end to the Prague Spring less than eight years earlier. The moderator's dumbfounded response illustrated just how remarkably ignorant Ford's statement was.
O'Donnell's assertion about fighting the Soviets in Afghanistan in the 80's and 90's shows a similarly dumbfounding ignorance of recent history and international relations. If anything, our earlier experience of arming warring factions in Afghanistan in order to weaken an already-crumbling superpower should have sent a signal that perhaps we would have been better off not getting involved at all. But I suppose we can't expect someone to understand such nuances when they are completely ignorant of basic facts.