This photo, copyrighted by The Associated Press, shows an amicable Tommy and Tammy shaking hands before their last “debate” Friday night at the Marquette Law School Library. Moderator Mike Gousha’s hand is just visible in the lower left of the photo.
I think it’s safe to say Tammy and Tommy won’t be shaking hands again in the near future, if they can avoid it. This Senate campaign has ended up in the muck, and both are throwing it.
Some people who’ve known Tommy for a long time say he reluctantly went along with Karl Rove’s attack ad on Tammy’s 9-11 Patriotism; some who’ve known Tammy a long time say she had no option but to counter Tommy’s 9-11 smear with one of her own.
This is what politics has become: both candidates with their own sets of facts, who refuse to directly answer questions about specifics, and simply repeat whatever lines their handlers have told them to use when talking about the subject. You can’t pin them down; even when a competent moderator like Mike Gousha asks Tommy directly about his pandering to the tea party with his remark to the tea people “who better than me to do away with Medicare and Medicaid?” Tommy just pivots and says “I’ve been a moderate conservative all my life”.
Both Tommy and Tammy could benefit greatly by hiring an elocution coach; Tammy more than Tommy. Tommy’s tortured pronunciations and shattered syntax are part and parcel of his very well-known public persona, and a well-spoken Tommy Thompson might even be a net negative. We’re used to his bluster and his dropped g’s and his repeated mispronunciations (“Ahmadeenajon”) and constant flubs like “Gulf of Hormuz”.
Tammy’s not nearly so well-known in Wisconsin, and her halting answers and constant interjections of “ahhh…” make her responses to debate questions seem uncertain. In the closing moments of Friday night’s debate, when Gousha got to the 9-11 (non)issue, Tommy launched into an obviously well-practiced response about not questioning Tammy’s patriotism, but her judgment. Tammy’s “I am outraged that Governor Thompson would make a political issue of a national tragedy” speech, no doubt also calculated and practiced, came off as stilted and rehearsed. Unfortunately, this is the kind of stuff – style elements, not substance – that tend to stick in the mind, and play too large a role in the decision-making process about who’s the better candidate.
Mercifully, the “debates” are now over; no more Tammy and Tommy; no more Barack and Mitt; and a creature named Sandy will take center stage on the national news reports for the next couple days.
The cynic in me buys into the assertion that we get the kind of government we deserve.