David Safier and AZBlueMeanie have done a great job covering Wednesday night's Clean Elections debate between Jan Brewer and Terry Goddard (with a side order of Libertarian candidate Barry Hess and Green Party candidate Larry Gist). David posted the Star's fact checker article, which reveals several inaccurate statements made by Brewer over the 60 minute debate.
And what a debate it was. The full debate is worth checking out in its entirety for its pure entertainment value: Brewer delivered one of the worst debate performances I think we've seen in a long time from any politician representing any party in any state.
Less than 48 hours after airing, the Democratic party has already kindly excerpted Brewer's botched opening statements, a link to which can now be found in the dictionary under the term "brain fart". For her first minute of the debate, Brewer appears completely dumbfounded that she's in front of a camera, blinking wildly like a deer caught in the headlights.
Here's my transcript of her remarks:
Thank you, Ted and it's great to be here with Larry, Barry and Terry and thank you all for watching us tonight.
I have, uh... [long pause]... done so much and I just can not believe that we have changed everything since I be-...had-... become your governor in the last 600 days. Arizona has been brought back from this abyss. We have cut the budget, [pause], we have balanced the budget, [pause] and we are moving forward. We have done everything that we could possibly do.
We have, uhm... [long pause]... did what was right for Arizona.
I will tell you that I have really did the very best that anyone could do. We have pushed back hard against the federal government. We have filed suit against Obama healthcare and, and... we have passed Senate Bill 1070, and we will continue to do what's right for Arizona. I ask for your vote. Thank you.
In total, the governor used her opening minute to deliver 11 sentences, consisting of 159 words and an incredible 21 seconds of dead air. Of those 11 sentences, 4 contained glaring grammatical errors, including the classic line, "We have, uhm... did what was right for Arizona."
Is it any wonder that Arizona's public schools are failing?
Compare those metrics to Terry Goddard's opening statement, which I have transcribed below:
Thank you, Ted, and thank you all for participating in tonight's discussion. Sadly, Arizona -- our home, the state we love -- is in serious trouble. We're in a downward spiral with our economy, and after decades of leading the nation, we are number one in job loss. Just since Jan Brewer became governor, we've lost 128,000 jobs.
We're also leading the nation in home foreclosures, and we-, in the rapid rise in bankruptcies.
It's getting worse every day, and that is-... and our budget is seriously out of balance.
This is an emergency. This is an all-hands-on-deck evolution and as the,- as the next governor, I intend to spend every waking moment fighting to bring jobs back to Arizona. I have a job-, an emergency job action plan, which will bring 300,000 new jobs back to our state. And, that's what we need.
When Jan Brewer took over as governor, she should have done that, but what's she done? She's appointed a committee to look at the problem, and their first meeting is September 24th.
My name is Terry Goddard. I ask for your vote and your support in November. Thank you very much.
Goddard's opening statements contained 15 sentences consisting of 195 words and no significant amount of dead air.
And since I'm a metrics dork, I think this is the most fascinating comparison of all: Brewer's statement contained only 28 words that were more than one-syllable long, and of those, only 10 were three or more syllables long.
Goddard's statement? 43 words that were more than one-syllable long (nearly 1.5 times that of Brewer's) with 16 words three or more syllables long.
In other words, Brewer's opening statement wasn't just a brain fart for the long pauses and grammatical errors; what few words that did fall clumsily out of her mouth demonstrated how intellectually inferior Governor Brewer is compared to her opponent. There's no two ways about it: Goddard is just plain smarter.
And that's the general theme of the rest of the debate. Brewer was either completely unprepared, or more likely, completely out of her depth. Armed with three generic ad hominem talking points, Brewer attempted to hammer Goddard on thin, incoherent attacks bordering on the meaningless.
For example, Brewer repeatedly challenged Goddard to renounce his support of the state-wide boycott spearheaded by Congressman Raul Grijalva. Unfazed by Goddard's affronted retort that he has never supported the Arizona boycotts (indeed, Goddard sent a letter to Grijalva back in July urging him to end his support of the boycotts, which he has since done though he claims that decision was not influenced by Goddard), Brewer attempted to suggest that because Goddard is endorsed by large unions that support the boycott, he must support the boycott.
I'm sorry, but what? Endorsers don't write a candidate's public policy; if a group chooses to endorse a candidate, all they are saying is that a candidate is the best choice in a field of candidates for their group's members. There's certainly plenty of examples of candidates being endorsed by groups whose policies do not match entirely; Goddard's union endorsements say nothing more than that Goddard supports union workers.
But somehow, in Brewer's mind, Goddard's endorsement by large unions means that he is secretly also dictating the agenda and political actions of those groups.
Further adding confusion is the fact that Brewer insists on calling unions supportive of Goddard "union cartels" or "boycott cartels", which is a bizarre reference to Mexican drug cartels. Since the term refers to competing groups that organize into an informal community for the purposes of price fixing (hence, drug cartels that work together to ensure high prices for their product), any reference to a "union cartel" or "boycott cartel" makes absolutely. no. fucking. sense. whatsoever. Republicans are generally pretty good at coining nonsensical words based on public hysteria and race-baiting (to wit, "Islamofascist" and "anchor baby"), but "union cartel"?
Are we to believe that perhaps it's actually the SEIU that's also responsible for Brewer's imaginary headless corpses in the Arizona desert, too?
Brewer also tried to accuse Goddard of not having an economic plan to pay for his proposed programs. While it's true that Goddard lacks a ten-point plan to fix the state economy, his website contains more details than that of your average campaign website: he proposes specific funds to help grow private industry and suggests increasing funds to public programs that he believes wil also stimulate economic growth. In short, while there's room for more detail, Goddard's issues pages are hardly chock full of mere platitude.
This tactic might end up blowing up in Brewer's face, because her charge that Goddard lacks a clear plan only opens Goddard up to the response that the plan's details are on his website. Which directs traffic to his website, encourages people to read his issues pages, and improves publicity for his platform. But Brewer's camp nonetheless seems to think that they've stumbled upon a great character assasination for Goddard, and insist on changing the subject to his supposedly thin platform on the economy. Which, again, only helps Goddard and the Democratic ticket.
The change in subject is so abrupt, you can see the surprise in Goddard's face multiple times as Brewer starts attacking him with nonsensical charges. A telephone into Goddard's inner monologue at the moments in the debate when Brewer mysteriously starts confusing education and economy would have been priceless; you can partically hear Goddard asking himself why he is in the position of trying to debate a woman with a a tenuous grasp of her own personal history, (or the English language), let alone the issues of the day. You can pratically hear Goddard mentally screaming, "What the fuck are you talking about, lady?"
To his credit, Goddard carried himself with poise and dignity, but he needs to work on honing his platform and deliver more specifics, injecting a little more energy into his responses so he's not so wooden, and not letting Brewer's sheer idiocy get to him. He needs to work a little on capitalizing on Brewer's mistakes, and not getting dragged into her silliness.
Meanwhile, there's been quite a bit of hullabaloo over Brewer's refusal to engage in additional debates with Goddard other than the one aired earlier this week. Not surprisingly, given Brewer's piss-poor performance on Wednesday night, Brewer's campaign probably doesn't want to hear the word "debate" again for another three months (David Safier re-posts a Talking Points Memo article noting that Brewer says she only did this debate to qualify for Clean Elections). Meanwhile, mainstream media is joining in on the call for more debates, because, really, we could be writing about Brewer's debate embarassment for days still to come -- it's like mana from the political journalism gods.
But, if Brewer's campaign staff are smart, they will avoid any further debates like the plague; clearly their candidate is dumb as a bag of bricks and doesn't need any more of the bad publicity they're already getting from Wednesday night's debacle.
And if Goddard's campaign staff are smart, they'll make Brewer pay a a steep price for that.