I see that my co-blogger MJ Andrew has already posted about the Christine O’Donnell-Chris Coons debate, and I thank him as that saves me the trouble of having to sort through a whole bunch of links.
I disagree with him, though somewhat reservedly. Having listened to the entire clip it does seem to me that O’Donnell is questioning whether the concept of the separation of Church and State is in the First Amendment, not the Establishment Clause. There was some crosstalk at this point in the debate, and it appears to me that she’s just repeating her question with regards to the issue of separation. It’s debatable, though, and a candidate should do a better job clearly establishing what she’s talking about in such a setting.
That being the case, I was more intrigued by Coons’s own response to the question. While O’Donnell possibly made a gaffe – an unfortunate one if indeed it was a gaffe – Coons’s response is the more troubling aspect of this exchange.
I assume that only deaf and blind individuals in this country are unaware that GOP Senate nominee Christine O’Donnell said on the execrable Bill Maher’s show Politically Incorrect in 1999 that as a young woman she dabbled in witchcraft. What brought this up is that O’Donnell on the show was criticizing self-proclaimed witches and made this comment to demonstrate that she had personal experience of what she was attacking. Her appearances on Maher’ s show were to serve as the token Christian conservative who Maher could attack. As this essay on chastity which she wrote in 1998 indicates, O’Donnell was doing far more than making guest appearances at this time on Maher’s show, and I interpret her agreement to be on Maher’s show as an attempt to get her message across in an unfriendly venue. She is making light of the whole stupid issue which I think is the right tack to take.
Less well known is that her opponent Chris Coons wrote an article when he was 21 for the Amherst student newspaper entitled The Making of a Bearded Marxist in which he described how his college experiences transformed him from a conservative into a leftist. (Son of a gun, I guess there are people foolish enough to fall for the low level political indoctrination that many campuses engage in in lieu of an education.) What do I make of this statement of Coons? Other than that 21 year olds are apt to make fairly foolish statements, certainly I did, nothing.