A few firsthand observations after attending the senate debate on UAF campus last night between Scott McAdams and Joe Miller (write-in Lisa Murkowski declined). Sponsored by the student government organization ASUAF, the auditorium was quickly filled to capacity, and there were two additional overflow rooms set up with a live stream in an adjoining building, plus the event was piped over to the Pub. When I arrived fifty minutes early there was already a line of over eighty people waiting, including many friendly acquaintances from among the politically astute and aware. (More below the fold)
The hour-and-half debate was done in three rounds: the first with formal questions, response and rebuttals; the second with the candidates questioning each other; and the third section culled from student questions that were written down on index cards that event coordinators passed out earlier to the folks who were in line. Our moderator, the Chair of the Journalism Department, constantly botched the order of responses and names of the candidates, confusing both of the debaters and also frustrating the audience, once even referring to “Scott Miller.” The audience was polite and respectful, with McAdams getting some really good laughs at his wry asides, and repeatedly elicited strong bursts of applause with many of his answers, Miller, not so much: only once.
In fact, Miller didn’t really directly answer many questions, as he kept deferring and referring to “states rights” as the catch-all solution to any issue, thus avoiding making any clear, definitive statements about anything specific (with the exception to his unequivocally extremist pro-life stance, even in the case of rape or incest). The best example of this came with the responses to the question about a current topic in the national news: the bullying and gay-bashing which has caused many youth suicides as of late. While Miller totally dodged the question, McAdams bluntly defended the civil rights of the members of the gay community with the same forcefulness as he did being the only pro-choice candidate. When advocating his forced-birth position, Miller actually claimed it was important for voters to have a choice… between candidates - the irony of which didn’t escape many in the audience. It also didn’t go over very well to stand at a podium on the campus of North America’s leading scientific institution devoted to arctic research and baldly state in complete ignorance that there is "no scientific evidence" for global warming. One can safely assume what Miller’s opinion on evolution is, despite his remaining upright on stage.
To be sure, McAdams was only being honest about portraying himself as the only true moderate in this race – he is no progressive. There were a couple of missed opportunities: failing to step up and call the never-ending war-orgies for what they are - a horrific waste of human life and obscene loss of resources. He also stopped short of promoting the right for gays to be married, and as per the usual, prudent Alaskan politician, pimped resource extraction as the answer to energy, only once briefly citing alternative energy as a viable solution.
As the virtual elephant in the room, Lisa Murkowski was kicked around in-absentia, with Miller taking the bizarre stance that she is a moderate liberal, which points up the baffling inclination amongst many of my own friends who erroneously claim to be Democrats while espousing support for her. Uh, no... you might want to stop pretending to be a liberal, or even the cop-out default position of claiming to be an Independent if you really think backing a thoroughbred Republican with the voting history of Murkowski reflects your core principles.
"There is a strong tie between Scott and Alaska's Native community. An adopted member of the Dakl'aweidi (Killer Whale) clan, Scott's Tlingit name is Keét Yiyaágu which means "Boat Size Killer Whale." The name indicates a whale of prominence."
When posed the question about experience, McAdams addressed the misconception of his perceived lack thereof, saying that in fact he has more experience with elected positions than either Frank or Lisa Murkowski had combined at the start of their political dynasties. Which brings up one of my own issues with Miller that I was discussing with some other folks earlier: if he’s from Fairbanks, why haven’t I heard of him before now? One would think he’d have at the very least been active in this community serving on various non-profit boards, or at the very least have some volunteer visibility by donating his time to any one of the local organizations. At the debate I learned of McAdams’ having been on the board of the Alaska Humanities Forum, which was a facet of his public service I hadn’t known about and appealed greatly to one of my personal biases.
Now for a guy who supposedly reveres the Constitution as forever sacrosanct and inflexible over time, Miller sure was eager to edit the document with a pledge to amend it with term-limits, which McAdams stated he would not sign. He did however repeatedly call out Miller’s signing onto a promise to refuse any and all funding which was not directly called for in the president’s initial budget, which would effectively
The overall message of Miller echoed the twisted logic of an end-times preacher, which is a negative outlook, bitter and grim, with everything is premised upon and prefaced with fear, fear and fear. Not a very attractive (or sane) approach to solving problems and dealing with issues. Like the power of money, it might be attractive to the angry, fearful and weary, who have lost hope and seek only personal absolution and vindication for theme & theirs alone. This stood in stark contrast with McAdams positive persona and generally upbeat enthusiasm: before the debate he was out in the audience introducing himself and shaking hands and making eye contact with everyone within reach. Miller was notably absent, and interacted only with specific individuals in the crowd when he did finally emerge from behind the curtain. To me personally, this was a telling note of distinction between the two.
Speaking of curtains, Miller made allusion again to his solution for illegal immigration as being a crucial issue that should be dealt with by erecting a 1,969-mile long wall across America's porous border. One imagines the Canadian one (5,525 miles long) will be even more fun to erect, and will also serve to stem the tide of folks getting any decent health-care.
One thing finally occurred to me after years of nagging distrust: there’s always a contingent that beats the drum of criticizing the government, or any power structure in society, while simultaneously working for it. This is an extension of the hypocrisy of benefiting from the same “entitlements” that Miller premised his initial campaign platform upon, until the uncovering of his own history. Much like the incessant "evil homosexual agenda" frothing from religious extremists, who are later found to be overcompensating because of their own projected and repressed fantasies, I often suspect the passionate fervor to lop off the limb that many indignant beneficiaries happen to perch upon themselves is motivated in a large part by private misgivings and misplaced guilt. Aside from the greed of “I got mine and nobody else can have it now.”
What I’ve been specifically and increasingly bothered by (an “emperor has no clothes” perspective if you will), is how dense the populace has to be to accept the political philosophy that “government is not the solution – it’s the problem” from an individual who is either already an entrenched part of said system, or aspires to become elected to a position therein. Case in point being Miller’s constant refrain over and over in answer to almost every issue during the debate: “government is not the solution – it’s the problem” – and nobody calling him on the simple observation that if he truly believes it, why in the hell would we honestly ever want to hire him for the same job? And also, hasn’t it obviously worked just wonderfully for you?
It’s becoming an increasingly obvious issue with many that Miller’s refusal to talk about his work history is the equivalent to sitting at a job interview and refusing to talk about your previous experience at your other jobs. Well what I’m taking about here is something even more fundamental: as in if I own a business that is selling a service I would presumably want to hire a staff that ideally is excited, interested and passionate about my product and what I do. Now why the hell would I ever want to have someone working for me when they are simultaneously undermining my business? Having such a person on staff would be detrimental not only to sales and success, but become a negative drain on the rest of the staff, and pollute public perception because all they do is endlessly bitch about what a horrible place it is to work at, and what a lousy job they do. That’s crazy, it doesn’t make any common sense, and in the real world, such a person would be fired, or not hired in the first place.
You see and hear this talking out of both sides of the mouth with, for example, The Quitter’s constant maligning of the “lamestream media” all the while working for the one of the biggest media consortiums on the planet. That simple fact escapes most viewers of Fox News, who will sagely nod their heads with the glass teat firmly clenched in their own jaws. Don Young and Ted Stevens also built their respective political careers upon the same paradoxical self-loathing anti-government attitude; ironically garnering respect and support from disaffected and clueless voters who conveniently overlook the fox has long been comfortably enshrined in the proverbial henhouse.
For what they're worth, trending polls indicate slippage for Miller, and the grassroots momentum building as more and more people recognize the sincere, genuine opportunity behind McAdam's candidacy, and what a positive role his leadership has to offer for the state of Alaska.
PS: If you haven't yet seen it, there's a classic YouTube clip to accompany this snapshot here.