Thursday, October 28, 2010

The Great Debate

My Dear Fellow Patriots;

At one point during Tuesday night's debate at Wagner College, incumbent Michael McMahon smugly told challenger Michael Grimm that he was going to "school him." By the time it was all over, however, it became clear that it was McMahon who needed to learn a few things.

I arrived early. Outside the doors of Main Hall, a beautiful old building, dramatically lit, were a few hundred people holding McMahon signs - and virtually nobody displaying Grimm signs. Apparently the Congressman's campaign staff did a much better job of whipping up the volunteers than did the Grimm folks - at least, that's what I thought. Not an auspicious start.

Then I noticed that all the men in the crowd who were over the age of a typical college sophomore, were wearing matching shirts - crisp, new, white sweatshirts. Remembering what I was taught by never-ending commercials, I looked for the union label - and sure enough, emblazoned on the back was the logo of a labor organization which I shall not name. Those that were not wearing the sweatshirts were, well, college sophomores.

It was quite clear that this was an Astro Turf crowd; it was also quite clear that the McMahon camp had put a lot of effort into ginning up enthusiasm for their candidate. Unfortunately, they had to settle for manufactured sizzle. Truthfully, when you see all those robotic zombie-types dressed alike and taking orders from their leaders ("OK, everybody walk over here!") it smacks more of desperation than anything else.

Inside the theater we took the first empty seats on the aisle we could find - in about the ninth or tenth row - which meant that about 80% of the room was behind us.

At 7:30 the candidates walked in - McMahon first. As soon as he entered the room there was enthusiastic applause, and as he got closer to the stage virtually everybody sitting in front of me - all 8 or 9 rows - stood up and cheered. I thought it was going to be a long night with a packed McMahon crowd, until I turned around and saw that nobody behind me was standing, and only a scant handful was even applauding.

Then Grimm walked in and the room erupted. If this race was decided by an applause-meter, it would have been all over right then and there; if you were at the Healthcare Town Hall Meeting last October, it was deja vu all over again.

As for the debate itself, Grimm won handily, in my opinion. He spoke smoothly and confidently, hit all the right notes, came off as a regular guy with a passionate love of country and liberty, showed good humor, and scored multiple points.

He was obviously well-prepared. His poise and tone were quite remarkable when you consider that he has never been involved in politics in his life - another factor in his favor.

His biggest gaffe of the evening? In a question about immigration, he referred to "immigrants" when he obviously meant to refer to "illegal immigrants," and apparently didn't notice the slip. We all knew what he meant - it was quite obvious in the context of his remarks. McMahon, however, tried to pounce on him when it was his turn, pontificating about how this country was built on immigration. It was his "gotcha" moment, and hardly worthy of the mention.

However, McMahon's major gaffe was a beauty. During his response to the same question, and while defending the Administration's policy on illegals - which is to say, no policy at all - he stated that he supports deporting illegal aliens - if they commit a crime!

Mr. Grimm then pointed out that his opponent, the incumbent, might want to reflect upon the fact that "illegal" immigrants have by definition committed a crime the moment they crossed the border. Oops. Was his face red.

This is a horse race, my friends. McMahon and Grimm are driving down the stretch to the finish line; either one could win, and despite the Advance's attempt to marginalize the importance of this election (according to their editorial: "To hear some people around here talk, the fate of the republic hinges on the outcome of the election for the seat in the 13th Congressional District. Of course, all over the country, similarly outlandish claims are being made...") you and I know better: this year there are NO unimportant races. Let's make it happen.

Yours in Liberty,

Frank Santarpia
Staten Island, NY