I Say Craney, You Say Senkaku--Political Islandhopping
War and peace, jobs and pay, life and death--oh, yes, and Craney and Senkaku, too.
In the Virginia Senate race, the really important issues include knowledge of arcane world islands. I'll take Island Hot Spots for $200, Alex.
Tonight's final debate between Sen. George Allen and Democratic challenger Jim Webb featured the latest in the candidates' fun game called Let's Stump the Opponent By Asking Him About Islands No One Has Ever Heard Of.
Why islands? Heck, why not.
This all started back in July, when, at the candidates' first debate, in the section of the contest in which the candidates get to ask each other questions, Allen tried to demonstrate that Webb doesn't really know Virginia (true enough; hardly anyone knows the state as well as Allen, whose command of Virginia geography is breathtaking) by asking Webb what he thought about Craney Island. The senator coyly gave no other details in his question.
Webb fell for the trick absolutely. Turns out Craney Island is a man-made island in the Hampton Roads area where feds want to build a new cargo terminal.
So tonight, Webb turned the tables on Allen. When it was the challenger's turn to ask a question, Webb inquired as to the senator's position on the Senkaku Islands and the dangerous international crisis brewing there.
Utterly clueless, Allen said, with just a glimmer of a smile, that he'd have to study the issue. The man hasn't been in the Senate for six years for nothing.
Webb gloated for a bit and revealed that the islands are involved in a dispute involving Taiwan, Japan and China. But the gloating ended when the moderator returned to Webb for his final 30 seconds on the issue, and Webb couldn't think of anything else to say. He actually passed, giving up speaking time, making him perhaps the first candidate for high office ever to voluntarily cede the chance to make a point against his opponent. He looked awful. He looked juvenile. He couldn't even come up with a stumper based in Virginia.
This was Allen's debate--the senator was smiling, confident and clear in his responses. Webb, by contrast, was halting, grim, stilted in language and gesture. This campaign has featured only rare moments of elevated debate; tonight's Island Stumper was another in a long series of lows.
But "It's Academic" teams across Virginia will be studying the Senkaku Islands tomorrow.
P.S.--The Webb campaign sent out a press release claiming victory in the debate, as all campaigns do no matter what happens. But get this: Here's the headline they slapped on their release--
Allen Goes Home in Defeat, Not Victory
Doesn't Know Where Senkaku Islands Are
I kid you not.
By Marc Fisher |
October 9, 2006; 9:55 PM ET
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