Despite her self-regarding belief, Barbara Boxer has not exactly been a paragon of political achievement in the U.S. Senate — but c’mon is this really the best a state of 39 million people can do in finding a replacement?
Not since the tap dancing George Murphy and the tam o’shanter-styling S.I. Hayakawa squatted in California’s seats in the World’s Greatest Deliberative Body have there been two Mickey Mouse lightweights as insubstantial as 2016 Senate wannabes Kamala Harris and Loretta Sanchez.
So we guess it was appropriate that the one and only faceoff between the Democratic dynamic duo Wednesday night was the lamest so-called debate in memory, Or at least since the 2016 vice-presidential contenders parleyed the night before.
A dilettante’s delight: The ABC7-produced event in L.A. was, and let us put this as politely as possible, a bloody muddle: a panel of three, amateur-night questioners competed for time with a batch of pre-recorded Real People (some of whom could not be heard by the rivals in the studio) to pose the most insipid inquiries possible, while OCD-stricken moderator Marc Brown continuously refused to let the candidates finish sentences, apparently concerned there wouldn’t be time left for the crucial performance of a troupe of trapeze artists waiting in the wings.
At one point, one of the three panelists (we omit Janis Hirohama’s name to spare her family embarrassment) actually asked Harris and Sanchez “what committees would you like to serve on?” Yuck.
In the end, sigh, Harris’s banalities and clichés trumped Rep. Sanchez’s squeaky prattling and saccharine babbling, and Kamala was the only one on the stage who at least had the poise and appearance of a U.S. Senator.
Three key takeaways:
Where were Willon, Cadelago and Marinucci? Egghead Raphael Sohenshine of the (all rise) Pat Brown Institute for Public Affairs at Cal State L.A.; League of Women Voters goo-goo Hirohama and ABC7 general assignment reporter Adrienne Alpert all are, no doubt, very nice people who are routinely kind to dogs and curtain crawlers. Not one, alas, is a professional political reporter who is actually, um, covering the Senate race.
So instead of benefiting from beat reporters who know what they’re talking about, and who might have asked at least one – one, for the love of God, one! – follow-up question, we were subjected to this trio of worthies earnestly reading her or his list of shallow questions conscientiously prepared in study hall. That’s not to mention moderator Brown, who seemed to think the 12 people who actually tuned into the affair did so to hear him bellow “your time is up,” any time either Kamala or Loretta came close to expressing a complete thought. Secret memo to Marc: the fans don’t come to the game to watch the umpires.
Queen of the platitude: Harris was alternately arrogant, condescending, weak-kneed and pandering. Some examples of her soaring rhetoric: On water: “We must have a conversation around this” (A conversation? Really? Hint, hint: California’s been having a “conversation” on water since before the Bear Flag Republic. No word yet on any progress). On fighting terrorism: “We have to be smart and tough” (now don’t get too far out on a limb there, General). On U.S.-Russia relations: (“I believe that Russia poses a serious threat to our country” (Ooh). Also: we hereby demand a moratorium on using the word “unpack” unless you’re talking about removing the contents of a suitcase. Big upside: she speaks in complete sentences.
Word salad Sanchez: For her part, Loretta was smarmy, scatterbrained, snarling and sarcastic. At least her self-dramatic digressions were long-winded. To her credit, Loretta did roll out an entertaining series of creative gestures to distract from her semi-coherent verbal frolics, at one point forming a little hand puppet mouth while saying that Kamala was all talk and no action, and, at another, shooing the air in her foe’s direction, like a fairy princess dismissing the wicked witch from her kingdom. Sadly for Sanchez, Harris totally clobbered her on her truly lousy House attendance record.
Bottom line: Neither candidate did anything that will change a race now shaped as a Harris win. As a practical matter, it wouldn’t matter anyway, since either of them would fill the Boxer space in the Senate of predictable, reflexive support and fist-shaking on behalf of every liberal Democratic interest group in the state. Good times, CTA, trial lawyers and SEIU!
What a pair.
Full disclosure: we watched this horror show with one eye focused on the Giants memorable wild card win over the Mets. However: the most recent PPIC poll reported that a fourth of likely voters said they might not cast ballots in this one. And, despite our long and impeccable citizenship records – we’re the only two people in California who actually show up for jury duty – we’re tempted to join them.