If you like your debater to be condescending, snide, repetitive, off topic, rote, eager to get personal, willing to toss out extraneous comments and charges, and full of phony manners (thanking the host for every question), then Sen. Scott Brown is your man.
His dark, hyperkinetic style in the first U.S. Senate debate revealed that he thinks he’s in trouble and needed to commit hard fouls on “Professor” Warren, who looked calm, reasonable, thoughtful and authentic. She didn’t wag her finger once.
Her theme was it’s not what you say, it’s how you vote that matters. Judging from the number of times he said it, his theme was “thank you.”
I scored each of seven host questions:
Q1, on character, went to Warren. Brown must’ve thought she wouldn’t be ready to answer on her Native American heritage right out of the box, because he whacked her for not being truthful with the first words out of his mouth. After calling him “a nice guy,” she said firmly it’s her family and she can’t change that and the Republican who hired her at Harvard Law School didn’t know about it. Brown monotonously said four times she should “release her personnel records.”
Q2, on job creation, was a draw. Both tossed around data and legislation. She established that he opposed three jobs bills. He fell back onto standard GOP rhetoric about “regulatory and tax uncertainties” holding back business. She challenged his “made-up numbers.”
Q3 was on avoiding tax hikes under “taxmageddon,” but it quickly became about energy sources and she won it handily. He lapsed into repetition on an “all of the above” approach to meeting energy needs. He said oddly if she wants to pay more to the government she should do so on her state income tax form.
Q4 on abortion went to Warren because Brown’s defense for his votes for the Blunt Amendment and against “equal pay for equal work” was, “I live in a house full of women.” He said he’d been fighting for women since he was 6 when he fought an abusive father. We knew this but it seemed like TMI. He repeated “stop scaring women.” She scored points on his opposing the Supreme Court nomination of Elena Kagan of Massachusetts. His response — “I’m sorry if I didn’t vote for your boss” — was snide and condescending.
Q5 was on leaving Afghanistan. Again, advantage Warren. He raised his military background and she trumped him by noting that three of her brothers were in the service. Brown snuck in traveling to Israel and accused her of having “a nuanced” (read: soft) position on Iran’s nuclear arms potential. She sided with President Obama as commander-in-chief. Brown never said Mitt Romney’s name once.
Q6, I give to Brown; it started on the high cost of college, which he blamed on Warren and her husband for making three-quarters of a million, plus housing and other perks as Harvard law professors. Seemed too personal. Brown shifted the discussion to her role in engineering a settlement for Travelers Insurance against victims of asbestos poisoning. She had no answer and punted with “fighting for working families.”
Q7 was whether climate change is real. Easily Warren’s round. Brown signaled his ambivalence by saying it’s both man-made and natural, went on a rant about the Keystone pipeline and union jobs, and said Cape Wind, which she supports, was something Ted Kennedy opposed. She caught him flatfooted by saying the U.S. Senate race in Massachusetts matters nationally because the Republican who would chair the Senate Energy Committee is James Inhofe, who calls global climate change “a hoax.”
To recap: Warren 5, Brown 1 and 1 draw.