And he isn’t a very good debater, either. I am speaking about Steve Bullock, Democrat candidate for governor of the great state of Montana. Last night he and Republican candidate Rick Hill met in the first of several debates to be held over the course of the next few weeks.
The debate started at approximately 7 p.m. By 7:15 it was obvious why Steve took a powder last month and canceled the debate that was to have been sponsored by the contractors’ association. He just isn’t ready for the pros. He was so anchored to the lectern he could hardly move his eyebrows, and he was so stiff members of his staff were worried that a CSI crew would have to be called to determine time of his demise. It turned out that part of the problem was that he was so ill-prepared that he had to sneak an illicit binder of notes and prepared responses onto the lectern so he would be able to read his talking points. Evidently, this was in violation of the agreed upon rules that called for both candidates to respond to the questions without notes or written remarks.
Wow. First, he cancels a scheduled event at practically the last minute and then he cheats to get through the second one. But it gets better – even with his notes and prepared talking points, he still couldn’t win a point. What is that old saying — winners never cheat and cheaters never win?? Yeah, that one.
The rout began with the first question – which was designed to give Steve a first possession touchdown – about whether or not the candidates supported the state employee pay raise that Governor BS and Eric Feaver negotiated last year and the legislature turned down. Given that the venue was Helena, it was a no-brainer that neither candidate was going to come out opposing pay raises and Steve didn’t disappoint with his boilerplate response about how hardworking state employees deserved more money – not even a first down with that play. But Rick grabbed the ball and made it to the end zone by reminding the audience that the real problem with the governor’s proposal was that he completely ignored the legislature when agreeing to the terms. Negotiating 101 – make sure that the guy who has the checkbook is included in the discussion! Rick – 7, Steve – 0.
Same thing happened on the next few questions – Steve would read his canned response and turn the ball over to Rick who ran it all the way back for the score.
Then each candidate got to ask the other a question. Oh, oh – the gotcha moments! The audience sucked all the air out of the universe as Steve focused his laser-like stare on his…notes… and attempted to tackle Rick behind the line of scrimmage with an accusatory inquiry about his support for a 1997 bill that – HORRORS!!! lowered tax rates for the rich!!!! With a tiny smile and a quick glance at the audience, Rick, metaphorically speaking, mowed right over Steve on his way to the end zone – as he explained that, yes, he had supported the bill that President Clinton referenced during his speech at the Democratic National Convention as the crowning achievement of his presidency. Poor Steve. Didn’t even see that one coming. The cleat marks on his face were visible clear up in the balcony.
The rest of the evening was more of the same. Steve played to his fans who cheered and groaned – sometimes literally, despite admonitions to remain quiet – with the usual unimaginative partisan pablum. Then Rick would provide the facts, figures, background, and pertinent details that carried the ball into the end zone. On resource development, property tax relief, education, Montana’s business climate, medical marijuana, and several other issues – Rick took it over the goal line every time. By the end of the evening, Steve looked like a seventh-round rookie QB after the first game against the Super Bowl champs.
There are supposed to be seven more debates. Steve may decide that avoidance therapy is his only hope. By now he should at least understand that he doesn’t have the experience, intellect, or speaking skills to win a debate against Rick Hill – even if he, uh, shall we say, cheats.
Last night’s performance was a battle of wits – unfortunately Steve came unarmed.