Chris Murphy and Linda McMahon met in the first debate of the Connecticut Senate race Sunday, and it was as heated a debate as the torrent of negative ads McMahon has thrown against Murphy in the course of this campaign would suggest. The biggest gaffe of the debate was McMahon’s, and it was on a key policy issue. Asked about her position on same-sex marriage, whether she supported Connecticut’s law allowing marriage or her home state of North Carolina’s ban, she said this:
“I absolutely support America’s law for, you know, same-sex marriage. And, uh, I wouldn’t pretend to try to impose my will or rights on others, I think everyone should have the freedom to make that choice.”
As Murphy was quick to point out, the only federal law pertaining to gay marriage is a law banning it, the Defense of Marriage Act. McMahon’s confusion on that point is really inexplicable, showing either a real lack of familiarity with the issues, or a lack of preparation. That exchange was emblematic of the whole debate.
The New York Times summed up the debate by commenting on Murphy’s “command of policy details,” while McMahon “relentlessly stuck to her talking points, at one point repeating a series of sentences verbatim after an earlier attempt had been drowned out by a moderator.” The Hartford Courant’s Colin McEnroe called the debate for Murphy.
[...] Chris Murphy turned the debate utterly to his own advantage, won nearly every exchange and fanned the flame of the most significant suspicion about Linda McMahon: that when you take away the expensive media campaign she still doesn’t know her way around public policy, because she only started caring about it a few years ago.
Simmering in the background of this debate is a bizarre story of a nasty fight McMahon’s campaign manager picked with Huffington Post’s Amanda Terkel. Terkel acted on a tip from a Democratic source that McMahon’s jobs plan as featured on her site was plagiarized in large part from national GOP lawmakers and organizations. Huffington Post, asked about the lack of attribution:
That query led to a nasty, profanity-laced, off-the-record phone call from McMahon campaign manager Corry Bliss to Terkel on Saturday afternoon. He asserted that the print and pdf versions of McMahon’s plan have had the proper citations all along, so the charges of plagiarism were baseless.]
The campaign subsequently updated the website with the proper citations, and Terkel emailed Bliss to tell him that she wasn’t going to pursue the story, but also that “given his inappropriate behavior on the call, she would no longer conduct any correspondence with him on an off-the-record basis, as a way to protect herself from such a barrage in the future.” Unbelievably, Bliss got even more obnoxious. He leaked her emails, carefully edited to leave out her links to the cached website that lacked citations, and any reference to his obscene tirade against her. He leaked the edited email to a blogger, sent it out with a press release, and put the portion on the website.
When Terkel told McMahon spokesman Todd Abrajano that HuffPost planned to write about the campaign’s practice of leaking reporters’ emails, he responded: “No, we don’t leak reporter emails, but we consider you to be a far-left liberal blogger, not a real reporter.”
Ironically, Bliss undertook this attack on Terkel and the Huffington Post, including the out-of-bounds editing and leaking of emails, to show that the campaign wasn’t unethically plagiarizing others work. It’s a sleazy operation from the top on down.