The image of America as a bifurcated political landscape was brought into full relief Wednesday night, as Republican Scott Brown and his reelection opponent, Democrat Elizabeth Warren, debated each other across media spectrums and before hand-picked partisan hosts.
The first candidate confrontation in what may be the most expensive and hard fought US Senate race in the country this year was conducted not face to face, but at arm’s length.
Brown’s chosen venue was WBZ-AM, where the incumbent senator’s friend, conservative talk shot host Dan Rea, has a nightly radio program.
Warren’s was the cable outlet MSNBC, where the Harvard Law School professor’s image was beamed via satellite from Boston so she could be interviewed by liberal host Rachel Maddow.
Each session ended up being substantive, with Brown calling for Attorney General Eric Holder’s resignation, and Warren suggesting the Supreme Court is being politicized.
In his case, Brown said Holder had to go because he had misled the Congress about the Justice Department’s involvement in the “Fast and Furious” gun program.
“He’s lost the confidence of the American people, and he certainly lost the confidence of Congress,” said Brown. He said Holder’s continued service in the Cabinet “would be a distraction.”
For her part, Warren said the Supreme Court’s potential to overthrow parts of the Obama administration’s health care law today suggested a political bent to what is supposed to be an independent judiciary.
She pointed to the court affirming this week its 2010 “Citizen’s United” decision that has unleashed virtually unchecked campaign contributions this election year.
“The Supreme Court is wading into really deep waters, and is doing it in ways that, I think, worry us all, and I think it’s a reminder that who sits in the United States Senate, to review those nominations, to vote on those nominations, really does matter,” she said.
But both appearances also were laden with partisan criticism of the opposing candidate for refusing to enter their opposing media lion’s den.
Rea, hosting Brown from 8 p.m. to 9 p.m., opened his show by noting that he had invited Warren to appear on his program perhaps a dozen times, but she had never even graced him with a reply.
He contrasted that with the willingness of his other guest, who alternately called him “Danny” or “Dan-O,” to come on the program.
“Just to let people know that it would have been a very fair, straightforward presentation. I take my responsibilities very seriously,” Rea said of his proposed debate.
He added: “Tonight, I am a moderator—even though there is no one to moderate with—it will be an opportunity for people to hear Scott Brown. It would have been an opportunity for them to hear Elizabeth Warren.”
About 9:30 p.m., Maddow led into her interview of Warren with a segment highlighting Brown’s since-debunked statement that he had met with “kings and queens” as he worked to solve the country’s joblessness problem.
She said the statement—which Brown admitted to Rea was wrong; he met with the monarchs’ representatives—showed the senator “seemed in sort of over his head, like someone who isn’t really sure about what he is doing trying to sound the way he thinks people who are sure what they are doing, sound when they are talking about things they’re sure of.”
After speaking with Warren, Maddow noted—like Rea said of Warren—that Brown has refused to even respond to her interview requests.
Maddow ended the segment by flashing her e-mail address on the screen before adding, “Scott Brown: Any time.”Glen Johnson can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him on Twitter @globeglen.