By Mark Green
Voter fraud vs. the right to vote. Romney vs. Perry. Obama vs. Gaddafi.
Mary Matalin and Ron Reagan debate why GOP governors are in favor of voter ID laws while Obama constituencies -- young, poor, non-white -- seem to be the target. When, if ever, is it OK to ask about a candidate's religious tenets? Eight debates down, 16 to go -- are they substantive or merely contentious? And does the death of Gaddafi and his regime imply an Obama Doctrine whereby we help produce a democracy without risking American lives or trillions of dollars? (To listen to the show, please click below.)
*On Voter ID Laws. Ron wonders why ID laws are needed at all if, according to the FBI and Brennan Center, there's no evidence that voter fraud is a significant problem. Mary counters that there is evidence of voter impersonation (she saw it in Chicago when she started as a young "GOP grunt") and no examples that these new laws have impeded voting.
We listen to Dorothy Cooper, a 96-year-old Chattanooga resident, turned away by a voting registrar because she lacked a valid ID and couldn't come up with her marriage license. While Mary discounts this case as a red herring, Ron regards her as representative of an injured class, adding that the reason Washington doesn't work is that "each side sees a different reality when it comes to things like voter fraud and climate change."
*On the Politics of Religion. First they came for the Mormons...
JFK's famous Houston Ministers Speech laid down the marker on this issue, but questions linger. Mary thinks that Romney's Mormonism won't be a big deal in 2012 and that Democrats can be as intolerant as Republicans: "I care about Romney's views on cap gains, not what Joseph Smith did in the 1830s in New York" ("in ancient New York," adds the host, having done site research this week attending the The Book of Mormon). As Rick Santorum stated in Tuesday's CNN debate, Ron argues that if a candidate publicly highlights his faith, it's OK to ask about that faith (e.g., does it insist that evolution is just a theory, that the Earth is 6,000 years old, that homosexuality a sin, that you should submit to your husband even if his view is inconsistent with the Constitution?).
Mary concludes that it's the lack of faith that bothers voters. While that may be true, Ron acknowledges, it doesn't bother him as a non-believer. "Then I'll pray for you, Ron," she says. He replies, "That's nice."
*On Mud and Debates. Until Teddy Roosevelt, it was gauche to actually campaign for president beyond your front porch. At the CNN debate last week, Perry and Romney exchanged such personal attacks ("hypocrisy" and "testy," respectively) that we talk about David Gergen's conclusion that Obama therefore "won" the debate. The two concur that neither helps their candidacies by such personal disparagement.
Also: yes, Gingrich is a quick-witted debater, but is he a pure demagogue for saying that Dodd and Frank should be criminally prosecuted for something or the other? Mary argues that he was winning the debate until he went too far. Ron maintains that it doesn't matter, since Gingrich, tossing out allegations of criminality after quitting the speakership in a cloud of ethical charges, is not really running to win. Mary says that she's talked with Gingrich about his candidacy and reports that he thinks he's serious.
*Quick Takes: Cities. Drug Tests. Gaddafi. Are cities on average healthier than rural areas? Ron says yes, and that's why cities are the future; Mary teases both venues. Drug-testing welfare applicants rub both wrong. And the two worry whether Libya or any of the other newly freed Middle East countries can elect small-d democrats. They focus less on any new "Obama Doctrine" and more on whether Islam and democracy are compatible.
*On the Radar. Reagan and Matalin then chat about the upcoming "war on Halloween" (Ron), as some parents will rant about witchcraft, while Mary ponders whether the First Lady will insist that salads replace candy... and they agree that the release and killing of exotic animals in Ohio was horrible and probably interested Americans more than the events in Libya.
Mark Green is the creator and host of Both Sides Now, which is powered by the American Federation of Teachers.
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