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Monday, January 18, 2010

Linda McMahon's Face the State Appearance

Unprepared, unqualified, and uninteresting.

These three words came to mind as I watched Linda McMahon's lackluster performance on WFSB's Face the State this past Sunday.

I think people understand that I favor former Congressman Rob Simmons over Linda McMahon. And now, after her appearance on Face the State, anyone can see precisely why. Linda is playing far out of her league and some must be asking exactly why she is going to drag the Connecticut Republican Party and Congressman Rob Simmons through a bloody, expensive, and frivolous primary that is bound to damage the GOPs chance of taking the Senate seat in the upcoming general election.

It takes a great deal more than having $50 million dollars to spend to run for Senate. Part of me wanted to see a Linda McMahon who represented Republican issues, and values well; focused, articulate, and engaging. After all, this is a Republican primary race, isn't it?

Unfortunately, when it came to substance, Linda simply didn't have any. She was offered several opportunities to lay out a simple platform for Connecticut voters, and at best, all she could muster was that it was difficult to do business in the State of Connecticut, and she understands the bankruptcy process because she went through it in the 1970s with her existing company. Neither of these two points impact the majority of the roughly 3.5 million people who live in Connecticut, whom are neither business owners, nor involved in the sports entertainment industry.

Moreover, while the interview was fair, and the questions at times - somewhat pointed, it exposed her and her campaign as completely inept. When did you decide to run for Senate? What do you have in common with the average Connecticut resident? Why do you want to run for Senate? Why aren't there any policy positions on your website? What politician do you find yourself aligned with from an ideological standpoint? Folks, these are not tough questions. These are the kind of questions that politicians from any persuasion would die for. Linda should have hit a home-run on each of these, had she been prepared for the interview.

Instead, we learned that Linda just recently decided to run for Senate, she is still trying to figure out what she stands for, she doesn't really know why she's running, and she likes "Maggie" Thatcher. And then we learn that she voted for Joe Lieberman at the time for ideological reasons. Not very Republican. What ideological reasons? What positions did Joe Lieberman hold that your fellow Republican, Alan Schlesinger didn't? Isn't Joe Lieberman the kind of career politician that you claim you're sick of seeing in Washington? Or is there a set number of years that he must stay in to reach career politician status? Hello? Is anyone home? Is anything clicking? Is anything coherent?

Here's the thing, Linda. When you get a great opportunity to go on television for free and market yourself, you are supposed to take advantage of the opportunity to tell the voters who you are, and what you stand for, and how you intend to make their lives better by putting you in elected office. When the media asks you simple open-ended questions, you are supposed to hammer home a simple and clear message that resonates. Instead, we got nothing. Absolutely nothing.

Republican voters expect to hear more than she is walking around the state, and talking to people. That's not impressive. And by the way, most politicians formulate their political platform before they run, not at some point when they get around to it. The implication is that this Senate run is a quick grab at a position of power, and that details don't matter. But believe me, they do. They do on the other side of the aisle, and they do to us Republicans too.

And the two minute tug-at-your-heart-strings story about Linda's car being towed and going to the bankruptcy courthouse because the McMahons ran their company into the ground is not really compelling. In fact, Stamford Advocate's Brian Lockhart seemed a little miffed by her tale which didn't seem much connected to the question asked as to why Connecticut residents would feel compelled to vote for someone of her wealth and background. The bottom line was that her response was just bizarre.

But we also learned that Linda's big issue with Rob Simmons is "card check". To the residents of Connecticut, card check means absolutely nothing. They are just two words together that leave people scratching their heads. I'm sure Connecticut residents stay up to all hours of the night worrying about "card check". Oh, and let's not forget "cap and trade". Oh brother! Another phrase for Linda to fit on an index card that she can fit into memory and blurt out quickly before she forgets. If this lady is our nominee, Richard Blumenthal is going to have a field day grinding her into the ground on the issues. I came away wonder just who the heck prepped her for this show, anyway!

But I have to conclude my review of her appearance with the obvious, and probably more damning material on our would-be candidate - her opinions and thoughts on her own company. Earlier in the program, she made a point to say how proud she was of her company, focusing on the charity work it does and not the content of the product.

When asked about the deaths and drug use, Linda pointed to a roughly new, three year old Wellness Policy which seemed to come out of necessity as a result of a media pressure from questions arising from mounting deaths and injuries caused by drug abuse and accidents within her WWE company. At one point to skirt the issue, she directed the panel members to the website instead of articulating details like most CEOs are capable. I took this as a sign of trying to distance herself and deflect from what is a primary concern about Linda's background. It's hardly appealing to be seen as having a "you win some you lose some" attitude, particularly when we are talking about life and death. That seems to be a very cold and calculating position to take on such basic human issue. I didn't get the warm and fuzzy thought that I would want to be in Linda's employ, that's for sure. Talk about being just a number, or a sad statistic. I also found particularly damning, was her response to a later follow up question where she confirmed that her employees sign contracts that limit WWEs responsibility for injury or death under her employ, and that she doesn't provide Healthcare benefits for her employees.

If that wasn't enough to expose the strange hypocrisy of both her and her company, Brian Lockhart's final question where he asked Linda McMahon about a WWE show where her son in law was simulating sex with with a corpse must have been the iceberg that sunk the Titantic. Having not been familiar with wrestling storylines, even that question even caught me off guard. Understandably, Lockhart declared the episode to be personally offensive to himself, and others. Other than glancing a look in his direction, Linda didn't have much of an answer for such a damning question about the content from the company she has amassed her millions from, and the industry that produces such horrifying dribble.

Real United States Senate candidates don't field questions like this. The whole thing is just surreal.

Richard Blumenthal must be licking his chops at the prospect of debating complex issues with the likes of Linda McMahon. The prospect of facing off with an extreme amateur with little knowledge of Connecticut or National issues must be incredibly appealing. And then there is their career comparison, as she told us on Face the State - negotiating "wrestling contracts" versus Blumenthal's ten year experience as Connecticut's Attorney General, negotiating major contracts with international companies, states, and entities. Oh please, God help the GOP.

Knowing that Linda doesn't even know where she stands on the issues, must be a dream for a guy that probably wanted to be Senator since he was age two. If Richard Blumenthal had a choice, I'm sure he'd rather run against an opponent like Linda McMahon, rather than an experienced Congressman, and experienced intelligence and military leader like Rob Simmons. At least Rob Simmons can stand toe to toe with Blumenthal on the issues, without the event becoming an embarrassing spectacle for Connecticut, and in particular - Connecticut Republicans - as it would with Linda McMahon on the debate stage.

The McMahon Senate campaign has quickly become much like the Bob Backlund's bid for the Connecticut First Congressional District in 2000. Which I should add was spawned from Backlund's phony Presidential bid as part of a WWE storyline. With that unfortunate mocking of our political system created by Linda McMahon and the WWE, several people are still concerned that there is a professional wrestling tie-in with Linda McMahon's current Senatorial bid. Since its not unlike the McMahons use shock storylines to attract viewers, such as faking the death of Vince McMahon, some are waiting for the next shoe to drop which is nothing more than a chance for her to boast her ratings, and gain ground with the networks. I can distinctly remember how the Connecticut Republican Party, including the sitting Governor wanted nothing to do with the WWE or Bob Backlund's campaign. Connecticut Republicans wanted nothing to do with exposure and linkage to such unpopular and violent television programming.

From what I can gather here - the Linda McMahon tag-line is that she would like Connecticut to know her as successful CEO of a major Connecticut Company, an outsider who will come in and straighten out the good ol' boys club in Washington, and who will (somehow) bring jobs to Connecticut. Ok, sounds good. But the reality is quite different.

Linda McMahon is the CEO of a very controversial company which has made front-page news for work and employee related deaths, drug and steroid use, she claims to be an outsider who doesn't seem to know much about Congress let alone know the name of anyone who works there which will actually impede her ability to get anything done for Connecticut. In fact, she wants to bring jobs to Connecticut, then perhaps she should be running for the local statehouse where those decisions are made. In the end, the McMahon campaign is probably a great networking opportunity for her and the WWE. But for the people, of Connecticut - its a big embarrassment.

A few additional thoughts:

Although you can find a million articles online about Linda McMahon and World Wrestling Entertainment, I feel the need to make a brief mention here about this aspect of her background, because after all - if it weren't for the WWE, Linda McMahon most likely would not be running for Senate as this is the company from where she is claiming to have all of this business background which somehow qualifies her to be Connecticut's next U.S. Senator. Fair game, right?

In the 70s and 80s, wrestling seemed more cartoonish, which is what it competed with on Saturday mornings when it was run by Vince McMahon, Sr. After Vince McMahon, Sr. passed away, and Linda and Vince took hold of the WWE promotion, and molded into a new brand of entertainment which moved professional wrestling to never before seen low-brow form of entertainment that uses violence, sex, death, controversy, emotion, loud music and feigned physical competition to get the viewers juices going. The McMahon's succeeded in finding stations to carry the show at 8pm to compete with prime-time programming, and thus the new era of Pro Wrestling was formed. Do they get credit for a new brand of creativity and expansion of a once small time regional company? Absolutely. But that's not the point nor the concern here.

Simply put, parents find Professional Wrestling to be a very negative influence on their children. Besides the scripted in-ring fighting that goes on, and the fact that kids world-wide are emulating wrestlers by putting each other dangerous choke holds and and what have you, you also have storylines showing people trying to run each other down with vehicles, destruction of property, fire, and pushing the envelope on bad language and sexual content.

The McMahon's, who have profited handsomely from attracting people through their darkest vices, seem to take a very distant view on their responsibility for their creation. Linda McMahon wants to be the CEO of "creativity" but not be linked to its elements of sex, violence, drugs, and death. Well, it doesn't work that way. That's a lot like Dr. Frankenstein taking credit for his creation but not the murders associated with monster. It's hard to stand on the sideline and not claim for a smidgen of accountability for the hundreds of kids injuries, and even deaths associated with emulation of professional wrestling tactics used by children which are directly related to her product. A simple search on Google will find you plenty of news articles about wrestling related injuries.

Most people do not know or care about the internal workings of professional wrestling. I believe most people see it for what it is - more violent garbage on TV. And its a bit of a stretch for Linda McMahon to present it as if it were a mainstream company that produces clothing, or computer parts. And impossible to present it as a company that goes on day-to-day without episodes of deaths or injuries, and controversy. At the end of the day, people just don't like the Professional Wrestling that is on TV today. And Republicans, who tend to be the more serious types, aren't likely to support Linda McMahon on the the notion that she's just another CEO of a company. Sorry. It's just not going to work. Most Republicans would rather Linda McMahon take her $50 million dollars and reinvest it in some area of the economy that creates jobs.

Linda, for the good of the party and herself, aught to just leave well enough alone. Enjoy the experience she's had so far, save future embarrassment and just go back to her WWE desk. Let's leave the Senate race to qualified people like Rob Simmons.

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