My column from last week’s issue of Ottawa Delivered:
Since U.S. Rep. Mark Kirk decided to stump in Ottawa on the anniversary of the local Lincoln-Douglas debate – and in the same location, no less – I must admit to a bit of disappointment that the Republican candidate for U.S. Senate didn’t try harder to channel the Great Emancipator.
I know some people will think I’m picking on Kirk unfairly – he did, after all, actually come to Ottawa, despite knowing his opponent, State Treasurer Alexi Giannoulias, wouldn’t be here – but his choice of date and venue is clearly designed to make a connection between Kirk and Lincoln, the first and greatest Republican president. I’m certainly not going to let the opportunity pass.
First, let’s address Kirk’s appearance. He should’ve donned a top hat and wore platform shoes to make himself appear more Lincoln-esque. Even though Lincoln didn’t sport a beard when he debated Stephen Douglas, Kirk also could’ve grown out his facial hair to add to the Lincoln look.
The seven Lincoln-Douglas debates were held 152 years ago, and topics of concern to citizens and politicians have changed in the past century and a half. Kirk addressed this matter, noting that slavery was the topic of the day for Lincoln and Douglas. Rather than talk about repression of people based on creed or color – a great opportunity to address the Ground Zero mosque and Arizona immigration law controversies – Kirk instead talked about government spending, a hot topic for those seeking elected office nowadays.
Although he knew Giannoulias had agreed to only two debates, both in October, Kirk still came to Ottawa looking like he was expecting a debate. He held a list of talking points in his hand, occasionally looking down at them to make sure he told the small gathering about everything he wanted to talk about in a debate with Giannoulias. And, of course, he noted his opponent’s absence three times.
The fact that Kirk spoke for only eight minutes also is of concern. Each Lincoln-Douglas debate lasted three hours – imagine sitting through that on a hot August day in a park packed with people – but since Kirk didn’t have a sparring partner to debate, I’ll cut him some slack and reduce his expected politicking time to only 90 minutes.
On the other hand, I can’t imagine sitting through that on a hot August day, either. But for the sake of comparing Kirk’s Ottawa visit to the Lincoln-Douglas debate, here’s one more topic I wish the Republican candidate would’ve addressed:
Early in his debate, Lincoln talked about accusations of him selling out the old Whig Party in order to advance the fledgling Republican Party. Kirk could have talked about the tea party movement and whether he thinks it is helping or hindering Republicans. Unlike some other GOP candidates in other races, Kirk is not a tea party darling, so it’s worth hearing what he thinks about the movement.
I guess I’ll have to keep my fingers crossed that he talks about it during one of his October debates with Giannoulias.