Gail Collins on Jan Brewer, Tea Party

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Gail Collins

Welcome to Politics Bites, where every afternoon at It's a Free Country we bring you the unmissable quotes from the morning's political conversations on WNYC.

New York Times columnist Gail Collins is joining The Leonard Lopate Show every week through September to share some of the ridiculous things politicians have said or—in the case of Arizona Governor, Jan Brewer, who froze for 16 seconds during a televised debate last week—haven’t said.

Collins spoke about Governor Brewer’s election campaign, and brought up the fact that she was formerly the Secretary of State, but was appointed governor when Janet Napolitano was tapped by President Obama to head the Department of Homeland Security. But she doesn’t have much experience on the campaign trail:

We’re seeing a lot of that this year--of people who went through their lives happily just sort of talking away and nobody paid any attention to them and suddenly the world is watching everything they say. And she’s not the only person who’s had problems with that, but she’s the only one I can think of who just stopped talking completely for 16 seconds.


Governor Brewer had also mentioned that there had been beheadings along the border, which Collins said raised a lot of questions because there was no news or evidence of such violence:

Her staff certainly should have known that as soon as she said beheadings she meant people who were beheaded by drug gangs from Mexico, as all part of the illegal immigrant problem, in the desert. A bunch of media in Arizona looked into it and pointed out that it was totally not true, that there were no headless bodies anywhere, but she insisted on saying it and then refused to retract it and seemed completely flummoxed when she was asked to either confirm or deny and just walked away from the reporters afterward as they were begging her for information.


Collins also brought up Delaware Tea Party candidate Christine O’Donnell, who was caught lying about the results of the 2008 election. She said she had beaten Joe Biden in two counties, but the numbers show she actually lost. Reporters have found other irregularities in O’Donnell’s background, but her Republican primary opponent is taking her campaign seriously:

Unlike Alaska, where the incumbent didn’t bother to really campaign against her Tea Party opponent and lost, Mike Castle, who's the Republican establishment candidate in Delaware, is really running hard against her and running ads against her.


This year is proving that primary races can matter a great deal, even though voter turnout is low:

After Alaska they’re becoming aware of the fact that very few people are voting in these primaries. And in Delaware, it’s one of those states where only Republicans can vote in the Republican primary, and how many people are going to turn out for these things? You’re getting like 25, 26, 27 percent, so very, very, very, very excited, thrilled Tea Party types can make a huge difference.


Gail Collins will return next week with a new selection of oddities from the campaign trail.