Gail Collins on Why We Need to Know Christine O'Donnell

Email a Friend

Welcome to Politics Bites, where every afternoon at It's A Free Country we bring you the unmissable quotes from political conversations on WNYC. On The Leonard Lopate Show's weekly series How Did Politics in America Get So Weird?, New York Times columnist Gail Collins reviews the dishonest, distracting or just downright silly things politicians are saying as we head into the 2010 elections.

It’s been a banner week for weirdness and a boon for political satirists like guest host Andy Borowitz.

The arrival of Delaware Republican Senate Candidate Christine O’Donnell on the national stage has kept television archivists busy all week. We spoke to Collins about an appearance by O’Donnell on Bill Maher’s show Politically Incorrect back in 1999 where she mentions that she had “dabbled” in witchcraft and went on a date at a satanic altar. Collins, who’s written about the Salem witch trails, says we’re also seeing O’Donnell’s affinity for that other dark art—television punditry.

Besides being a witch at some point in the past, she also clearly was for a long period there, just one of those people who will go on to say anything to be on television. Who will go on television and just jabber away.   

Andy: By the way I take it very personally. As a member of that class of people, I really am a little offended by that.

The witchcraft clip has been in wide circulation this week and O’Donnell responded by saying she was in high school the time and “who didn’t have interesting friends in high school?” Whether O’Donnell is, to borrow a phrase from the 2008 election, throwing her friends “under the bus” has yet to be determined. But, according to Collins, the hoopla around her previous statements is fair game.

Oh, it’s really fair. I mean this is one of the things that voters really want and need to know. Not that you need to know whether she was on the altar with the witch. But, is this person who’s running who you don’t know much about, who is new to your vision, is she person a crazy person or not? That’s an important question and that's what we’re getting at here.

O’Donnell has also come under scrutiny for comments she made on MTV in the 1990s about masturbation. Collins mentioned that if elected to the US Senate, O’Donnell may not be alone in her views.

The interesting thing to me is what she said about masturbation is I think sort of basic--I was raised Catholic, as she was—Catholic dogma. So it could well be there are a number of senators who believe that. It’s just the fact that you don’t bring it up normally! She may be the only person in the entire United States Senate potentially who you actually know what her position on masturbation is.

Andy: See, I am a one issue voter. That is my one issue, and I bet you can guess what side I’m on.

Reports have also surfaced that Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid called NY Senator Kristen Gillibrand the “hottest member” of the Senate at a fundraiser recently. While Reid may have been referencing a magazine article with his comments, Collins pointed out the Senate Majority leader also had a unique way of describing the Democratic nominee for Senate in Delaware. 

I think she is actually the hottest member of the senate, she was elected that by a magazine, but he also referred to the Democratic candidate in Delaware as his pet. We can’t be doing that at all if we want anyone elected, someone has to be elected from Delaware, really.

Gail Collins will be back next week!