Gov. Jan Brewer finally has had her defining moment: a loss of words during last week's gubernatorial debate that has turned her into a YouTube sensation every bit as big as the LOLcats.
Brewer's brain freeze is exactly the kind of political disaster that her handlers have tried to avoid throughout her gubernatorial tenure. And it didn't help that Brewer fled from reporters afterward, when they asked why she wouldn't recant her statements that beheaded bodies had been found in the Arizona desert—a contention that Brewer finally walked back in the wake of the debate as pressure grew on her to correct the record.
The debate debacle has assured that Brewer won't be making any more appearances with Democrat Terry Goddard.
As Brewer told Howie Fischer of Capitol Media Services: "I don't believe that things come out in proper context in an adversarial atmosphere."
Well, that's politics for you.
We don't think that Brewer's stumble is a big game-changer in the gubernatorial sweepstakes; national polling guru Nate Silver is giving Goddard a 3 percent chance of victory in November, odds we'd call generous.
But we do believe it will be hard for Brewer to rebuild her image after this, because it reflected a basic truth about her: She's terrible on the stump, which is why she avoids unscripted moments—and frequently struggles to get through the scripted ones.
If nothing else, the embarrassing breakdown may at least stop the talk that Brewer could be considered for any kind of national role in the GOP.
The Conservatives for Congress Committee, which helped carry Republican Jesse Kelly to victory in Congressional District 8 in last month's primary, aired a new TV ad attacking Democratic Congresswoman Gabrielle Giffords last week.
The ad pulled short snippets from an exchange between Giffords and Army Gen. David Petraeus during a committee hearing in which Giffords questioned Petraeus about efforts to move the Pentagon away from oil use and toward alternative-energy sources such as solar and wind.
The ad sought to portray Giffords as an airheaded hippie who is more worried about solar-powered streetlights than winning the war in Afghanistan.
Steve Christy, chairman of the Conservatives for Congress Committee, says Giffords demonstrated "a complete disconnect from the War on Terror. ... It seemed to highlight and emphasize where we feel the voters CD 8 are regarding her being out of the mainstream of what people in the district are really feeling and thinking. And it also appeared as if she were pandering to the environmentalist groups that are pressuring her for their agenda."
But it wasn't environmentalists who came to Giffords' defense last week: It was veterans who say the Pentagon needs to move toward renewable-energy sources such as solar and wind.
Among those speaking out: retired Lt. Gen. Norman Seip, the former commander of Davis-Monthan Air Force Base, who says that "energy dependence and climate change are not only national security and international security issues, but issues that impact our young men and young women who so proudly serve."
Seip argues that reducing dependence on oil and becoming more energy-efficient allows the military "in the long run to reduce the number of convoys that have to transit a very hostile and dangerous part of the world there, in Afghanistan and Iraq. Less convoys mean less soldiers, sailors, airmen and Marines who have to protect those convoys, which means less opportunities for our enemies to attack our young men and women."
Seip praises Giffords' work to help the military move toward energy independence. Under his command, D-M moved toward using solar power for base housing. He says D-M's Soaring Heights communities will get 75 percent of their energy from solar, which Seip called "the equivalent of taking 50,000 cars off the road or planting over 300,000 trees."
Seip adds that the Conservatives for Congress Committee "missed the mark" with the TV ad.
"They not only owe (Giffords) an apology," he says. "They owe the men and women in the leadership of our military an apology for misrepresenting what is a very important issue."
Christy, who sold his Tucson auto dealership in 2007 and now is getting involved in politics, says backers of Conservatives for Congress "respect and admire" Seip's service, but they disagree with his position.
"We recognize there are sincere military patriots ... who carry different points of view of what our priorities should be in national and international security," Christy says.
As to the underlying question of whether the military should try to move to alternative-energy sources, Christy says the nation just can't afford it.
"In a perfect world, where there's no terror, where people aren't trying to kill Americans, where American lives aren't being put on the line, when we don't have a complete breakdown of any kind of rational discussion over religion, yeah, that might be nice discussion to have after a half-dozen or a dozen or two dozen topics are addressed first," he says. "It seems to be a luxury item."
But Seip says it's not a luxury item—it's a vital step to take, because right now, the dollars the United States spends on oil end up in the hands of America's enemies.
"This is the first war since the Civil War that we, the American people, have been funding (on) both sides," Seip says.
Christy says he agrees that the United States should import less oil—but the real solution to that is more domestic oil.
"We have plenty of oil here—offshore, onshore. It can be drilled and refined, if that were a part of the national agenda, which is definitely not the case today."
That brought a sharp retort from Rodd McLeod, campaign manager for Team Giffords: "Our soldiers are dying protecting fuel resupply convoys in Afghanistan, and it doesn't matter if that fuel comes from Russia, Alaska or Venezuela. If Christy doesn't respect Gen. Petraeus enough to endorse his policy to reduce fuel consumption, he should listen to Gen. Seip, who was the commander at D-M—reducing our fuel use saves American lives."
The ad was off the air by the end of last week, but Christy says that's because Conservatives for Congress had only planned a small buy, not because of any demands that the ad be yanked.
Kelly, meanwhile, sidestepped the opportunity to engage in the battle that's being carried out by his surrogates. Asked whether he supported Giffords' position, Kelly e-mailed a non-committal statement—"The U.S. military and the American economy should both be powered by the most affordable form of energy available from our abundant domestic resources"—and declined to elaborate.
In the past, Kelly has called for opening more federal lands to oil drilling and less regulation of oil companies. In the wake of the Deepwater Horizon disaster that spilled nearly five million barrels of oil into the Gulf of Mexico, Kelly said that the Obama administration's deal with BP to set aside $20 billion for oil-relief efforts amounted to a "shakedown" of the oil company.
Kelly added that he was disappointed that Congressman Joe Barton of Texas, who apologized to BP after it agreed to set up the $20 billion fund, was pressured by GOP leaders to retract his apology.
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