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Nebraska Senator Fumbles Hand-off

Reported by Judy - September 27, 2004 -

Democratic Senator Ben Nelson of Nebraska missed a chance to score some points for his party's presidential candidate John Kerry today (Sept. 27) on Fox News Live when he fumbled a question from anchor Jon Scott.

Scott interviewed Nelson and Republican Sen. Norm Coleman of Minnesota regarding Secretary of State Colin Powell's comment over the weekend about the worsening situation in Iraq and Democratic Senator Edward Kennedy's planned speech today attacking Bush for his foreign policy. Kennedy's speech echoes the theme that Kerry has been hitting on in advance of Thursday's debate with George Bush on foreign policy, namely that the war in Iraq is a diversion from the war on terror.

Scott referred to a line from the text of Kennedy's speech as saying the U.S. is more vulnerable to nuclear attack because of the distraction and that Bush's handling of the war in Iraq is a "toxic mix of ignorance, arrogance and stubborn ideology." After quoting Powell's statement, Scott tossed the ball directly to Nelson for a response.

This should be the moment when a real team player grabs the ball and runs with it, drives home the talking point that Scott has summarized for him, repeats it almost word for word in no uncertain terms, and leaves the viewer with the talking point ringing in his ears.

Apparently, that is not in Nelson's Democratic play book. Instead, he says, "Well, I think that this is the season when rhetoric is going to step up and I suspect that this is part of it." Then Nelson goes on to point out that in 2001 he made the same point Kennedy is making about the threat of nuclear attacks by terrorists.

Instead of a smooth hand-off to Nelson who slices through the opposition and then bounds across the goal line with high, graceful strides scoring points for his team, Nelson is looking the other way and the ball thuds to the ground to be pounced on by the other team.

Nelson totally missed the chance to second Kennedy's statements and instead states the obvious (we're getting close to the election) and then tries to talk about what he said three years ago instead of what Kerry is saying right now. His answer was lackluster and whimpy, and failed to inspire confidence. He talked too slow and too softly, and his voice lacked vigor. He was too cerebral and emotionless.

After years of the medium being the message, Democrats still need to send their leaders to a boot camp for public speakers.