The candidates exchange volleys in a civil war

September 28, 2002|By Michael Ollove | Michael Ollove,SUN STAFF

By now you've probably heard there was a pretty nasty debate Thursday night between Kathleen Kennedy Townsend and Robert L. Ehrlich Jr. Maybe you were even one of the 12 people who saw it on television.

We could argue about whether the debate illuminated the policy differences between the two candidates. Where they certainly excelled, though, was in their usage of niceties to shed blood. It's easy to bludgeon one another with insults and criticism. What was refreshing about Townsend and Ehrlich was how they couched disdain in pleasantries.

Should the pair debate again - and the local stations broadcast it before most people are in Dreamland - we offer the following guide. When you hear the following, cringe:

Ma'am: Ehrlich used this word - last heard on Gunsmoke reruns - no fewer than two dozen times when addressing Townsend. Never has an honorific sounded more like a slur. Those in the auditorium might have wondered if the word would be bleeped out on the television broadcast.

That is really wonderful ... : Townsend proved adept at esteem-building at the top of her comments, but only as prelude to lowering the boom. Here, she praised Ehrlich's diaper-changing capabilities, seemingly a big-hearted gesture until she bragged (happily with no empirical evidence) that she was better at it than he. Another time, she allowed as how being a conservative doesn't make him a bad person, a quasi-compliment that only signaled danger ahead. Sure enough, she unloaded. "It just makes you a very bad governor."

Well, let me tell you: This was a favorite opening phrase for KKT. Its rough translation: "Bombs away!"

With all due respect: Should this clause ever be directed toward you, immediately duck. Its true meaning, as evidenced in Ehrlich's usage during the debate, is: "I abhor everything you stand for."

God bless you: On the face of it, quite a moving thing to say, conveying "I wish the best for you." However, it is most often said to someone who is ailing or perhaps tetched in the head, which seems to be how Ehrlich intended it when he said, "That is your political philosophy, and God bless you."

It's fun. We've had fun. - Ehrlich.

I've enjoyed this debate. - Townsend.

Loose translation: "Really, I like going to the dentist."

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