"Don't count out Orrin Hatch," Orrin Hatch answered, Bob Dole-style. But Hatch was pretty much out of the rest of the debate, bewildered by the carnage around him and unsure how to respond to it. "It's gotten a lot more nasty," he remarked at one point, displaying a keen grasp of the obvious.
Bauer, by contrast, was a shrewd and vicious opportunist. As soon as he realized the power was out, he began looting shops. He brutally joined in the assault on the hapless Piggy, accusing him of being anti-family for wanting to take away the mortgage interest deduction. Then Bauer hit Bush for not adhering to conservative values, being clandestinely pro-abortion, and assorted other sins. His most vicious moment came when Russert, following up on Bush's controversial "Christ" answer in the last debate, pressed the Texas governor on whether he was really a closet theocrat. Russert asked Bush whether he would "take an expression like 'What Would Jesus Do?' into the Oval Office."
"I would take an expression in the Oval Office of 'Dear God, Help Me,' " Bush responded.
"So would we, governor," Bauer fired back, apparently unable to resist the apercu.
But though he was a constant target for almost everyone else, Bush absorbed such shots good-naturedly, firing back when he had to, but not getting hot under the collar. After answering one of Bauer's attacks, Bush actually winked at the wily evangelical. Bush seemed to recognize this kind of contained riot as a familiar situation--a frat party gone slightly out of control. He stuck close to the keg, smirked a lot, and got through the evening without getting puked on.
What do we learn from this? In a Darwinian environment, Bush, McCain, and Bauer know how to survive.
TODAY IN SLATE
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Smash and Grab
Will competitive Senate contests in Kansas and South Dakota lead to more late-breaking races in future elections?