Once again spending millions from her vast fortune, wrestling entrepreneur Linda McMahon has assembled a huge staff for her latest campaign for U.S. senator, so she might have been expected to be prepared Wednesday night for her second and final televised debate with her rival for the Republican nomination, former U.S. Rep. Chris Shays. Instead McMahon repeatedly ignored or evaded even the most predictable questions from Shays and news reporters.
When Shays deplored McMahon's having turned the abuse of women and the mentally retarded into entertainment, she dismissed it as mere "Hollywood scripting," as if that made it OK.
McMahon said she would disclose her tax return when it was done but wouldn't say if that would happen before the primary or general election.
Replying to a question about big money in politics, McMahon said her campaign isn't accepting special-interest contributions, as if her own fortune's political deployment didn't require some defense.
Shays lambasted McMahon for donating thousands of dollars to Democratic congressional campaigns and thus helping to defeat Connecticut's last three Republicans in Congress - U.S. Reps. Nancy Johnson and Rob Simmons and Shays himself - but again she had nothing to say in reply.
McMahon also failed to answer Shays' complaints that she refused to debate him more than twice or to sit for questions from newspaper editorial boards.
Indeed, at times McMahon looked like the proverbial deer caught in the headlights. Preparation apparently can't help her, as there are no good answers for her, just a script to be read from. She seems no more ready for prime time than she was two years ago.
While both candidates struggled to outdo each other in cutting taxes, Shays embraced a range of issues, even taking controversial positions - opposing the Federal Reserve's secret disbursement of billions of dollars and supporting same-sex marriage. McMahon scorned him as a "career politician." Shays denied that he had ever acted like one and touted his bipartisanship in Congress and knowledge of government.
McMahon and Democrats, who are rooting for her nomination, must have hoped that no one was watching.
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Having lacked the courage to put Connecticut's liquor retailers in their place - that is, in a competitive market - the General Assembly recently established a commission to study liquor pricing, and it convened for the first time the other day.
But no study commission is necessary to understand the essence of the issue, and most legislators already understand it well. It is that liquor retailing in Connecticut long has been lucrative political patronage, a business full of barriers to entry and price controls. As a result Connecticut has both the highest liquor prices and the most liquor stores per capita in the country, a proclamation of inefficiency and even gouging.
The defense put up by liquor retailers acknowledges as much: If anybody can get into the business and cut prices, big stores with big product selection and low prices will succeed and small stores with little product selection and high prices will fail, just as in other retail businesses. The liquor retailers are protesting only economies of scale and insisting on keeping their form of market-defeating political patronage, which, in economics, is called rent seeking.
Yes, competition in liquor retailing will cost jobs at smaller stores as the market consolidates into bigger stores with lower prices. But the bigger stores will do some hiring and the money saved by the public will find its way into the economy elsewhere.
It might be best if the study commission proposed not just repealing the price controls and letting supermarkets sell wine and liquor as well as the beer they already sell but also letting liquor stores sell everything sold in supermarkets. That is, let everyone sell everything. Many states do that. Such a proposal would induce the liquor retailers, already smarting under the recent repeal of Connecticut's ban on Sunday sales, to amplify their ridiculous rationale and thereby earn more of the public's contempt: Don't make us compete like everybody else! We're still special!