Christine O’Donnell is a terrible Senate candidate with essentially no chance of winning. She has doomed the GOP’s chances of re-taking control of the Senate. She has gotten way too much attention from the media. But I have to admit, she makes people laugh. Watch the video to hear a law school debate audience laughing at her ignorance of the U.S. Constitution (go to 2:51). Via TPM:
Republican Senate nominee Christine O’Donnell of Delaware on Tuesday questioned whether the U.S. Constitution calls for a separation of church and state, appearing to disagree or not know that the First Amendment bars the government from establishing religion.
The exchange came in a debate before an audience of legal scholars and law students at Widener University Law School, as O’Donnell criticized Democratic nominee Chris Coons’ position that teaching creationism in public school would violate the First Amendment by promoting religious doctrine.
Coons said private and parochial schools are free to teach creationism but that “religious doctrine doesn’t belong in our public schools.”
“Where in the Constitution is the separation of church and state?” O’Donnell asked him.
When Coons responded that the First Amendment bars Congress from making laws respecting the establishment of religion, O’Donnell asked: “You’re telling me that’s in the First Amendment?”
Her comments, in a debate aired on radio station WDEL, generated a buzz in the audience.
“You actually audibly heard the crowd gasp,” said Widener University political scientist Wesley Leckrone, adding that he thought it raised questions about O’Donnell’s grasp of the Constitution.
TPM’s David Kurtz attempts to clarify the weirdness:
In O’Donnell’s (mild) defense, it’s a common refrain among those pushing for more inclusiveness for religion in public life that the phrase “separation of church and state” is not actually contained in the Constitution. The origin of the phrase is believed to be this 1802 letter penned by Thomas Jefferson to the Danbury (CT) Baptist association.
UPDATE: Think Progress: Christine O’Donnell Not Sure If Separation Of Church And State Is In The Constitution
…O’Donnell is not alone, nor an outlier, in her party’s understanding of the Constitution. As ThinkProgress’s Ian Millhiser notes, while Republicans love to wrap their actions in the Constitution, much of their agenda “is nothing less than a direct assault on America’s founding document.”
UPDATE: Scarecrow on FDL:
Christine O’Donnell is hardly the only Tea Party candidate either ignorant of or confused by the U.S. Constitution while claiming to be staunch defenders. In fact, there’s very little about the Constitution that Tea Party candidates actually accept.
UPDATE: CNN’s Anderson Cooper:
“I’m sure most of us get confused about which amendment is which, I certainly do,” Cooper said. “But most of us aren’t running for Senate, and most of us don’t claim to be constitutional experts, as Christine O’Donnell has…
When asked recently what qualified her for the Senate, O’Donnell discussed her “graduate fellowship from the Claremont Institute in constitutional government.”
“By the way, the graduate fellowship she talks about from the Claremont Institute? The Claremont Institue is a conservative think tank, it’s not a university, and the fellowship lasted a grand total of seven days,” Cooper said.
“After that debate my team and I we were literally high fiving each other thinking that we had exposed he doesn’t know the First Amendment, and then when we read the reports that said the opposite we were all like ‘what?'”