Key Point: Do you think Glenn Beck had a large group of random people e-mail him about how Medina's advisors are 9/11 truthers? Or do you think, just maybe, that Team Rick Perry teed him up on this one to attack Medina because they saw her poll numbers were shooting through the roof? And now Perry is supposed to be ready go with radio attack ads about this already…
Has Medina questioned the government's involvment in 9/11 in the past? Maybe. I don't know. I'm not supporting her, so I don't care too much. But wasn't this a really random question to just come out of nowhere?
Here's a big hypothetical that makes too much sense to just be a hypothetical…
Imagine you are Rick Perry. You're the Governor of Texas. The extremely popular U.S. Senator you're running against in the primary, Kay Bailey Hutchison, was supposed to defeat you handily this year. But because her campaign team is dumber than rocks, she's squandered her massive popularity in one of the worst run statewide campaigns in United States history — and now you're sitting pretty and the clear favorite to win the Republican Party primary nomination.
And then, you see your internal polls, and you see public polls — like the ones in this chart:
Texas Governor Rick Perry has been in statewide office for twenty years. As a career politician, he knows every trick, and can create an attack out of nowhere if he has the right people on his side. And this morning — with the help of Glenn Beck and Fox News — he got his help (which shouldn't be too surprising, considering how much of a staple Rick Perry is on Fox News).
In fact, if you read the whole interview, it's pretty hard to not read it as a setup — especially from a guy like Glenn Beck.
Beck asks her how she is doing, asks her who she is, asks her about her policies, and asks her to expand on her claims that we eliminate the property tax — a claim that Talmadge Heflin, former Chairman of the Texas House Appropriations Committee and current director of the Center for Fiscal Policy at the Texas Public Policy Foundation has advocated for repeatedly. Glenn Beck can't believe that proposal — making him already out-of-touch with the Debra Medina supporters — and then immediately launches into an out-of-nowhere question about 9/11.
September 11? Really? He asked that…because it was the eight-year, five-month anniversary of the terrorist attack? Why did that come up at all? Oh that's right — it was a “theme” in some of the mail he received about her.
And then there was Medina's initial response:
GLENN: I have when I said that I was going to have you on, you can't imagine the mail pro and con that I received. There was a theme that ran against you and that is you are a 9/11 Truther.
MEDINA: Well, there's lots of mud that people would like to throw at Debra Medina and make stick. The truth is I'm an everyday ordinary person. I am fighting for the things that our founders fought for, those very basic principles of a constitutional republic, and I'm going to champion people that hold their government accountable, hold me accountable but that's the first time I've heard that accusation. So that's an interesting one.
Great answer. But did Beck end the line of questioning, even though she answered it right the first time? Nope.
Beck pressed on, and here is where Debra Medina — a newcomer to the smashmouth world of politics — made a huge mistake and let the wheels come off the PR wagon: she did not make a clear unilateral statement that the government was not involved in the September 11 attacks (something she did, once she got her bearings again, later on her website).
Was it a huge and damaging mistake? Absolutely. Beck was ready to pounce:
GLENN: Do you have advisors, do you have advisor
MEDINA: I'm not going to take a position.
GLENN: That's fine.
MEDINA: These questions have been raised and they are not answered.
GLENN: Do you have advisors that advise you or people that are around you that are 9/11 Truthers?
MEDINA: Not to my knowledge.
GLENN: Would you, if you found out that there were, would you disavow them like the president should have but I mean, he escorted them out in the middle of the night. Van Jones was a 9/11 Truther. If you found out that people around you are advising you were 9/11 Truthers, would you disavow them or allow them to continue to advise you?
At this point, Beck is clearly trying to trap her into taking a position on what her advisors think. Medina stumbles to the end, Beck closes the interviews then laughs at her once she's off the phone, and the rest is immediately spun by Rick Perry supporters online (via Twitter, largely) while Debra Medina is trying to figure out why she was just slammed on national television. With a (likely) head start, the Perry people pounced on the news and told everyone that “Debra Medina is a 9/11 truther” — and it sticks because Team Rick Perry has a professionally paid spin machine, whereas Medina counts on grassroots support. So instead of Debra Medina getting to tell the press, “Rick Perry used Glenn Beck to set me up because he knew I was becoming a threat to his Governor's race” the story favors Perry. The rest is history in this wild and crazy Texas Governor's race.
Now the question is: what happens to Medina's supporters? Could she still force a runoff?
The truth is, we don't know the answer to that — and we won't until we get a better sense of whether or not her supporters see the action of today as a political attack from Rick Perry, or as a disappointing and unforgivable performance from a first-time candidate who made a very big mistake on a very big stage.