Christine O’Donnell Has A Sarah Palin Deer In The Headlights Moment

There’s much that can be said about tonight’s Delaware Senate debate between Chris Coons and Christine O’Donnell, but there’s one segment that ‘s likely to get a lot of play tomorrow:

NANCY KARIBJANIAN: What opinions, of late, that have come from our high court, do you most object to?

O’DONNELL: Oh, gosh. Um, give me a specific one. I’m sorry.

KARIBJANIAN: Actually, I can’t, because I need you to tell me which ones you object to.

O’DONNELL: Um, I’m very sorry, right off the top of my head, I know that there are a lot, but I’ll put it up on my website, I promise you.

WOLF BLITZER: We know that you disagree with Roe v. Wade.

O’DONNELL: Yeah, but she said a recent one.

BLITZER: That’s relatively recent.

O’DONNELL: She said “of late.” But yeah. Well, Roe v. Wade would not put the power — It’s not recent, it’s 30-something years old —

BLITZER: But since then, have there been any other Supreme Court decisions?

O’DONNELL: Well, let me say about Roe v. Wade — If that were overturned, would not make abortion illegal in the United States, it would put the power back to the states.

BLITZER: But besides that decision, anything else you disagree with?

O’DONNELL: Oh, there are several when it comes to pornography, when it comes to court decisions — not to Supreme Court, but federal court decisions to give terrorists Mirandize rights. There are a lot of things I believe — This California decision to overturn Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell. I believe there are a lot of federal judges legislating from the bench.

BLITZER: That wasn’t the Supreme Court. That was a lower —

O’DONNELL: That was a federal judge. That’s what I said. In California.

Now, this may sound familiar if you think back almost exactly two years ago:

Crash. Burn.

Chalk this one up to really bad debate preparation, I think. The extraordinary part to me is that O’Donnell couldn’t name a single Supreme Court decision other than Roe that she thought was wrongly decided. Is she serious ? Heck, I can name six such decisions off the top of my head without even thinking about it.

She can’t name one ?

This is either the sign of someone who hasn’t given much thought to the issues of our time or someone who can’t handle the “pressure” of a political debate.

FILED UNDER: 2010 Election, US Politics, , , , , , ,
Doug Mataconis
About Doug Mataconis
Doug Mataconis held a B.A. in Political Science from Rutgers University and J.D. from George Mason University School of Law. He joined the staff of OTB in May 2010 and contributed a staggering 16,483 posts before his retirement in January 2020. He passed far too young in July 2021.


  1. All of ’em!

  2. Doug: I really think you are an awesome front pager here. I may not agree with everything you say (although I usually do) but it is clear you think for yourself and don’t succumb to talking points. Thank you!

  3. John Personna says:

    How much would I get beat up by accepting all of them?

    Or not believing that I’m a better justice than the justices?

  4. Of course, you’re a lawyer, Doug, so it’s hardly surprising that you would know more about what the Supreme Court does than a political hack.

    …who’s aspiring to be a lawmaker.

    …and doesn’t seem to know much about law.

    …as opposed to someone who does…

    Doug Mataconis for Senate! I’ll move to Virginia just so I can vote for you!

  5. anjin-san says:

    Once upon a time, the conservative movement had leaders like Goldwater and Buckley. Better days gone by…

  6. Farrell says:

    Wow a lawyer who can name Supeme Court decisions-so impressed. How about naming six bacteriostatic antibiotics used against gram positive bacteria.

  7. MJ Sheppard says:

    I thought the deer in the headlights was when she called him out for not denying that he came back from Kenya and registered as a dem (Marxist) because he was influenced by his Marxist professor. That should play well with voters who are looking who are scared witless by this government..

  8. Zelsdorf Ragshaft III says:

    The people at Powerline who are not fans of O’Donnell gave her the debate. Bush league bloggers like the lefty Doug Mataconis favor candidates who display scorn for the opponents. Coons is and was a prick. Little prick, no doubt, but one just the same. Thought it was sly how his middle finger, the one he keeps up his rectum,. went to his chin when he said her name. Coons is an asshole and it was on complete display. You like him, don’t you Dougie?

  9. TL,

    If nominated I will not run, if elected I will not serve

  10. Zels,

    No, I don’t like Coons. If I lived in Delaware I wouldn’t vote for him.

    At the same time I wouldn’t vote for O’Donnell either, because I like my candidates to actually be competent. And she’s not.

  11. sam says:

    Shouldn’t that be a “Sarah Palin Moose in the Headlights” moment?

  12. Patrick T. McGuire says:

    While it may be preferable for her to know more about the Supreme Court, at the end of the day it doesn’t really matter. What matters is the economy, taxes, and limiting the federal government to its constitutional boundaries.

  13. She’s running to be a Senator. She will be voting on judges on a regular basis. She ought to have at least a basic knowledge of what it is that the Courts do.

    Also, this is a fairly easily anticipated debate question. The fact that she wasn’t prepared for it tells me about her general work ethic.

  14. John Personna says:

    That’s why she should have lawyers on call, Doug. I’d really worry actually if the folks in confess were thinking that they were keeping up with that kind of thing in their spare time.

  15. Brummagem Joe says:

    ” Heck, I can name six such decisions off the top of my head without even thinking about it.”

    To be fair Doug you are a lawyer but given her alleged “anger” about so many of these issues she should have been able to manage a few. She’s a flake of course and is going to sink without trace.

    Doug Mataconis says:
    Thursday, October 14, 2010 at 07:29
    “No, I don’t like Coons. If I lived in Delaware I wouldn’t vote for him.

    At the same time I wouldn’t vote for O’Donnell either, ”

    You’re philosophy summed up exactly Doug

  16. John,

    Should it really be all that hard for someone who is allegedly engaged in the political process enough to run for the United States Senate be aware of what’s going on with major cases at the Supreme Court ?

    Am I asking too much of candidates ?

  17. john personna says:

    I’d be lazy and try to figure that one out later. When in doubt I’d just vote my party.

    Speaking of parites … who was throwing one tonight?

    (my view of congresscritters)

  18. You’re philosophy summed up exactly Doug

    What exactly does that mean Joe ?

    Oh I get, it you’re one of the “lesser of two evils” people.

    Yea I tried that for awhile, then I figured out that the lesser of two evils is still evil

  19. Yea I tried that for awhile, then I figured out that the lesser of two evils is still evil

    It’s an issue of basic incentives. If Republican polls know you will vote Republican no matter what, then they can safely ignore your policy preferences. So while there’s a short term cost to withholding your vote from “the lesser of two evils”, it’s a better long term strategy.

  20. TG Chicago says:

    Did any of you actually watch the clip or read the transcript? The question was about RECENT Supreme Court decisions. (“Of late” was the phrase used.) Roe is not what I’d call recent. Neither are most of the ones on Doug’s list (2 are; 4 aren’t). Even O’Donnell herself caught the fact that the question was about RECENT decisions, as she protested when Blitzer brought up Roe. Yet Mr. Mataconis is complaining that she didn’t mention a case from 1819.

    Believe me, this is coming from someone who wants to see O’Donnell lose. And given the Palin/Couric interview, you’d think she’d have an answer prepped for that question (and if she didn’t have a good answer for a recent decision, she should have just gone into Roe anyway). But let’s discuss the actual question that was asked, yeah?

  21. narciso says:

    Only Kelo and the raft of Gitmo detainee cases, really qualify out of this court, Hamdi through Boumedienne, Coons had Citizens United on the tap, because like McGovern, he’s not too solid on the first Amendment things, too much negative liberties as a certain law lecturer at the U of Chicago, pointed out years ago, but that wasn’t important enough for the watchdog press

  22. James Joyner says:

    I’ve gotta admit that my brain doesn’t really work this way. For one thing, I tend not to know the names of SCOTUS cases that I didn’t study in school. And I tend to form opinions on issues rather than remembering data points. So, I could talk at length about my objections to a particular decision but not tell you off the top of my head a list of decisions I object to.

    Then again, I haven’t been prepped for a debate where it’s a fairly standard question.