George Washington University hosted a free form political debate between "liberal warrior" Lawrence O’Donnell and "conservative maverick" Ann Coulter (not my monikers, see poster). Moderated by professor Frank Sesno, the event covered issues in the current news cycle: contraception as a part of medical insurance, the race for a Republican presidential nominee, Iran, Israel, Rush Limbaugh, the legal drinking age — a topic on the minds of many college students.
College Democrats president Joe Maniscalco first greeted The Last Word crew and I at Lisner Auditorium in D.C. The doors soon opened and students began to spill in. I also met Elaine Cuasay and April Sands, Twitter followers of @TheLastWord who received tickets from Lawrence online.
"I'm expecting probably not a whole lot of fireworks," Elaine told me, "a pretty civilized debate." It was marvelous.
Ann gave a hearty endorsement of Mitt Romney, explained why she thought contraception should not be included in medical insurance, argued repeatedly with Frank Sesno, who, to be fair, seemed more eager to be behind a podium than at a moderator’s desk. Her debating method suffers no lack of style.
The same, however, could be said for Lawrence — when out of nowhere Sesno asked the debaters whether the legal drinking age should be lowered, Mr. O’Donnell took the opportunity to share two quotes by Miss Coulter on the topic of legal requirement. The first, that the voting age should be raised to 26, a law which would prohibit about 95% of our college audience from the ballot box. The second, that women should be denied their suffrage altogether, recent history proving that without the female vote, more Republicans would have won the presidential office.
"Is that quote correct?" Sesno asked her.
"Identical," she responded, "it's beautiful!" And it was.
Lawrence walked off the stage, jokingly. What more to say? Indeed, that was the take-home moment of the night, and perhaps the reason why some College Republicans left the auditorium feeling uneasy about which side of the room they were sitting on. I found myself wondering whether Ann doesn't get enough credit for comedic hyperbole.
Lawrence and Ann stuck around for the post-debate reception, in which students could meet the debaters, ask them questions, get pictures. Looking around, I had the feeling that events like these could only be beneficial because there was Lawrence smiling and there was Ann laughing and everywhere the students were beaming. Maybe it's important, I thought, for students to see that politics should stay behind podiums.
Oh, and the most important part of the evening? We raised $18,000 for the K.I.N.D. fund, through a portion of the proceeds.
— By Evan Puschak