Monday, January 30, 2006

Debating in Tongues 

Via Zemblan patriot J.D.: Who's grooming the next generation of two-fisted progressives? We ask because, as students of Rick Perlstein already know, the ascendency of George W. Bush is no sudden phenomenon. Our betters on the right have been laying the groundwork for a complete takeover of the American political system since Barry Goldwater got his ass kicked in 1964, and the left has sat back and watched it happen, occasionally wondering, like the frog in the stewpot, whether it's time to start feeling alarmed. Meanwhile, Reverend Falwell is turning out tomorrow's theocrats at Liberty University, where, according to Newsweek, "[d]ebaters are the new missionaries":
When you believe the end of the world is coming, you learn to talk fast. On a Friday afternoon the debate team from Liberty University, Jerry Falwell's fundamentalist Baptist college, is madly rehearsing for the tournament about to begin. This year's topic: should the United States increase diplomatic and economic pressure on China. They may just be practicing, but you wouldn't know it from the menacing mosquito-buzz rising as all 20 debaters read their speeches at once, as fast as they can. Policy debate on the college level has become a rapid-fire verbal assault, an arguments-per-minute game, that sounds more like the guy at the end of the car commercial than an eloquent Oxford intellectual. There is tension and more than a little spittle in the air. The Liberty team is currently ranked No. 1 in the country, above Harvard (14th) and all the other big names. But for the evangelicals, there's a lot more at stake than a trophy. Falwell and the religious right figure that if they can raise a generation that knows how to argue, they can stem the tide of sin in the country. Seventy-five percent of Liberty's debaters go on to be lawyers with an eye toward transforming society. "I think I can make an impact in the field of law on abortion and gay rights, to get back to Americans' godly heritage," says freshman debater Cole Bender . . . .

Karl Rove was impressed enough by the squad that he tapped Liberty coach Brett O'Donnell to prep George W. Bush for all three presidential debates in 2004. O'Donnell briefed the president on his nonverbal tics. "They didn't listen to me until after the debacle," says O'Donnell, of Bush's awkward first debate performance. O'Donnell, who recently started his own consulting business, has already been contacted by two potential Republican candidates about the 2008 race. If all goes well, maybe he'll get some business down the road from some ex-students.

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