by Kyle Sammin
Wednesday, 26
October 2022
Analysis
16:00

Is John Fetterman fit for office?

The Democrat's performance at last night's debate was extremely concerning
by Kyle Sammin
John Fetterman failed to surpass extremely low expectations

In a Senate contest that may decide the balance of power in the next Congress, Pennsylvanians had just one chance to observe the two major party candidates in a debate. In the case of one of them, it was easy to see why he would not allow more than one.

Democrat John Fetterman faced Republican Mehmet Oz in the hour-long question-and-answer setting last night, where the Democrat’s main goal was to appear physically competent and politically reasonable. He struggled on both points.

After suffering a stroke four days before his primary election win in May, Fetterman and his team have worked hard to present the candidate as being well on the road to recovery, while avoiding any direct contact with the media that might call that pronouncement into question. Initially, he had refused to debate and then, under pressure, acquiesced to a single debate with closed captioning to help him. Here, Fetterman was forced to expose the degree to which the cardiovascular incident had left him debilitated.

From his first words to the crowd, when he said “good night” instead of “hello” or “good evening,” it was clear that his mind might be functioning but his communication skills were deeply impaired. Pundits on the Left tried, before the debate, to call such concerns “ableist,” but it is not discriminatory to wonder whether the man is up to the job — a job that mostly involves listening, speaking, and persuading.

On substance, Fetterman displayed a strange intransigence on several issues. The moderators asked why he had changed his mind on fracking from 2018, when he opposed it absolutely, to now, when he supports it. Instead of explaining the change of heart, he insisted multiple times he had never opposed the practice — a big deal in this gas-exporting state — even as the moderators produced exact quotes from him. It was hard to tell if this was a mental breakdown or just evidence that Fetterman — who has never faced a serious challenge from a Republican — just does not know how to answer hard questions.

For Mehmet Oz, who emerged from a bruising primary to narrowly win the Republican nomination, the goal was to consolidate support among his base while also presenting a moderate image that might draw in independent voters. This was a serious challenge — although he won the primary with Donald Trump’s endorsement, Oz has struggled to convince conservative Pennsylvanians that he is anything more than an out-of-state opportunist (he did not live in Pennsylvania until very recently).

The seasoned TV professional came off as fluent and well-spoken, aiming for that sweet spot of competence and mainstream conservatism that the retiring incumbent, Senator Pat Toomey, has long typified. It is hard to get that across over a series of sixty-second statements — these debates are better for exposing flaws and mistakes than expressing a coherent philosophy — but Oz had ample opportunity to contrast his own moderate positions and outsider status with Fetterman’s doctrinaire progressivism, and he mostly hit the marks.

Do debates matter? Pundits disagree. But this race, nearly tied in the polls, will give us a chance to test the idea. Any Pennsylvanian who watched last night saw a clear contrast between a diminished progressive politician and a savvy conservative outsider. One capacity and on politics, it is not a contrast Fetterman was eager to draw.

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AC Harper
AC Harper
1 month ago

Pundits on the Left tried, before the debate, to call such concerns “ableist” 

A dry run of the tactic to defend Joe Biden perhaps?

Peter Johnson
Peter Johnson
1 month ago

Do you remember the campaign to have Trump removed as unfit for office due to mental health? Psychiatrists opining from a distance. We are on a possible path to nuclear war, the President clearly has dementia, and the media won’t talk about it. Shame on them, we are losing our society because of our corrupt media and the journalism schools that produce them.

susan capozzoli
susan capozzoli
1 month ago

While I did see Fetterman’s health issues, his inability to comment was most noticeable when he could not address his philosophy changes on health care and fracking. They are core issues and I do not believe he has really changed his stance on them. It is wrong that the party is putting him out there as a candidate – it is not healthy for him.

Aaron James
Aaron James
1 month ago

Could have been worse, could have been Kamala debating a raccoon. or what ever her intellectual equivalent is, and losing badly – Or Biden debating an imaginary FDR, and losing badly.

J Bryant
J Bryant
1 month ago

This Senate race is a sad spectacle. We have so many challenges facing the nation and the best the parties can do in Pennsylvania is pit a TV huckster against a man disabled by a stroke.

Samuel Ross
Samuel Ross
1 month ago
Reply to  J Bryant

I didn’t see any huckster. Just a man who worked up from nothing, who knows how to talk and form coherent policy. Unlike Fetterman, a man who mooched off of his parents into his forties.

Steve Jolly
Steve Jolly
1 month ago

I feel bad for Fetterman. He had a stroke. It’s not his fault, and it could happen to any of us. Still, sympathy and/or pity is probably not a good reason to vote for someone who is charged with making laws at the highest level. In hindsight, he probably should have withdrawn. His party should have pressed him to do so for the good of the party, but this didn’t happen, so Pennsylvanians are left with a choice between a quack TV doctor and a sympathetic but clearly compromised opponent. I didn’t think it was possible to have a worse choice of candidates than we were provided with than the 2016 Presidential race, but this one may do it.

Aaron James
Aaron James
1 month ago
Reply to  Steve Jolly

”Pennsylvanians are left with a choice between a quack TV doctor”

Dr Oz graduated from Harvard, is a renowned heart surgeon, taught Surgery at Columbia University at the Medical school and retired Professor Emeritus there.

He also promoted ‘Complimentary Medicine’ with Conventional medicine on Opra and His own TV Show, but who had more Right and qualifications for alternate health than he did, after cutting up people who had abused their health for decades.

chris sullivan
chris sullivan
1 month ago
Reply to  Aaron James

GOOD TO KNOW thanks

Samuel Ross
Samuel Ross
1 month ago
Reply to  Steve Jolly

I didn’t see any quack. Just a man who worked up from nothing, who knows how to talk and form coherent policy. Unlike Fetterman, a man who mooched off of his parents into his forties.

Brian Villanueva
Brian Villanueva
1 month ago

All that matters in the Senate is the letter after the person’s name. Everyone knows this. Why are we pretending otherwise?

Either party will prop up a trained monkey if they have to just to get a D or an R into the seat. And there’s good reason for this. It’s not a flaw; it’s baked into the system from the outset. And it’s not new. Go lookup the presidential election of 1800.

N T
N T
1 month ago

As a voter in this race, I am concerned that when Fetterman stated positions, yesterday, that were contrary to his previously stated positions, his impairment caused him to misspeak, and what he meant was more in line with his original positions.
That the campaign did not reaffirm those statements from last night, I am very concerned that I am correct, and they are now trying to play out the clock, before stating, after the election, that he misspoke.

Samuel Ross
Samuel Ross
1 month ago

A man was sitting in a plane ready to take off. The pilots had been delayed, the stewards said.

Two men wearing dark glasses entered the plane, dressed as pilots. One tapped, tapped with a cane, the other held a guide dog. The passengers laughed, nervously.

The plane moved down the runway, toward a busy road. It roared, faster and faster. The passengers screamed, and then the plane took off, skimming the cars and trees.

In the cockpit, one pilot turned to the other and said, “You know, one of these days they’re going to scream too late, and then we’re all going to die.”

adrienne dematteo
adrienne dematteo
1 month ago

How can anyone vote for Fetterman? Use some common sense he is not fit to serve just like Biden.

Arkadian X
Arkadian X
1 month ago

This morning I was reading Bari Weiss’s newsletter where I read his story. I had never heard of him, but now I can say he would fit right in in many lofty positions.

susan capozzoli
susan capozzoli
1 month ago
Reply to  Arkadian X

You are right to call it a story. That is all that it is. They’ve transformed a no-working trust/fund elitist into a cardboard do-gooder who watched economic disaster under his watch in Braddock. His carbon bans and abandonment of campaign promises spelled disaster. Cinderella is just a character in a story too.