What Fetterman Should’ve Said

Let’s stipulate right from the beginning. John Fetterman’s campaign screwed up big time. After Fetterman suffered a stroke, he had only one choice. His campaign had to be totally transparent. That means releasing his complete medical records and allowing the media to question his doctor. Fetterman himself said during the debate that his medical condition was the “elephant in the room.” He needed to get rid of the elephant. His failure to do so has endangered his chances of winning.

Another huge mistake by the Fetterman strategists was agreeing to a debate in the first place. The concession to Fetterman allowing use of a teleprompter wasn’t nearly enough to give him even a chance of performing marginally well. He couldn’t get his words out in 15-or 30-second sound bites due to his current speech impediment. What were Fetterman’s folks looking at during their candidate’s debate warm-ups?

Mehmet Oz was glib and well-prepared with an array of one-liners and sound bites, but he was never challenged by his opponent. He skated while Fetterman stumbled. The elephant in the room should never only have been Fetterman’s health. The other elephant in the room should have been Donald Trump.

Oz admitted during the debate that he would support the Republican nominee, no matter whom. He seemed to grudgingly admit that this included Trump. With that admission, Fetterman could have aggressively tied Oz to Trump. A healthy Fetterman would likely have slammed Oz like this …

“Mehmet Oz, are you an election denier? Do you acknowledge that Donald Trump instigated the Jan. 6 insurrection? How can you accept the support of a man who tried to nullify a free and fair democratic election? Is there anything that would disqualify a Republican for running for office? If not, how can you pretend to be bipartisan?”

After tying Oz to a litany of Trump craziness like injecting disinfectant to prevent COVID, Fetterman needed to ask Oz what he (Oz) would do about crime. Push him to be specific. In his ads, he talks about “cracking down on the cartels.” “How would you do that, Dr. Oz? We’ve waged a war on drugs forever with little or no success.” Fetterman’s approach to the treatment of drug addicts and decriminalizing recreational marijuana is not radical. It’s worked in other states. Why not here, Dr. Oz? Fetterman could have pushed Oz on whether he would ever vote for a tax increase? “You want more cops, Dr. Oz? Where is the money coming from?”

Perhaps you missed it, but during the debate, Oz claimed he would fund any additional services by “cutting down on fraud, waste and abuse.” Oz believes in the mythical 4% waste that Republicans cling to in refusing to ever raise taxes and make the ultra-wealthy pay their fair share. The fraud and waste claim is a canard that rarely if ever materializes once a politician takes office. And it’s mainly a way to let your rich friends know that you’re NOT coming after their money.

Oz skillfully avoided explaining his anti-abortion stance. Don’t scare off pro-choice voters. Especially those in the Philadelphia and Pittsburgh suburbs. Oz emphasized that he would NEVER support a national law restricting abortion. But that’s not reassuring at all. Sen. Lindsey Graham’s proposed bill that would ban abortion after 15 weeks across America isn’t going anywhere, anyhow. But Dr. Oz wants to allow states to determine their own abortion laws. Fetterman should have pressed Oz on the inequity of individual states making their own abortion laws. “Why should a woman in Texas not have the same rights as a woman in New York? What about Pennsylvania? Do you support laws banning a woman from traveling to another state to obtain a legal abortion? Would you favor stronger restrictions on abortion in the state you represent?” Note that Oz grouped “politicians” in with the woman and her doctor as those who should decide abortion issues. Politicians? Would Dr. Oz allow politicians to make that decision for his family?

Perusing Oz’s official website tells you little about how he will accomplish anything. It’s extremely low on specifics. Full of bland statements about being for better health care and strongly supporting law enforcement without explaining how he would do it. He might as well have tossed in bromides about his taste for apple pie and motherhood.

The lack of scrutiny about Oz’s candidacy also represents a failure of the news media. It’s up to the media to shine a light on both candidates. Instead, it has fallen into the trap of questioning the fitness of one candidate to the exclusion of fairly reporting on the other. Note: Although I thought the two questioners during the debate did a good job, I could find no questions about the war in Ukraine or our relations with Russia. Also, the questions did not go far enough in stressing the ramifications of the Pennsylvania Senate election and what it would mean if the Republican Party controlled the Senate. Would Oz be as moderate as he wants voters to believe or would he be just one more vote for a Republican agenda to promote the 2024 Trump candidacy? That agenda is expected to include a revenge impeachment of Joe Biden and a host of partisan investigations. How does Oz feel about the Jan. 6 committee? Liz Cheney? Does he differ from Trump on any of the issues?

To be honest, I find only one overriding issue in this contest between Fetterman and Oz. Control of the Senate. I think four years of recklessness and chaos, punctuated by his attempt to undo the bona fide election results, disqualifies Trump and his party from office again. Personally, I just will not vote for any candidate who supports a renegade president.

That includes Mehmet Oz. And that’s what John Fetterman should’ve said.