By Gustav Niebuhr
I’ve been following elections since the 1960s, but this weekend marks the very first time I have ever heard a candidate for the United States Senate use the words “picnic” and “satanic altar” in the same sentence.
But there we have it, courtesy of a video clip from Bill Mahar’s former program, “Politically Incorrect,” in which Ms. O’Donnell–now GOP candidate for Senate from Delaware–appeared on a show broadcast Oct. 29, 1999. Her story: she went out on a first date with a guy whom she described as a witch who took her for a midnight meal on a “satanic altar.” And Ms. O’Donnell said she once “dabbled into witchcraft.”
I see four basic questions here: one, about dating and satanic altars; two, about grammatical usage; three, about mealtimes, as Americans understand them; and, four, well, about satanic altars, for crying out loud!
But first, let’s get a basic disclaimer out of the way: I have met quite a number of practicitioners of Wicca — contemporary witchcraft — and every single one of them has flatly said they do not worship the Devil because they do not believe in one; they blame the whole Satanic idea on monotheism. Is that clear? Trust me, the people I have met are emphatic on this point.
Now, let’s take those questions in order.
1.) What kind of guy takes a woman out on a very first date to a “satanic altar,” and brings along a picnic basket? Yes, there are 300 million people living in this country, but who would have thought of such a thing?
2.) “Dabbled into witchcraft?” If Ms. O’Donnell wants to work criticism of public education into her campaign, and assuming she went to public schools at some point in her lifetime, she certainly has ground to wonder why she never learned the proper use of prepositions.
3.) A picnic at midnight? To whom is candidate O’Donnell trying to appeal? Yes, Spaniards may have their evening meal when the clock strikes 11 or 12. But your average American settles down to his or her meat and potatoes a good five hours earlier, thank you very much. Eat at midnight? Maybe a snack on a TV tray while watching Leno. But not outdoors. Unless you live in very far north Alaska, the sun’s down, so how are you going to grill?
4.) Now, let’s get back to the “altar.” Please, Ms. O’Donnell, tell us more! What did this thing look like? It’s not like we all know, like we’re on our daily commute and just happen to look out the car window and see, well, yes, “There’s that ‘satanic altar’ over there, Edith. Wonder when those folks get that thing going?”
Exactly once in my life have I seen a photo purportedly of a “satanic altar”–in this case, a rather modest edifice created by the showman Anton LaVey, now deceased creator of the very, very tiny Church of Satan. If I remember right, there was a person lying upon it, alive, but (ahem) underdressed. I can’t imagine picnicking in such a venue… after all, wouldn’t it be a bit crowded?
So many questions! But at least no one can ever call Delaware dull anymore.
So here, dear readers, is a question: Could Ms. O’Donnell possibly be simply confused, or is she the sharpest political operator to hit the scene, bigger even than Sarah Palin, able to dominate the headlines and rise to “got-to-book-her-now” status for every news show in America’s 24/7 cycle?
Based on the evidence, this woman can feed the beast–by which I mean the news media, not the ever-unhappy being that Dante so effectively described.