Same Old, Same Old

| Tue Oct. 19, 2010 6:52 PM EDT

The outrage du jour heure comes, once again, from Delaware, where Christine O'Donnell today questioned the constitutional basis of secular government:

"Where in the Constitution is separation of church and state?" O'Donnell asked while Democrat Chris Coons, an attorney, sat a few feet away.

Coons responded that O'Donnell's question "reveals her fundamental misunderstanding of what our Constitution is. ... The First Amendment establishes a separation."

She interrupted to say, "The First Amendment does? ... So you're telling me that the separation of church and state, the phrase 'separation of church and state,' is in the First Amendment?"

Her campaign issued a statement later saying O'Donnell "was not questioning the concept of separation of church and state as subsequently established by the courts. She simply made the point that the phrase appears nowhere in the Constitution."

OK, two things. First, why does anyone still care what Christine O'Donnell says? She's a carnival sideshow who's eleven points behind in the polls and will disappear from public view in a couple of weeks. Can't we all stop obsessing over her now instead of waiting until November 2nd?

Second, isn't it common knowledge that social conservatives have questioned the modern doctrine of separation of church and state for decades? They write books about it, they give talks about it, they write law review articles about it, they blog about it, and they denounce it from the pulpit. The fact that it's news in any way is less a reflection on O'Donnell than it is on the fact that the mainstream media still doesn't do much serious reporting about social conservatives. If they did, this wouldn't have been even remotely newsworthy.

UPDATE: I still think that breathless reporting on Christine O'Donnell's every gaffe is dumb, but I see via comments that the AP dispatch above doesn't quite give the flavor of what she really said. She did question whether the phrase "separation of church and state" is in the constitution, which is a standard social conservative talking point, but a few seconds later she had this exchange (at about the 7:00 mark):

Coons: The government shall make no establishment of religion.

O'Donnell: [dubiously] That's in the First Amendment?

That's definitely a wee bit higher on the nutball scale.