Dear Big Daddy,
What do you think of the so-called presidential “debates”?
–Douglas in Lincoln
Now there’s a trick question.
If I say they’re a sound bite-laden charade delivered with about as much sincerity as me explaining what that earring was doing in the back seat of my car, you’ll call me a cynic (though I’m still wondering how and why that became an insult). If I’m happy to join college students everywhere in taking a drink every time I hear catchphrases like “change,” “orgy of deregulation,” or “falafel eating foot-massager of terrorists,” you’ll accuse me of trivializing the process (and I’ll be too inebriated to hear you). And if I take them completely seriously, you’ll rightly call me a fool.
So I’m gonna get all maverickian and go my own way. Because there’s a group out there who has really impressed me this election. A group I have heaped scorn upon in past columns, no less.
That would be the voters. And I don’t mean that because Obama appears to be winning in the polls. No, it’s because the voters this time seem more focused on the issues that matter than the candidates—i.e., at least a little bit. Heck, I even heard an intelligent question or two at that town hall doohickey. Funny what a worldwide financial crisis can do for you. A cynic might say that our government destroyed the economy and diminished American power, but I think it was all part of a brilliant plan to create an engaged electorate at the bargain price of a few trillion dollars.
Now I’m going to say something else that might surprise you: I don’t think Barack Obama has won the debates. The soaring orator has been replaced by some fella who sounds like Rain Man reading a teleprompter. Anyone who did a version of the game where they had to drink every time Obama said “million,” “billion” or “trillion” is probably dead of alcohol poisoning by now (though I have yet to hear of a better way to avoid the economic meltdown).
Nope, Obama hasn’t won ‘em. But John McCain sure has lost them. I don’t want to say he’s looked old and grumpy, but if the carpet had been green, I’d be sure they were debating on McCain’s lawn. Now I didn’t take “That one” as a racial jab, but it did sound like a good answer to the question “who aren’t you trying very hard to hide your contempt for?”
And then there’s the matter of his Igor-like catchphase, “My friends.” In most debates, one goal is not to remind voters of Marty Feldman (did anyone under 50 get that?). Though if he really did create the Bride of Separatist in a secret lab, hats off.
Speaking of Sarah Palin, the undercard has once again provided far more entertainment than the main events. There’s Joe Biden, semi-realistically cast in fiberglass, calling McCain the finest disturbed ticking time-bomb he’s ever had the privilege of knowing. Then there’s the best veep candidate eye candy since…wait, has there ever been veep eye candy? All I know is that every time Sarah Palin winked at me, I wanted to ask her what time she got off and if she could please bring me another beer. Sexist, I know, but if she doesn’t like it then she oughta stop flirting with me.
By now you’re probably thinking, what the heck does Big Daddy know about presidential debates? I’ll tell you what. I was ducked by the best—The Gipper himself. That’s right, the greatest presidential debater of all time feared to jump on a stage with yours truly when we faced off in the 1970 governor’s race. Now a cynic might say this had more to do with his huge money advantage and even bigger lead in the polls at the time. But I think he knew that I wouldn’t stand there like a doe-eye Jimmy Carter while he kidney-punched me with lines stolen from fast food commercials.
So, Doug, you wanna know what I think of these debates? I think I coulda been a contender, that’s what.