What Debate?

2008.Sep.27 Saturday · 8 comments

in Life, Popular Posts

“The same me that stands here now
When I think that all this stuff
Can make a life that’s pretty hard to take it in, that was me
That was me, ya, that was me!”

– Paul McCartney, final lyrics to That Was Me

Far Side - what dogs hearBuenos Aires – I wasn’t a member of the debate club in high school, though I thought about it. Swim team and water polo got in the way, you know? But I remember learning about how to debate in one class or another and my recollection is that it involved a structured, timed… argument – you know, sort of a point – counterpoint. Organized facts. Supporting evidence. I’ve seen a few political debates over the years, including between presidential candidates. What happened last night wasn’t one of them.

No, last night was a poorly choreographed series of campaign soundbites, with neither candidate paying all that much attention to what the other was saying, nor, often, to the question(s) being asked by the moderator. It was also one of the dullest points to date in what at one point looked to be one of the more interesting presidential elections in the last few decades.

Now, everyone has their own perceptions. In the course of e-mail exchanges today with various friends and relatives there are those who saw John McCain come out as a patriotic powerhouse, dominating the event with his clear, common sense views, while Barack Obama came across as a fumbling, smart-ass elitist who barely understood what foreign policy and economics meant, let alone what to do about them. Others saw a clear eyed, firm voiced young dynamo for change and the future who stood out against an aging, doddering war hero who, if he’s not senile, is on the fast track to it. Personally, I didn’t seen any clear winner – I saw a lot of posturing, a lot of talking, and not a whole lot of saying anything important. Here’s my re-imagined, and shortened (i.e., eliminating all the unnecessary fluff) version of the “debate”:

Moderator: Good Evening.

McCain: Good Evening Tom

Obama: I agree with Senator McCain, good evening, but I want to point out that I stood up in the Senate months ago and said good evening.

McCain: Senator Obama may have said that in the Senate, but there were also evenings where he didn’t say it. I’ve stayed true to the values of this nation and said good evening each and every evening for more years than he’s been alive.

Moderator: Perhaps we could move on to the economy.

Obama: I’d like to point out, as I have before, that I have a plan. It’s a plan for change, because I’m different from Senator McCain.

McCain: Look, we need to fix the economy, they tell me it’s in terrible shape, and that it’s Senator Obama’s fault. We have to stimulate business and we have to both cut and raise taxes. My plan is to simply veto everything, whether it costs money or not. I don’t know much more about it than that, but something has to be done.

Obama: I agree with everything Senator McCain said, except I’m the different one, and also the part about fault, it’s his fault, not mine, and I told people about this years ago and no one listened. So while I agree with everything else he said, my plan is different, we have to both cut and raise taxes, but not the same ones he’s talking about. Different ones. And I’m going to veto everything too, except the things I don’t.

Moderator: Let’s go on to foreign policy…

McCain: I have a running mate who’s made it quite clear that she has the qualifications in this area, dealing with two key foreign borders on a daily basis. And I’ve been in Vietnam, Afghanistan, and several other ‘stans that they made me try to memorize the names of that no one has ever heard of, and I know Senator Obama hasn’t been to any of them. I know about dealing with the evil empire.

Obama: The “evil empire”? I stood up in the Senate and said the evil empire went out when the Soviet Union fell apart. It went out with Ronald Reagan… Oh yeah, and I have a running mate too.

McCain: Ronald Reagan is my best friend. He is the best president this country ever had. We hang out together. And I heard that if Senator Obama gets elected he’s going to auction off the states that didn’t vote for him on e-Bay. Which, by the way, is a KGB plot. If you squint when you look at the e-Bay website it says KGB. Right there.

Obama: I never said what Senator McCain said, I just said I had a plan, and it’s different. From his. Whatever his is. Besides, I read some books by some really smart people…

McCain: They’re all friends of mine. They’ve been friends of mine since Senator Obama was in short pants. And the ones who aren’t friends of mine, our enemies, well I’ve met with them too. We’ve done shots together. Even the KGB guys. And that Iranian guy with the name that even he can’t pronounce…

Obama: Ahmadinejad

McCain: See, Senator Obama is out there showing off with big words that the American public doesn’t know or want to know. I’m a regular guy, I’m one of them. Oh yeah, and a maverick. I’m a maverick. I know that the record says I voted with Bush 90% of the time, but you don’t know how much I objected to it, even he called me a maverick, right there in the Rose Garden. And besides, I heard Senator Obama is giving that Iranian guy, and that Castro guy, and the Dear Leader of Korea… did you know North Koreans are shorter than South Koreans – that proves how oppressive their society is… I heard he’s giving them first bid on a couple of states….and maybe throw in Israel too.

Obama: I don’t know where Senator McCain is getting his information from, but I just want to point out that I stood up and told everyone something completely different, that I had a plan, only no one paid attention, and look where we’re at now.

Moderator: Perhaps the war in Iraq…

McCain: What war? We already won. We have the best troops. We have the best general. We’re just waiting for the right moment to come home. We’re coming home with honor and valor, and it doesn’t matter if we come home dead or alive. I’ve been there and I’ve met all the leaders. We had dinner. And tea. But not foreign tea. Senator Obama’s never been there. He’s never been anywhere. I heard that.

Obama: I’ve been lots of places, including some of those places Senator McCain is trying to pronounce. I told the Senate that we shouldn’t go to war, and now we have to end it. But did Senator McCain or anyone else listen to me? No, I don’t think so.

McCain: And I got a souvenir bracelet.

Obama: Me too, me too!

Moderator: Gentlemen, we’re out of time, any last words for the evening?

Obama: Just remember, vote for me, I’m different, I have a plan, and it’s different too… and, as I’ve said before, in front of the whole Senate, good night, just nobody paid any attention to me.

McCain: Senator Obama may have said “good night” to someone, somewhere, but I know those people, we did lunch, and they owe me some favors… if you get my meaning… so let me just be clear, that I’ve always said “good night”, every night, and meant it, patriotically.

Moderator: Zzzzzzzzzzzzzzzz….

Brian September 27, 2008 at 21:21


Jude September 27, 2008 at 21:35

LOVE THIS DAN!!!!!!!!!!!! Genius!!!!!!!

Stephen Suber September 28, 2008 at 02:06

Your analysis is brilliant, and right on target. Neither of these guys said anything worthy of a real debate. The entire exercise was built around sound byte opportunities. And both candidates showed that their handlers got them sort of prepared for this one. Sort of.

Sad to say, the choice is between Tweedle (D) and Tweedle Dumb.

Dumb probably wins.

Robert Evans September 28, 2008 at 10:47

Could not agree more. Boring.

I wish we were more like the British in this respect.

dan September 28, 2008 at 11:17

Distillations Я Us


Just for the hell of it, I threw this one onto Digg in the political opinion category – let’s see where it gets to (which is a subtle way of saying – go Digg It!)

Still Life in Buenos Aires September 28, 2008 at 15:40

So true. Talk about both candidates playing it safe.

colleen September 28, 2008 at 17:32

yes, I mean I did not understand where either was going with this whole thing. I am an Obama supporter for obvious reasons and already received and cast my absentee ballot but man, that debate was frustrating..I felt they were both so Weak! can’t wait to see the upcoming debate and well the Palin/Biden debate – Ni hablar…
lets hope for the best…Overall, I think this whole Economic crisis situation generated a lot of expectations but also – foreign policy… PLEAAASSEE..USA needs to grow from the inside- out..we are focusing too much abroad and as we saw in Roma— well, that should speak for itself – haven’t we learned anything from History 101?

Ken Sternberg September 28, 2008 at 20:19

Oh, but were presidential candidates thrown into a genuine, Oxford-style debate. It’s been nothing but choreographed sound bites for at least 12 years now. Even then, the portion that I watched was less than inspiring from either candidate. Nothing that they said would have convinced an undecided person to support one side over the other. If McCain should win, though, I’m checking the real estate ads in BA.

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