Saturday, October 20, 2012

The Not-So Great Debates

Who would have ever thought that there would a pivotal presidential
debate featuring two guys named Barack and Mitt moderated by a gal
named Candy?

Who would have thought that the most memorable phrase uttered was
“binders full of women” courtesy of Gov. Romney who was inartfully
trying to establish his feminist bona fides?

Who would have thought that Pizza Hut would seriously consider daring
people to ask "Sausage or Pepperoni?" at the town hall debate this
past week?

All of which goes to show you that there are strange bedfellows and
strangers in the night but there is nothing stranger than politics.

If you missed the first two presidential debates and the vice
presidential tussle, you can tune in tomorrow night and it will all
be fresh and new to you.

If you’re like me, and have watched every minute of ever episode in
this mini-series, it will be like eating leftovers three times in a
row: no matter how they serve it, it’s the same warmed-over rhetoric
presented with different garnish.

Call it the not-so great debate.

To underscore that point, note that the major news emerging from
these debates has little to do with what was said. Instead, untold
hundreds of “experts” have opined on body language, aggressiveness or
lack of same, the role of the moderators, the color of the
candidate’s ties, even the size of the participant’s American flag
lapel pins.

Consider this from the Washington Post on the past week’s debates:
“Who won? Who knows? The rematch of Obama vs. Romney was a great
night for physical theater. Rhetoric was sidelined by spectacle. At
times, the thinly veiled aggression grew so hot — with President
Obama and Mitt Romney closing in on each other like street fighters
—that you wondered if the two would come to fisticuffs.”

What I really wondered about was not fisticuffs but the fiscal cliff
this country faces in a very short time. But that question was
neither asked nor was the topic discussed.

It demonstrates that these debates have been all about style over

In the first debate in Denver, the news was all about demeanor.
President Obama looked for all the world like a guy who accidently
wandered into a Tupperware party. He was too polite to leave but too
disinterested to add much to the proceedings.

In the meantime, Gov. Romney was doing his best General Patton
imitation. Indeed, he won the battle, if not the war.

In the next round of the debates, Vice President Joe Biden clashed
with GOP nominee Rep. Paul Ryan. It was an event largely
characterized by Biden continually referring to Ryan as “my friend”
and showing his teeth a lot while Ryan spent a lot of time sipping
water. But ultimately, the debate was devoid of breaking news.

Next came Obama/Romeny, Part II. Obama won style points because of a
new found aggressiveness but I was left with the impression that it
was play acting, that the real President doesn’t stalk the halls of
the West Wing like a tiger at feeding time as he did on stage here.

One question among many was asked about women’s rights, yet some in
the media characterized the debate as an attempt to secure the female
vote. If it was, it was sadly misdirected.

To think that the two candidates prowling the stage like schoolyard
bullies would appeal to women shows a basic misunderstanding of human

One CNN anchor said she was disturbed, almost frightened, by the
display. Gail Collins, writing in the New York Times, said “Women
enjoy a good pander as much as anybody else, and it was great to have
the candidates tackle issues like equal pay and reproductive rights.
Although it was a little weird that the two men vied for female favor
by interrupting and barking at one another like a Worst Boyfriend.
“If there are significant voter gender differences, one of them is
the female aversion to yelling and squabbling…”

Now, there is one more debate. We can hope for some red meat rather
than the gruel we have been served in the past.

But I’m betting that the recipe remains the same.

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