'Tard of the Week - Yours Truly

Wednesday, October 8, 2008
I watched the Presidential Debate last night.

For some reason, I expected the questions, answers and tone of the "town hall meeting" to provide me with some new information, insight, or commentary. The longer the debate went on, the more the candidates kept repeating their same old talking points, the more they kept attacking each others so-called "records," the more they kept ignoring the moderator, the more wrapped around the axle I got. Until my head exploded in a spectacular spray of blood and gray matter, as documented in the photographic evidence to the left.

So I'm the 'Tard this week, for expecting something new from American politics, for expecting something other than "business as usual," for expecting a respectful, informative debate that included information and insight that might help the average American voter make up her mind. What the hell was I thinking? Clearly I wasn't, and I'm a 'Tard.

13 comments:

Nathan said...

Ah, you poor deluded woman. Though, truth be told, I've got to join you on the short bus.

Cindi in CO said...

Make room for me on the bus please.

Sigh.

John the Scientist said...

Well, I was on the short bus for the VP debate, but after that, I expected that both campaigns are in protection mode - neither wanting to say anything new or interesting for fear of the spin from the other side.

I'd love to hear McCain get up and say that Obama's got fleas from laying down with dogs such as Ayers and Wright, and I'd love to hear Obama say that McCain obviously hasn't read "The Federalist Papers" to understand why McCain-Feingold undermines both the spirit and the letter of the First Amendment.

That's what I want both candidates to explain to me. Not arguments over who the hell predicted the magnitude of the sub-prime collapse. Because the answer to that one is "neither".

Eric said...

Gosh, and it sometimes seems like everyone thinks I'm the dewy-eyed political naif. Of course the campaigns are in what John called "protection mode."

The campaigns read the news, visit websites, study the polls that are public and the ones they pay for themselves and keep close to their vest: and the dynamic right now is that this is increasingly looking like Obama's campaign to lose, barring an October surprise or a massive defection (presumably by voters who don't want to look racist in front of a pollster but suddenly come down with a bad case of bigotry in the booth; and while this is bound to happen some, it doesn't even look like this effect will be sufficient to swing any of the states Obama needs to win).

Even some states that have been solid red during my lifetime are starting to poll pink and purple.

So the only person to gain something by really staking himself out is McCain, who has less to lose, except McCain is struggling to cling to his own party support--so he's unlikely to make a wild leap, either.

The thing is, this is pretty typical of the process going at least as far back as Jackson, if not farther. We have a romanticized view of our political culture, and think there used to be a more civilized age when intellectuals debated the merits of issues and swayed the minds of voters, but the reality is there was plenty of name-calling in our political "golden age," and apparently a bit more public drunkeness in the audience. (For perspective--and an example of historical baby-splitting--consider that the Lincoln-Douglas debates were less noble than commonly believed but maybe smarter than recent critics have claimed, see this piece in Slate.)

One issue I have with John's response, though: I'd love to see McCain try that tack for a completely different reason--given that McCain has previously laid down with the Keating Five and (according to the latest news) a tax-evading, law-breaking right-wing organization linked to Latin American death squads and former Nazi collaborators, it would be very interesting to see how Senator McCain might explain how some of his associations are less-relevant than Senator Obama's, once the subject is raised.

Let's compare apples and apples, in other words. If we're going to talk about some of Obama's questionable associations, let's talk about McCain's, instead of getting into the more esoteric and intellectual differences. And if we're going to talk about McCain's reading list and legislative acts, we might talk about Obama's.

For the record, I don't agree with much Rev. Wright said, but aside from his unscientific comments about HIV, I have to admit I understand some of his other comments, the ones that have people riled up. I've probably said similar things about my country, and I know I have some CDs on my shelf in the punk and rap genres that express similarly blunt and bleak assessments. As to Ayers, I'm not convinced going to a social event for a former-domestic-terrorist-turned-activist says anything that terrible about your character; think less of me for that if you'd like. In any case, I'm not sure showing up for the social event is worse than having your name on the letterhead of an entity connected to "Latin American meat-packing glitterati" (to borrow a line from Roger Waters) for two years.

(And here's something strange, before I get back to work: can anyone explain how and why you resign from an organization and then wait two years to have your name taken off their masthead? I mean, what the hell? Especially if you "didn't know" whether their activity was illegal or not--I'd think my resignation letter, if it was me, would say something like, "I must regrettably end my associations with your organization and request that you no longer use my name, office or likeness in any connection and that you please remove my name from all listings, pamphlets, and mail for your organization." I guess I'm just not maverick enough or something.)

Right, recess is over: back to the grind.

Janiece Murphy said...

Eric, I know better, I do. Hope just keeps springing eternal in my heart, as I wish and wish for change.

Silly me.

And if you think the various campaigns don't believe in a double-standard for their candidate, you really are the dewy-eyed political naif in this crowd.

Come sit by me at the back of the bus. There's always room for one more.

Jeri said...

Janiece - you actually said it yourself, but you're not a 'tard, just an idealist. Hope springs eternal...

Janiece Murphy said...

Jeri, you're right, but "'Tard" is funnier than "idealist."

Eric said...

"Double standard" would imply the existence of standards, which is debatable. But if there are any standards, they're indubitably double and quadruple and maybe even octiple.

I can still stay off the short bus this time around the block.

:-)

Janiece Murphy said...

Eric, what are these "standards" of which you speak?

Eric said...

Let's face it, the only standards one usually sees on political daises these days are usually draped from flagpoles behind the candidates.

Well, and there are also "standards" as in "standard responses." E.g., "That's why they call him the maverick!"

And speaking of mavericks, as in cattle, I think Senator McCain's performance at last night's debate arguably qualifies the Senator himself as "standard" under definition number 6 in the first entry on this page. But maybe that's me being partisan. :-)

Janiece Murphy said...

Thanks a lot, Eric. I had an unfortunate accident with my Pepsi One.

Ilya said...

Looks like, whether 'tard or idealist, you're in good company, Janiece!

Carol Elaine said...

With debates, as with everything in life, my motto is, "Hope for the best, prepare for the worst." I definitely prefer Obama over McCain, but I've never been a big fan of Obama - he's much more moderate and politically calculating than his fans are willing to admit. I mean, the man has not only survived but prospered under Chicago politics, which are notoriously tough (though not as bad as during the Daly years).

So I can't say that I'm surprised that nothing new was learned during the last "debate" - hewing to the script is what is politically expedient right now.

I'm still an idealist, in that I have ideals that I want to work towards for this country, but I'm an idealist who doesn't expect much of anything from most political leaders. Actually, I'm more surprised when a political leader does something right (the current California Secretary of State, for example, is what political leaders should be - I adore Debra Bowen. And having met her several times, I have to say, she's even more impressive in person).

I think I'll be staying off the short bus for now, unless y'all need a driver.