The Electric Commentary

Friday, October 08, 2004

Tonight's debate to be immediately followed by Star Trek marathon.

Why is this debate on a Friday? Presumably the object of this debate is to give the public some idea of where each candidate stands on the issues, and presumably one would want to communicate that message to as many people as possible. Who exactly is going to give up their Friday night plans to sit at home and watch these two talk? In fact, as this is the town hall debate, who is going to show up to ask the questions?

I can think of a few possible explanations. First, Bush is a baseball man. Sure, oil gets all the attention, but we all know that his first love is the National Sport. Now the debate does take place during a baseball game, that much is true, but Friday night is the least watched primetime slot that a game could occur in. And I'm sure that John Kerry wanted to pick a day when the Red Sox, and his favorite player Manny Ortiz, would be on in the afternoon so he could watch.

Moreover, in a shrewd move by Bush, he has ensured that no New Yorkers will watch the debate, as it takes place during a Yankee playoff game. He has obviously learned the lesson that the "post debate spin" is more important than the actual debate. Assuming that the post-debate polls break down along partisan lines, and assuming that no New Yorkers respond to post-debate polling, Bush should score a clear victory no matter what.

Everyone knows that Bush is more likeable when you're drunk. Having the debate on a Friday night guarantees a higher than normal rate of inebriated viewership. All of a sudden Bush's creative use of the English language starts to make sense. You think, "this guy's not half bad." You know, beer goggles. Karl Rove strikes again!

I actually would like to go to the debate and ask questions, even if I did have to give up my Friday. I would ask direct, hard-hitting questions, and I would require Kerry to start with a "yes" or "no" and not follow that with a "but." For instance, "Mr. President, at what point do you feel that it would be appropriate to leave Iraq? Give me at least three specific goals that would have to be met." I would also ask tough follow-up questions if anyone tried to dodge an issue. "Senator Kerry, if you oppose offering private savings accounts as Social Security reform, what plan do you have in mind for keeping it fiscally solvent? What about Medicare?" To both candidates: "Describe your economic philosophy. Make sure to discuss specific people that have influenced you, and explain how you view the consequences of tax policy, monetary policy, and regulation."

The NYT asked a bunch of people what they would ask if they were at the debates, and also trying to sell a book or promote themselves personally at the same time.
Questions for Kerry.
Questions for Bush.

For instance, Eric Schlosser, who wrote "Fast Food Nation" asks of Kerry:

The United States is now threatened by a series of newly emerged, dangerous pathogens: mad cow disease, E. coli, antibiotic-resistant Salmonella, avian flu. And yet the nation’s food safety system is in serious disarray. Thanks to the lobbying efforts of major agribusiness firms, the federal government still lacks the authority to test meat for deadly pathogens, to trace contaminated meat back to its source, or to demand the recall of meat that could sicken thousands. What steps would you take to protect consumers from deliberately or inadvertently tainted food?

Seriously, why not just ask:

Have you read my book, "Fast Food Nation?" What did you think?

Or, Doris Kearns Goodwin, author of a forthcoming history of "Abraham Lincoln's White House" asks the President:

History suggests our best presidents acknowledge error, learn from mistakes, grow in the job. Lincoln readily conceded a number of errors. "I'd like to believe I'm smarter today than I was yesterday," he explained. Yet when you were first asked about mistakes you had made since the inauguration, you could not think of any. Your vice president followed suit this week, insisting he would recommend today exactly the same course in Iraq. Without acknowledging error, how can you expect to be smarter today than you were yesterday?

I read as:

Maybe you'd be more like Lincoln if you read my book, available in all major bookstores. Buy it today!

Even Mark Cuban is pimping for soon-to-be Democratic superstar Eliot Spitzer:

With so much instability in the stock markets, and dramatic losses and volatility the norm at least once a generation, how could you even consider allowing people to invest their retirement funds in the market? And why was it New York Attorney General Eliot Spitzer and not you who reformed the fund and financial industry?

"Allowing people?" Maybe we shouldn't "allow people" to start internet companies. After all, almost all of them went belly up after the internet bubble burst. Now that's volatility. And really, how often will someone sell their internet company for eight billion dollars?

If you haven't heard of Eliot Spitzer, you will. He's been cracking down of corporate malfeasance, specifically extravagant CEO pay, for several years now. He will probably run for Governor of New York shortly, and may be a Presidential Candidate down the road. He gets some nice free press here.

So apparently even the New York Times thinks that this debate is a joke. Maybe I should amend my questions to include:

On my blog, The Electric Commentary, we often write about the negative effects of the current federally mandated drinking age. As you were once and underage drinker and both of your daughters were recently underage drinkers, how do you feel about the current state of the law, especially considering that it violates principles of Federalism that Republicans allegedly hold dear?

Nah, that's still too good, and I could be way more self-serving.

Normally I like the town hall debate. It has the most potential for high comedy. But I just can't get excited about a debate on Friday, especially after the last one.

Let's face it, as with most Friday night activities that require staying home, in this debate there are no winners, only losers.


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