Wednesday, October 08, 2008

Town Hall Debate Running Diary

All Right, well, I haven’t done a running diary on anything since I don’t know when, so I thought I’d spend 90 otherwise worthwhile minutes of my life watching tonight’s presidential debate and giving my reactions as they hit me. (Props of course to the Sport’s Guy for more or less inventing the format.)

Let’s get to it!

5:55:35 PM
OK, Debate’s about to begin. Some notes going in watching the pregame:

-Cindy McCain today said that Obama’s run “the dirtiest campaign in the History of the US.” Hello? This isn’t even the dirtiest campaign in the history of John McCain!

-The debate is before a “town meeting” and there are like 40 people in the hall. What town are they talking about, Wasilla Alaska?

-The questions will be asked by “undecided” voters. Honestly, how can anybody still be undecided at this point? These candidates have been at it for more than a year! If you committed a crime when these guys began, congratulations, the statute of limitations has run out by now! Why don’t we allow people who at least follow politics once a year to ask the debate questions?

6:00:40 PM
OK. Going to watch the debate on PBS, which I recommend to all. No interrupting, no crawl line, no pulse thingy. When in doubt, PBS.

6:01:56 PM
Here’s Tommy Brokaw to fact-check me and say the town hall has 80 people. Oh great. Tom has screened the questions. Conspiracy theorists, get typing… So there won’t be any question coming out of left field. No. It’s not like a president ever needs to think on his feet or anything…

6:03:09 PM
Here they come to shake hands. McCain makes perhaps the only eye contact of the night with Obama.

6:03:58 PM
Bald guy asks first question. Economy of course. Big drawl. Who decided on Nashville for this? Dems gave away home field advantage.
The answers strike me as dull because I’ve heard it all before.
Oh, but first lie of the night. McCain on Energy. 700 billion is an inflated estimate. The real number is around 569 billion. (Yes, I’ve been on a lot lately)
McCain sounds like a grandparent trying to make his grandkids eat broccoli.

6:09:00 PM
Tom asks a follow-up question. I’m wondering if somehow Brokaw will wind up asking more questions than the audience. Even odds on that.
McCain suggests someone from E-bay to be Treasury secretary (It’s on this “Internet” thing he’s heard of.)
Obama suggests, well, no actual name.

6:11:33 PM
Can a brother ask a question around here? Yes! Already this debate is more diverse than the Reppublican National Convention…
(I was so excited for the fact that someone diverse was asking something I missed the question.)
McCain says we probably haven’t heard of Freddie and Fannie Mac before. Man, he is condescending. Then he blames Democrats and cronies and the people who, god forbid, asked for mortgages. (65% of whom qualified for better mortgages than they were talked into, but still, they’re POOR!!)

Obama is going to go well over the time limit. This will be a problem for both all night. They have to answer the questions, connect with the questioners and slander each other all within a one-minute time span.

6:17:52 PM
If you’re drinking at home, you should have picked “cronyism” for your trigger word.

6:18:54 PM
Man, this woman, Theresa Finch, was almost in tears asking “How can we trust you! Both parties are bad!” Hey, I feel her pain, but again, if you’re an undecided voter at this point you’re part of the problem. If people like you paid more attention Theresa, then the parties wouldn’t be allowed to run roughshod all over you. Try before giving up on democracy…

-McCain really is good at this format. He’s also helped by the complete lack of rebuttal time allowed.

6:23:51 PM
Who cried out for more Brokaw? “I got the fever, and it can only be cured with more Brokaw!” Tom, we get you on Meet the Press every week. Let these 80 Joe Six-Packs ask one freakin’ question for one night in 4 years. Jeesh.
Anyway, He wants priorities on things, and I’m totally bored already.

6:26:50 PM
This debate is sounding exactly like the last debate. Make that the last two debates. It’s like hearing Barack Obama and John McCain cover bands.

6:28:35 PM
Tom slipped another question in there. He has now asked 5 questions to 3 by the audience. I will continue to score this.

-John McCain REALLY hates that overhead projector Obama bought for a Chicago Planetarium. Apparently it represents everything that is wrong with America.

Side note: I’m sure I’m not the first person to have noticed that Microsoft Word’s spellchecker has no problem with John McCain, but it redlines both Barack and Obama. Just another obstacle he’s had to climb…

6:32:25 PM
My son just pooped his pants. This concerns me much more than the debate right now or how either of the candidates “connects” to anybody.

6:33:29 PM
Another Brokaw question! 6-3. (By the way, the spellchecker has no problem with Brokaw either! Really? Brokaw? How commonly do people type Brokaw?)

6:35:56 PM
McCain just compared Obama to Herbert Hoover. John, only you remember Herbert Hoover.
Now the thing is heating up. McCain just told a bunch of whopping lies that aren’t allowed to get rebutted. My child’s diaper is still poopy, but McCain’s last answer reeks worse.

6:38:57 PM
7-3 Brokaw. This is becoming a rout. The Candidates and Hall had better get busy or Tom’s gonna run away with this debate…

-All the talk about tax plans could be fixed with a visit to or the Washington Post’s excellent chart.
Oh, but that would require the American People to do RESEARCH! God forbid…

6:42:43 PM
McCain’s trying to out-Sarah-Palin Sarah Palin. Some g’s please folks and fella’s!

6:43:21 PM
Question from the hall. 7-4. And a generic question about Climate Change! Thanks for screening the questions Tom! Are the people of Nashville really this DULL? (That would explain the state of country music…)

6:45:26 PM
McCain really seems excited! Well, not really. He seems like someone trying to ACT excited saying things he’s already said 1000 times. Anyway, it’s a good format for him.

More exciting though is that there’s this kid with a crew cut who is in the background whenever a certain camera angle is used and the kid appears to be an odd combination of bored/terrified. 3 to 1 the kid picks his nose on national TV before we’re through. It will be the best part of this debate.

6:48:20 PM
8-4 Brokaw. Do we need a Manhattan Project for Energy? Duh. We should have Manhattan Projects for everything. But that’s just my opinion. Manhattan Projects work.

-Finally a good health care question from the house makes it 8-5. Unfortunately I already know how both candidates will answer it. They’ll tell lies about each other’s plans rather than extol the merits of their own. Too bad.

(My wife has chimed in with “Just say yes or no.” She’s right. For those of you playing at home, the correct answer is:
“Is health care a commodity? NO. It’s a fucking NEED!”
Neither candidate answered it correctly. Maybe Tom will follow-up?)

6:55:29 PM
Tom gets in there. 9-5. Is health care a right, privilege of responsibility? Nice to have a little follow, but why the third option Tom? Responsibility? What does that even mean?
For the record, McCain-Responsibility, Obama- Right.

Obama goes over time by about 100 years but had to because Health care is complex. You know the Lincoln-Douglass debates? No time limits! Let’s get back to that.

6:59:56 PM
And from there to Iraq. 9-6. The hall is making a comeback. My kid’s diaper has been changed and John McCain is ignoring the question he was asked.

7:01:37 PM
Man, have I heard both sides talk about Iraq ad nauseum. Guys, it was a bad idea. Let’s get out of there and stop turning good money into bad and good troops into casualties.

Oh, and by the way, not that anyone mentioned it, but the surge didn’t work. More on that later.

7:04:24 PM
Brokaw asks an interesting question. “What is your doctrine?” An interesting question, but still, Tom’s talking too much. 10-6.

Apparently the McCain doctrine consists mainly of criticizing the Obama doctrine…

John, damnit, someone needs to set you straight on this, so I guess it has to be me in bold face.
Victory and Defeat are terms for games. Stop belittling our troops by referring to a war as if it were a game! (By the way, the vets of Iraq and Afghanistan graded you a D for the past 2 years.)

7:08:36 PM
Katie Hamm (Real name? You decide) reads a question on a card as if it’s the first time she’s ever seen it. 10-7 Come on Hall! Make a comeback!

(I have to pee. How much more of this thing is left?)

McCain’s strategy for winning Iraq, Afghanistan and Pakistan? David Petraeus! What are we going to clone him?
(Spellchecker did not find Petraeus btw)

Oh, now we’re getting personal. The bomb Iran, and all the dumb McCain quotes are coming out. It’s almost interesting. Almost.

7:16:28 PM
Enter Brokaw. 11-7. Should we reorganize Afghanistan strategy? Meanwhile, my wife has turned on “Legally Blonde” on our second TV (Yes, I have two TV’s next to each other in my living room.) It’s hard to keep an eye on John McCain when 15 sorority girls are screaming and hugging each other just to his right…

Reason number 2003 that John McCain shouldn’t be president. He still says the surge worked. The surge didn’t work. It’ didn’t cause the Anbar awakening etc…
What really stopped the violence in Iraq? Sadly, the neighborhoods became so segregated, there’s “No one left to kill” as one expert put it. That’s what’s brought the violence down, as well as some other diplomacy.
And, John, even if the surge DID work, and the only reason that violence is down is the presence of US troops, then what the hell happens when we eventually do pull out? Sure, you can bring down crime by imposing a police state, but something else has to change, or the crime will come right back as soon as you leave. The surge commits us to Iraq for LONGER!
But I’m not very opinionated on that…

7:20:14 PM
Tom reads a question from the Internet. Does that make the score 11-7-1? I dunno. I’ve paused the debate for the first time because I really need to pee.

OK. Russia. McCain says there won’t be a new cold war, then basically calls Putin “Evil.”
Both candidates are trying to list more obscure countries than the other here as a way of showing that they can win a geography bee. Meanwhile my daughter has decided to just scream through the whole thing anyway and I don’t blame her.

Here’s all you need to know about what US foreign policy will be like in the next administration: We’ll still be arrogant, “talk tough” to keep the domestic fear level high, and use our military way too much, because when your only tool is a hammer, every problem becomes a nail. Don’t worry folks. As long as you clamor for a “strong leader” and “American Exceptionalism” you’ll get to keep paying 20 times more for your military than any other country…

7:27:04 PM
“Is Russia the Evil Empire” question. Tom’s now up 12-7-1.
McCain makes a joke. Yeah, the cold war. Good times..

7:28:17 PM
From the peanut gallery, a question about Iran and Israel makes it 12-8-1. I have Sooooo much trouble actually believing that this Naval Petty Officer really wanted to ask a question about Iran attacking Israel. Really? Is that really what’s first and foremost on your mind there CPO Sharkey? What the hell?

McCain: “Be afraid of Iran. Be very afraid”
Obama: “Be afraid. Be very afraid… Nuclear weapons…”
Honestly kids, Iran? A threat? Have we really run that low on things to be afraid of? Who else are we going to be at war with in the next 4 years? (Don’t answer that. Please don’t answer that…)

7:33:05 PM
Last Question. Thank God… From the Internet. 12-8-2 final score, Brokaw asking more questions than a US city and the Internet combined. Thanks Tom for still being our “Media Filter.”
The question is “what don’t you know and how will you learn it?” It got a laugh, but um, what a blitheringly stupid question to sum up a blitheringly stupid night.
If there’s something you don’t know, you don’t know it, hence the question is inherently unanswerable and makes us vulnerable to a potential Donald Rumsfeld “Unknown Unknown” nonsense. Thank you Internet, for wasting even more of my time and thank you “Commission on Presidential Debates” for stealing 90 minutes of my life I could have spent bonding with my kids.

This thing just sucked folks. You can’t put lipstick on this pig.

Ugh. Time to wrap up…

So who won? Tell you what. I won’t belittle the debate process by using terms like “win” and “lose” if the candidates stop belittling wars the same way.
But if you must have an answer: I lost. Lost a little more confidence in our system, lost a little more respect for Tom Brokaw, and lost a little more faith in democracy. But other than that, Go USA!!

9:23:54 PM
OK, It’s been a couple of hours and a hot tub soak since the debate ended, and I have a few more rants thinking about a few things.

First and foremost, this “debate” format was a complete joke. Town Hall? The only good things about the town hall format are that people can ask unpredictable questions, and can do it directly, with no mediation. By having Brokaw screen the questions, they sucked that out of it and turned the citizens into mere props. That’s like waiting a long time for fast food, or paying more at Home Depot. Once you take the one good thing out all that you’re left with is suck. This whole Town meeting format really needs to find the dung heap of Americana if they keep doing it like this.

And I still can’t believe that a naval officer in Tennessee has nothing more pressing on his mind than whether or not Iran is going to invade Israel, and is basing his presidential selection on how a candidate answers that question. I just can’t. The dude wasn’t even Jewish! Something funny is going on here. This is a crock.

You know what would be better than all of this hyped “debate” nonsense? I’m just begging to see two candidates sit at a table, no moderator, and just TALK TO EACH OTHER! Ask questions of each other. Haggle over figures. Heck, put a computer there on the table and they can research figures and fact check on the Internet and everything. Sure, four and a half hours every four years wouldn’t be enough, so hell, put them both in the same room and let them argue for a week. It would be so much better than this pre-packaged garbage that the Commission on Presidential Debates brings us. That organization needs to be disbanded in the worst way. It’s a huge impediment to intelligent democracy.

Sorry. I guess I’m just a bit burned out by politics.
See you later in the week with a nice funny song which will probably address more issues than tonight's debate did.


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