Hypothetical exchange in the nine-person debate hosted by the Orpheum Theater in Phoenix and carried by CNN (moderator was Judy Woodruff, questions from her, Jeff Greenfield, and Candy Crowley):
Q: What would you, Candidate X, do about the giant meteor that has just passed the orbit of Saturn and is headed right for us?
A: Well, JudyJeffCandy, what I would NOT do is give contracts to Halliburton and Big Oil to deflect the meteor. You know, George Bush wouldn’t do anything about the meteor unless he thought he saw weapons of mass destruction on it. But there’s no weapons on the meteor, just like there were no weapons in Iraq, just like tax breaks for the rich wouldn’t stop the meteor from crashing into the homes of taxpayers. In the America of George Bush, only the rich will have access to the giant meteor-proof Hangers of Refuge. Not in my America. In my America everybody would have the right to–(Judy mutters: “Five seconds left”)–go to government-provided shelters. The message of the Democratic party is that we care–(Judy: “OK, let’s hear from–”)–about the working people of this country, and we don’t think tax cuts and specially reinforced concrete hangers for the–(Judy clears her throat with increasing volume)–richest Americans are the way to deal with the issues that–What? Yes, I may have voted for the program but I have an explan–
Jeff, finally breaking in: Candidate Y, your position on the meteor?
A: Well, unlike my Washington-based colleague here I do NOT have a place reserved for me in the Hangers of Refuge–(Candidate X waves hand frantically at Judy, is ignored)–just like anybody who is not among the wealthiest one percent of Americans and a friend of George Bush. You know, the working people of this country are tired of being overlooked and having their dreams of living their lives free of death–(Judy, futilely, “Let’s move on to the…”) by giant meteors thwarted by the blinkered–
Candy: OK, Candidate Y, we’ve established that you don’t like George Bush’s position on the meteor, but what would YOU YOURSELF do about them?
A: Everybody in the country has the right to be safe from this meteor. No, wait, everybody in the world, a world increasingly alienated from America by the actions of this administration. I would go to the UN and ask for help, not like this President who ignored–(Candy shakes her head, tries to speak)–the will of the world and launched an illegal, futile, war in Iraq. I want to bring our soldiers home so they can fight the meteor…
etc.etc.etc. You get the idea.
It had all the usual annoying things about a debate–yahoos in the crowd wasting everybody’s time by cheering or booing for too long, candidates talking over each other, obnoxiousness taken for forcefulness, etc., but the questions were good and the format was decent. I especially loved how one man took off his suit jacket for audience question time and then ALL the men had to do it–guess they’ve seen the “descamisados” scene from EVITA. But my main rant is about the lack of new ideas I heard last night. Candy really did make the statement I recounted in her last question–we know you don’t like what Bush did here, but what would you do, buddy, and why?
To be fair, Gephardt did have actual new ones. Lieberman had a few positive things to say, and my man Kerry had The Line of the Night ("If you want to live like a Republican, vote Democrat’). But otherwise I think they wasted their and everybody else’s time. I know if I looked at their websites and records I could find the answers to my questions, but then again I already plan to vote for one of them. It’s the undecided, indifferent people who are watching who they needed to convince. And pretty much all that person would have learned is that they’re running against this dude Bush to whom they have the sort of relationship that Ahab had with Moby Dick. And we know what happened to Ahab.