The Duel in the Desert
The debate was about as pleasant and genteel as a dogfight. CNN should have replaced Wolf Blitzer with Michael Vick. The CNN promos had promised, with scarcely hidden glee, that the gloves were going to come off, and sure enough, the first questions were designed to maximize the verbal violence. Issues be damned: Shake hands once and then come out swinging.
Blitzer announced at the beginning that there wouldn't be a bell to signal candidates that their time to answer a question had run out. Implication: We prefer chaos tonight. And thus our political conversation drifts toward its natural equilibrium, which is somewhere on a level with professional wrestling. (Or football, or boxing, or the circus, all three of which can be found metaphorically jabbing at one another in this morning's CNN.com story: "With moderator Wolf Blitzer serving as ringmaster and referee, the candidates sparred...")
The coarsening of American life takes many forms, and presidential politics is hardly immune to the trend. At least no one called Hillary an unprintable name that rhymes with knee-atch.
One might wonder who, exactly, watches these debates. The Onion just ran a story about how the American People have announced that they've dropped out of the 2008 election -- kind of like Sam Brownback. The most-read story on the CNN web site this morning was headlined "Cult Awaits End of Days In Cave," and shockingly it wasn't about the presidential candidates.
Pundits said Hillary had a much better night than she did the last time around. She certainly wanted to remind everyone that she's tough stuff. When Edwards threw out the word 'corrupt" to describe the political system she allegedly defends, she quickly hit back, saying his attack was 'right out of the Republican playbook." She insinuated that Obama's "new politics" is too delicate for the brass-knuckle politics employed by their opponents.
In a steel cage death match I 'd take her over every guy on that stage except maybe the underrated Kucinich, who is the presidential candidate most likely to be secretly a member of the X-Men. (We should abide by international law, he said at one point, but you know he was thinking to himself, "And also intergalactic law.")
Is it being too delicate of temperament to score this debate as shrill? Well, that's the word that popped up right there on stage -- Dodd said it was shrill, and Hillary said Edwards was slinging mud, and Richardson, ever the diplomat, said, "Let us stop this mudslinging. Let us stop going after one another on character and trust. Let us debate the issues that affect the American people, and let us be positive."
NOOOOOO, screamed the CNN producers. Get that guy off stage!!
Things calmed down a bit after the first 20 minutes, and even more when the audience members, actual voters, were permitted to ask questions. Truth be told, as much as the snarling and hissing is off-putting, some of the substantive stuff can get a little stupefying, too. It was a long night. The scariest moment was at 9:50 EST, fully 110 minutes into the program (not counting the pre-game), when Blitzer said there was much more to come. The first Gulf War was shorter than this debate!
Biden said at one point, "The American people don't give a darn about any of this stuff that's going on up here."
Which was maybe a little too close to the truth.
November 16, 2007; 9:30 AM ET
Categories: A_Blog , Joel's Two Cents
Save & Share: Previous: Iowa Union Endorsement For Obama
Next: Eyebrow-Raising Success of Giuliani and Other Campaign Surprises For Karl Rove
Posted by: jade7243 | November 17, 2007 12:19 PM | Report abuse
Posted by: PollM | November 16, 2007 4:06 PM | Report abuse
Posted by: sarah_walavich | November 16, 2007 3:24 PM | Report abuse
Posted by: PaProgressiveDem | November 16, 2007 2:33 PM | Report abuse
Posted by: amc6541 | November 16, 2007 2:02 PM | Report abuse
Posted by: zukermand | November 16, 2007 11:49 AM | Report abuse
Posted by: jp1954 | November 16, 2007 11:40 AM | Report abuse
Posted by: Bettybb | November 16, 2007 11:39 AM | Report abuse
Posted by: jackonbeach1 | November 16, 2007 11:33 AM | Report abuse
Posted by: wethepeople1 | November 16, 2007 11:32 AM | Report abuse
The comments to this entry are closed.