Jim Lehrer takes our tickets for the Trolley to the Land of Make-Believe
Let’s make pretend, for just a moment, that what we saw tonight was real. Let’s suppose that the things both candidates said had any relevance to their actual beliefs and intentions. We’ll transport ourself to a magical fantasy land; one where two men running for political office can have a frank and intelligent exchange that has some level of pertinence to what’s actually happening rather than a series of statements designed to calm the fears of your average socially retarded American citizen.
Since it would actually make things slightly more believable, we’ll also pretend the debate is narrated by a talking Unicorn that walks on its hind legs and farts rainbows; excusing itself followed by one of the candidates saying “no apology necessary, magical farting unicorn, for your gaseous emissions smell like the most beautiful flowers on Earth and you asked a very good question beforehand.”
Take a moment. Breathe in, close your eyes, and envision this debate happening. Because that is the only way you were going to learn anything about either candidate or the crisis we’re going to face as a nation over the course of the next five to six years.
In reality, what we saw was a conversation between two men that want to lead the free world but can’t let on that they actually understand where the problems lie. They need to speak to an audience that doesn’t want to hear what the problems with our economy were and are: that we allowed a largely unregulated industry swelled out of control, that people lived well beyond their means, matchstick-men mortgage brokers fleecing unsuspecting families into believing they could make mortgage payments by having them apply for NINA loans and completely fabricating incomes, and that we actually allowed agriculture and manufacturing to die a painful wailing death while a new economy emerged that was based squarely around retail and debt (translation: an American economy built on the premise of buying shit we couldn’t afford and nothing else).
Nononono. People want to believe that everything is based around taxes. Taxes. Yes. The reason banks are foreclosing is because of federal taxes, clearly. Not mismanagement or lack of oversight or failing “fundamentals.” Just taxes. Phew! What a relief we live in this magical fantasy land after all. *frrrrrrrrrrrrrrraaaaaap* Oh, talking unicorn, that was beautiful.
In all seriousness, what a waste of two hours. Don’t get me wrong – as much as it bothers me, I didn’t go into tonight’s debate under the impression that we were going to hear anything Earth-shattering. I’ve been paying enough attention my entire life to come to expect the mundane, meaningless pontification that comes with a Presidential debate, particularly when when it’s centered around the economy and foreign policy.
But man, were these debates boring. There weren’t any huge gaffes that spell disaster for the candidate making them, like when Gerald Ford claimed that Eastern Europe wasn’t being dominated by the Soviet Union (he later clarified that he meant their hearts and souls and a bunch of other bullshit). Nor was there any ridiculous and repetitious nonsense to poke fun of, like when Al Gore repeated the phrase “LOOOCK box” ad nauseum in 2000 while putting his hands in the shape of an honest to God lock box each time he said it. What we got, instead, was two guys saying the same damn thing they’ve been saying (or contradicting themselves with) over the last several months.
However, I come to two important realizations, both on the subject of McCain.
Firstly, as alluded to earlier, McCain does not help the discourse on domestic affairs concerning our economy when he focuses on the same shit Bush did whenever asked about the economy – taxes. Taxes, taxes, taxes. Tax cuts for this or that or here or there. Listen, raising or cutting taxes don’t do a goddamn thing when there’s nothing coming in to tax. Taxes didn’t put us in this crippling predicament, it was those other factors that you don’t want to address because they’re fucking complicated and require explanation and research.
Now that the criticism’s out of the way, I want to sincerely thank John McCain for not going further than he has and turning this election into a nightmare. For all the negative campaigning, snide comments, and poor performance in the vetting process for his running mate, he could be doing a lot worse. We have not had to endure a Christian dick-waving contest where the Democratic nominee has to repeatedly convince everyone that he’s just as Christian as his opponent and asking voters to decide who’d they’d rather have a beer with and which of the two choices loves Jesus more. I also want to thank him for sort of acknowledging at least some of the mistakes Bush made in terms of foreign policy. I also want to thank him for allowing the conversation to focus where it should – foreign policy, rather than empty rhetoric surrounding “national security,” which is a phrase that was hijacked seven years ago to justify the disastrous foreign policy of Karl Rove, Dick Cheney, and their fun-loving carnival barker George “Dubbs” Bush.
I’m still not voting for him. I have and will continue to make fun of his stances, statements, stammering, and general behavior over the last two months that make it seem as if he realized in early July that he didn’t really want to be President anymore but couldn’t back down now. However, I think it’s only fair we acknowledge that he could be acting a lot fucking worse and doing a lot more damage to the national discourse.
But that doesn’t give me enough material to work with. Bring on the Palin/Biden debates, where I can laugh hysterically at Palin’s inability to complete sentences and refer to her in a demeaning manner as “the lady cop from ‘Fargo’.”