Calhoun’s Cannons for Oct 17, 2012
As theatre of the absurd, you can’t beat our Presidential Debates, Town Hall Version. The beautiful stage, the hand-picked, rehearsed and vetted audience, the whole thing scripted like a piece of Kabuki Theatre. But, c’mon, America, we gotta up our game. Here was a once-in-a-lifetime chance for Mr. John Q. Citizen to ask a serious question of both a candidate and a President, and we get some doofus whining about how the Secretary of Energy told him that it wasn’t this administration’s responsibility to do anything about gas prices and could this possibly be true, O woe?
People, people. Really? Gas prices? Secretary of Energy? This is gas-guzzler America, home of ruthless, winner-take-all capitalism, where Free Market Rules rule, where we love our price-gougers and rip-off commodity speculators, and now we have this guy on national TV whining about gas prices? Like he thinks the President is some kind of dreary Soviet five-year planner who should take over Exxon Mobil and show up at this guy’s local Gas ‘N Go with a screw driver to reset pump prices? Oh, Plueeze.
But that’s how much of the evening went, hand-picked questions that allowed the candidates to conveniently hang themselves in velvet ropes of clichés while the real 600 pound gorillas sat quietly off stage, untouched.
Like a Republican Congress of NO with only one stated goal: Defeat Obama by any means necessary. Pretty hard to do much of anything to help a foundering country with that millstone around your neck. Or income disparities that are a worsening drain on the economy and a real threat to America’s unique promise: upward mobility. Or global warming, the mother of all gorillas coming down on us fast, a gorilla that will make jobs and gas prices – and everything else – moot. Or a realistic, grown-up discussion about our gazillion-dollar debt that wasn’t full of fairy stories about how we can all make it disappear while still getting lots of tax breaks and free pudding. You know, grown-up topics that needed grown-up answers. Instead we get whines about gas prices.
And theatre, which did have its moments. Candidate Mitt was back doing his anxious little boy routine from the first debate, fairly hopping up and down promising the moon, a long litany of, I can do it, I can create jobs, I know how, I do, I do, I do, I know how, the middle class is crushed, I can get all the oil we need, I can do it, crushed middle class, I know how, crushed, I’ll lower the rates, crushed, millions of jobs, lower taxes, more crushed, jobs, I can, I can, plueeze, plueeze, until Crowley had to tell him to hush up and go take his seat, which he finally did.
Amusingly, Candidate Mitt’s crowded litany of his own glorious campaign promises was often juxtaposed with his long j’accuse litany of candidate Obama’s unfulfilled glorious
campaign promises of four years ago, but at no time did I ever get a sense that Mitt understood the delicious irony of those juxtapositions: The huge difference between campaign promises (past and present) and real world governance.
Not so amusing was Mitt having to be fact-checked on air by Moderator Crowley. If there’s one thing vital in a Commander in Chief, it’s the ability to make sure he’s got the facts straight before speaking or acting. Mitt had already gotten smacked for rushing into the initial muddle of the Libyan terrorist attack even before he knew what the facts were and here he was again, weeks later, still unclear of the events. Not good, even for an Etch-A-Sketch candidate. Hourly changeable campaign promises are one thing; Wrong facts about terror attacks are quite another.
But Democrats were happy. The President was awake this time and ready for a smackdown and now the media, which never met a sports metaphor it didn’t love, will be filled with zinging sound bites and fact-checking wonkery, all of which will be endlessly repeated in order to gin up ratings for the last big showdown before the Big Race.
Which likely will be a squeaker, given how divided this country is. But until the voters understand that if they want those 600 pound gorillas dealt with, they’ve got to vote into office a better grade of Congressmen. If they don’t, those gorillas will still be there, growing bigger and more dangerous every year. And in a few years, when some guy stands up again to whine about gas prices, their response won’t be pretty.