Two Men, One Moderator and a Stopwatch… I’m All Atwitter.

The Presidential debate: I dare to blog about it, even though it’s only been 24 hours since it occurred and it’s already been beaten to death.

One of the best, rhetorical questions spawned by Tuesday’s debate came from Joe Posnanski.  “How can people who are still undecided by this election decide who won a debate?”  In other words, if you are partisan (like most of us) you probably think your guy won.  But if you are still one of the inexplicably undecided, I suspect at this point you just hate both candidates equally.

It’s true, unless Barack Obama suffers some sort of cataclysmic neurological event on stage, and goes all Madness-Of-King-George on us, I’m voting for him.  So when I watch the debates, it’s really for two reasons:

First, it’s above-average people watching.  I am always amazed by how silly grown men — and sometimes women — can be in the political arena when egg timers (and network audiences) are involved.  It makes me squirm.  It’s a car crash, but I can’t look away.

I have a few tips for the candidates based on my observations, free of charge:

  • Do not whine about how you got only 5 minutes to “answer” the question about gun control – albeit with random arguments about higher education – but your opponent got 6.5 minutes.  It is unseemly, and no matter how solid your argument may seem to someone with a stopwatch… you wind up sounding like a 6-year-old waiting his turn to play Angry Birds on the family iPad.
  • Ditto on pouting because you believe you are due a chance to respond to your opponent, but the moderator says it’s time for a new topic.   It’s impossible to avoid sounding like a preschooler screaming “Mine! Mine! Mine! Mine!”.
  • Do not be rude to the moderator, especially if she is female…. and most especially if you are courting women voters.  (And let’s face it, why wouldn’t you be courting us, because we are awesome!)  As a strategy, it’s just plain flawed.
  • If you made a huge gaffe in the past few weeks — say you hypothetically, callously accused nearly 50% of Americans of being dirtbag blood-sucking leeches, and that was a haymaker for your opponent — you may not want to make unsolicited claims of support for “100%” of the population.  For those of us not thinking about your gaffe just then… well, you just said the word “percent”, so we’re thinking about it now.

I also love these debates for the jokes on Twitter.

If you are an active tweeter you generally fall into one of four groups:

  • Bitter bigots who are unable to correctly spell their, there or they’re.  In rare cases when these folks penetrate the defensive moat around my carefully cultivated twitter community… there’s an I-will-block-you function and I’m not afraid to use it.
  • Very, very funny comedians, pundits, and bloggers.
  • “Personalities” who are the objects of ridicule of these comedians, pundits and bloggers.  (Think, Donald Trump.)
  • Anonymous Dilbert types whose comedic talents are wasted in the desolation of cubeville.  They love Twitter because the jokes are funny, and mostly true, and once in a while they crack a few good ones of their own.

I’ll leave it to you to decide where I fit.

You’ll find lots of “best debate tweets” out there today.  Here are a few of mine….

Hesitate To Ask

Rumor has it that out on the campaign trail today, Presidential candidate Mitt Romney refused to grant an interview to anyone who wanted to ask about his stand on abortion, or his opinion on Rep. Todd Akin (R-MO) of “legitimate rape” fame.

I think this is awesome.  Finally, a Republican ideal I can get behind.  I immediately started compiling my own “do not ask” list.  It will be posted prominently at my office, and attached to any cover letter or resume I might think of submitting.  I will also laminate copies, and hand them out to various doctors and law enforcement officers, my landlord and my personal trainer.

OK, let’s DO THIS!:

If you are a medical doctor, or other judgmental individual, you may not inquire about how many alcoholic beverages I consume per week.  Along these same lines, optometrists may not ask if I can read the 3rd line from the bottom without my reading glasses.

Corporate recruiters wishing to discuss my professional qualifications may not inquire about felony convictions, or my college G.P.A.

Do you work at the DMV? Are you skeptical about why my weight has not changed since college?  Weeeeell, do not go there.

If you are my landlord, don’t bother asking.  The answer will always be “No way, that wasn’t me.  But that is AWFUL.”  For example, “No, I did not put Canadian quarters in washing machine in our basement.  But wow, that is AWFUL. Who DOES that? Philistines!”

Other do-not-asks:

Did you just drop that ‘People’ magazine?

Do you need me to bring you a bigger size?

Do you know how fast you were driving, Miss?

Did you read that 30-page, single-spaced document about Reg-Q I sent you?

Did I see you at AT&T Park last night, doing the wave?

Here’s what you may ask:

Hey, there’s a $20 bill on the sidewalk.  Is that yours?


What’s on your “do not ask” list?


It’s All Fun and Games, Until Someone Runs For President

Young Mitt RomneyNo, news of Mitt Romney’s alleged prep school misdeeds did not slip past me.  I just held off blogging about them while they marinated in my brain.

Despite my strong dislike of Romney — with his creepy smile, shameless fear-mongering, and oily pandering to the Republican fringe — my first thought was, “Oh please, no high school dredging.”  I couldn’t imagine suffering through almost six months of the candidates debating which one inhaled/cheated on his trig midterm/lied when he said he once won Most Valuable Employee at the Dairy Queen for three consecutive months.

Besides, who among us didn’t do things in high school that we now regret? Like most teenagers, I was supremely self-involved, and often a pain in the backside to be around.  So I figured, how unusual could Romney’s behavior have been?  Then I read the details… and his response from the protective bosom of Fox News.

First, Romney trivialized bullying.  “I participated in a lot of hijinks and pranks during high school and some might have gone too far and for that, I apologize”

Hijinks?  Seriously?  Five former classmates at the posh Cranbrook School say Romney was incensed by the long blonde hair of John Lauber — a frequent target of bullying because of his non-conforming ways and assumed homosexuality.  Romney would eventually lead a “posse” to corner him, pin him to the ground, and cut his hair while he cried and pleaded for help.  If this was just madcap Romney horseplay, what precisely constitutes bullying?

Mitt Romney has emphasized that he doesn’t even remember the event, which is absurd.  I wasn’t a bully, but I can recall specific instances when I failed to defend someone who was marginalized and vulnerable, in the Lord-of-the-Flies world of high school.  In fact, they are so fresh in my mind they could have happened yesterday.  And let me tell you, they still make me cringe.  So either Romney’s cruel bullying was an anomaly — and he’s lying through his teeth about not remembering because he really wants to be the next President – or he has a hard time keeping his many acts of thuggishness straight.

What’s even more ridiculous?  Romney’s claims that even if the bullying he can’t recall DID happen, it definitely DID NOT happen because John Lauber was rumored to be gay.  “That was the furthest thing from my mind back in the 1960s.”

This was the 1960’s, Mr. Romney, not the 1560’s.  What are we supposed to believe, that you just thought the poor kid needed a trim?

I don’t think there’s anything Mitt Romney could do that could compel me to vote for him, but I would have respected him more if he’d admitted his mistakes, shown sincere remorse, and spoken out against bullying.  Instead he treated it like a joke.  But most of us aren’t laughing.

Great Balls of Fire!

It’s been a busy week for the Republicans, culminating in tonight’s Arizona debate – another performance that no doubt had President Obama switching over to the Knicks game in time to catch the fourth quarter of Linsanity(!).

The day started with Rick Santorum referencing “what’s on fire down here” at one of his tent-revival-style campaign stops.  The media played it over and over again, but I still don’t know what he meant by “down here”.  He seems pretty fixated on the Prince of Darkness, so maybe he was referring to Hell, where it’s far too hot for comely sweater vests. Otherwise, I just don’t want to think about it…

Not surprisingly, attention in the debate quickly turned to contraception.  References were made to a recent New York Times story about the scourge of unwed motherhood in the United States.  I read that article, and the candidates grossly distorted the facts in it.  To hear them talk, this is a growing problem among poor urban teens – when in fact, the article highlights that the growth in single motherhood is a decidedly middle-class phenomenon.  Teen pregnancies in the U.S. are, in fact, declining.

While it’s true that educated upper-middle-class and upper-class women are not part of the single motherhood trend, the fear mongering claims of abject poverty and abuse in the homes of single mothers was a mischaracterization, intended to create the all-too-familiar sense of danger so critical (it would seem) to convincing Americans to vote for you.

The candidates flailed around for a while, trying to hammer home that even though they are avidly pro life, pro church and anti contraception, they aren’t anti women.   Each argued that he did more than the others to banish the morning-after pill for rape victims.  I think I started to drift off for a moment, then… BOOM.  Ron Paul blinded them all with science.

He explained that it’s all contraception; the active ingredient in birth control pills and the morning-after pill is the same — hormones.   The candidates stared at him blankly, then moved on to a new question.  Behold, the product of a non-scientific, creationist education!  Proceed with caution, America!

Ron Paul, as usual, seemed upbeat and just a tiny bit crazy.  I wouldn’t vote for him in a Presidential election, but you have to hand it to him – he is candid, witty and consistent.  He pointed out that abstinence is not mentioned in the Constitution, so while he is against government involvement in matters of contraception he doesn’t think we should be funding or legislating abstinence education either.  (Cue more blank stares from guys who think we all honestly believe that they are defending the Constitution and religious freedom, rather than evangelicalism.)

Mitt Romney looked nervous.  Rick Santorum emphasized that he’s a team player – a character flaw only in politics – and came across like a policy-wonk insider who rolls his eyes a lot when he’s defensive.

Newt Gingrich stayed out of the scrum, saving most of his criticism for President Obama.  He tried giving the audience a history lesson on the Founding Fathers, claiming they would have had strong views on balanced budgets and unemployment.  I don’t think the colonials suffered many layoffs down at the blacksmith’s shop, but I guess I should defer to the guy who made a fortune as an “historical consultant” to Freddie Mac.

Throughout, the crowd behaved like fans of the WWF — or Senators at the State of the Union Address — loudly cheering for their guy and jeering his opponents.

Late in the debate, the candidates were inanely asked to describe themselves in one word – a question no doubt put forth by a retired college recruiter.  Lucky Ron Paul got to go first, and snagged “consistent”.   Tough break for Romney – I’ll bet he really, really wanted to be consistent!   He went with “Resolute”.  Not terribly convincing but at least his voice didn’t go up at the end, like he was posing a question.  (i.e. resolute???)

In (merciful) conclusion, the candidates were asked to clarify the biggest misconception about them.  Ron Paul answered the question.  Newt meandered a bit, but eventually answered it too.  Then Mitt Romney tried to just go with his talking points, à la Sarah Palin.  When reminded that the question was about a misconception, he curtly replied “You ask the questions you want to, and I’ll answer the questions I want to.”

We all watched the 2008 Vice Presidential debate, so we know what comes next – even if Romney’s debate coach doesn’t.