Great American Debate (With a Poll!)

Hard to believe that’s not necessarily an oxymoronic construction, I know, despite the terminology having been debased by countless so-called “debates” as part of the contrived circus/televised horse-race that is the primary political process in the USA.

This past weekend, ABC News staged an ideological face-off, ostensibly about the proper role of government in people’s lives, between conservative columnist George Will and Republican congressman Paul Ryan on the one hand and liberal economist Robert Reich and retiring Democrat congressman Barney Frank on the other. The results were… at times, surprisingly interesting.

If you have the patience to sit through the whole thing (despite the multiple videos, it’s not actually that long), take a moment to cast a vote in the following poll as to who you think/feel “won” the debate:


Fake Billionaire to Moderate GOP Debate

News that reality-show host Donald Trump will be “moderating” a post-Christmas Republican “debate” in Iowa gave Lawrence O’Donnell yet another delightful opportunity last night to heap copious amounts of scathing abuse on the obnoxious grifter…

Of course, should the Newsmax-sponsored event actually come to fruition it will definitely be “must-see TV” – but solely as entertainment or horrific spectacle, which speaks volumes about what a pathetic joke these so-called debates have devolved into.

Ifill Towers

Too funny… Yes, she “blew us all off”… Imagine that!

As David Gregory said: “She made a decision that she was going to be rhetorical and not substantive…” And this should be surprising, how?

h/t: MoS

A Confusing “Blizzard of Words”

Urgh. They just finished re-running the Palin-Biden debate from last night on CTV’s NewsNet. What on earth is Tom Velk smoking? A “great communicator on the level of Ronald Reagan…” Ha ha ha ha ha ha ha!

Here’s an example of one of her more memorable “blizzard of words” as her incoherent ramblings when departing from her talking points have been deemed:

“I’m not one to attribute every man – activity of man to the changes in the climate. There is something to be said also for man’s activities, but also for the cyclical temperature changes on our planet… What I want to argue about is, how are we going to get there to positively affect the impacts?”

ThinkProgress has some more on the “debate” and Palin’s reliance on “notes” of some kind.

Update: Via LuLu at Canadian CynicThe Sarah Palin Flowchart!

Palin-Biden Debate Spin

I couldn’t bear to watch more than a few minutes of it.

Here’s a couple of wildly different takes on it from the left and the right.

A CNN poll asked “Who Did the Best Job In the Debate?” It came out 52% Biden, 36% Palin. A CBS poll found that 46% called it for Joe Biden, 21% for Sarah Palin, with 33% thought it was a draw. 98% after the debate saw [Biden] as knowledgeable (79% before the debate). If you’re a glutton for punishment, a transcript is available here.

Update: I like this take from Matt Yglesias — “Watching the mismatch between the complicated and mildly pro-Palin sentiments of the pundits on television and the poll results — people thought Biden was better — is interesting. It’s almost as if ordinary people don’t grade these things on a complicated “expectations” curve. When someone shows up and seems slightly dimwitted they don’t think to themselves “well, she’s not quite as dumb as I thought — what a triumph!” They think, “wow, she seems slightly dimwitted.”

Belated Debate Notes

A few mental jottings from the past several days…

Like many I’d suppose, I watched the first presidential debate last Friday with some eager anticipation. Of what, I’m not quite sure. Short of one of the candidates spontaneously combusting on the stage of the Ole Miss. on live TV in front of millions of people — it doesn’t matter which, although the narratives would have been strikingly different (now there’s something amusing to mull over in your infinite spare time) — the possibility of anything in the least bit exciting or memorable occurring, let alone even the faint glimmer of something substantive foreign policy-wise deviating from the present misguided course of action arising out of the event, was remote to say the least.

Experience over the past thirty years has demonstrated that we can expect little to nothing but groaning disappointment and/or shoe-hurling frustration to come from these painfully staged, artfully contrived so-called “debates.” In a sense, they’re really a microcosm of what’s wrong with American “democracy” today. That’s an intriguing subject deserving of much greater elaboration than time allows just at the moment, but seeing as there will be a handful more of these wonderful, mega-hyped, once-in-a-lifetime, historic, game-show format “debates” to come before the Big Day on November 4 when the election is stolen again, we can get back to that at a more opportune time.

Truth be told, I fell asleep during the last half hour of the debate. Did I miss anything? Well you tell me. I suspect it’s rather doubtful, although CNN looped it relentlessly throughout the night, so I could perhaps have picked up the delicate nuances of semantic parsing by all concerned, examined the minutiae of body language, looked more deeply into the hidden meanings to be derived from the perceived and/or imagined “attitudes” of the candidates, and so on. That is, of course, had I actually given a shit. Which brings me to this…

The most insightful commentary on the “debate” in my opinion wasn’t to be found on the cable news networks with their assembled teams of best political “experts” judiciously sifting through the mysterious entrails of live audience reaction with microscopic precision (when they weren’t making shit up on the fly, that is), nor was it from the completely insane ramblings of the addlepated pundit corps reeling in confusion from the hactacular “spin wars” waged by hordes of greasy, bilge-spewing sycophants lying ferociously through their teeth on behalf of each side. No. It was from this irreverent little pop-stand on HBO:

Chalk it up to my current distemper maybe, but the general tenor of analytical opinion offered up with relative candor on Real Time (never was the name so apt) rang true to me. Unsurprisingly, Ralph Nader said it best when considering the “Who won, who lost” dynamic of the judgment calls that inevitably follow on the heels of these silly charades. “Militarism won. Nuclear power won. Boondoggle missile defense won. Bloated military budget won. Corporate crime won. Bailing out Wall Street crooks won. Peace advocates lost. Georgia (in USA) lost…” Well, you get the idea.

So, why do I mention this four days late after the fact? It seems to me that this is the kind of critical, no-nonsense, no-bullshit standard that we should be applying to these pathetic so-called debates. Quite honestly, I was massively disappointed on the whole by the reaction of “progressive” and “Liberal” bloggers (I didn’t bother to check out the Blithering Retards. Sorry… time and mental health constraints, you know.) who, generally speaking, seemed quite content to blithely suck up the corporate media spin and score the event on the basis of which candidate best conned the rubes or in accordance with a no-risk matrix of who “won” by appearing to be the most “presidential” or not making a major gaffe. That just really makes my heart sink. It’s so contemptible. Have we really stooped so low? God help us all if we’re really THAT fucking dumb.

Faith Down: Most Defining Moment

In what might possibly be regarded in many ways as the most clearly “defining moment” from yesterday’s forum at the Saddleback mega-church, Pastor Rick Warren asked each candidate: “Does evil exist, and if so, do we ignore it, do we negotiate with it, do we contain it, or do we defeat it?”

The difference of the two responses couldn’t have been more vivid and perhaps says a great deal about each of the candidates and their worldview.

Putting it down in writing perhaps illustrates the contrast even more strikingly:


Evil does exist. I mean, we see evil all the time. We see evil in Darfur. We see evil, sadly, on the streets of our cities. We see evil in parents who have viciously abused their children and I think it has to be confronted. It has to be confronted squarely and one of the things that I strongly believe is that, you know, we are not going to, as individuals, be able to erase evil from the world — that’s God’s task. But we can be soldiers I that process and we can confront it when we see it.

Now, the one thing that I think is very important is for us to have some humility in how we approach the issue of confronting evil, but you know, a lot of evil has been perpetrated based on the claim that we were trying to confront evil… in the name of good. And I think one thing that’s very important is having some humility in recognizing that, you know, just because we think our intentions are good, doesn’t always mean that we’re going to be doing good.


Defeat it.

There in a nutshell, for better or worse, is the difference between “liberals” and so-called “conservatives” in my opinion.

Note: In honesty, I’ve cheated a bit there (as did Fox News and/or the editor of the YouTube video), because shortly after waiting for the rousing applause to die down, McCain followed up his response by delivering his now standard spiel about chasing Bin Laden to the “gates of Hell.”

Faith Down: Impressions

For people already decided about one candidate or another, the Saddleback forum probably won’t do anything to change their minds. If anything, it might just have served to confirm or reinforce their convictions about each man.

The two candidates took markedly different approaches. Obama seemed to treat his time as an intimate personal conversation with Warren, looking directly at the pastor when he spoke and only rarely turning to the crowd. He talked a lot about his faith — at one point quoting from the New Testament — and spoke eloquently about how it informs his life and politics. Although borrowing occasionally from his campaign speeches, for the most part he seemed to be extemporizing and was clearly attempting to process the various implications of Warren’s questions. Overall, he came off as thoughtful and genuine, although, it has to be said, not terribly engaging.

McCain was much more gregarious, essentially turning the event into a town hall. He usually spoke directly to the audience, punctuating about every fifth sentence with his catchphrase “my friends.” Clearly uncomfortable talking about his faith, McCain avoided being personal by stringing together jokes and anecdotes — which seemed to play well with the crowd (several commenters at LGF noted that he would the better guy to have a beer with because he had “neat stories”) — together with material from his stump speech. Compared to Obama, who generally spoke in long, nuanced sentences and made subtle points, McCain was much more direct and a lot of his answers sounded pretty stilted and canned. Several times he interrupted Warren to answer a question with a quick, one-sentence response, suggesting perhaps that Saddleback’s “Cone of Silence” may have been inoperative, or at least a dubious concept.

I didn’t stick around for the pundits’ wrap-up because we went out for dinner straight afterwards, but following up later, the consensus seems to be that McCain was the clear “winner” of the event. Whether it’s right to think about winners and losers in a forum like this is debatable. In any case, each candidate had specific objectives and, for the most part, they seemed to achieve them. McCain will have buttressed support with evangelical Christians that had been lagging behind expectations and Obama may have dispelled the notion that he’s the anti-Christ incarnate — or worse, a Muslim.

The Saddleback “Faith Down”

Gosh, I’m all-a-tingle at the prospect of Barack Obama and John McCain sharing a stage later this afternoon with evangelical Pastor Rick Warren at the Saddleback mega-church in Orange County, California. Who can pander to superstitious ignorance and look the most sincere and heartfelt doing it?

The folks at Little Green Footballs (who are liveblogging and “comment swarming” the event) have tossed out a delicious teaser, wondering whether Warren, who’s church promotes “hard core creationism” will raise the topic of evolution. Given it’s understood that, unlike Warren and his followers, neither candidate subscribes to the crackpot notion that the earth was literally created in seven days and that dinosaurs and humans co-existed, it would certainly be most interesting to see how that particular issue might be handled. Oh, and their thoughts about adultery would be a fun subject too!