Let's Talk Sense...

Wednesday, October 11, 2000 Volume XXV, No. 33
Roswell, New Mexico

In this issue:

Debate Post Mortem

A Quick "Debate" Review from a Recently discovered "Gospel"
Why the Joint News Conferences called "debates" are useless

A Quick "Debate" Review of Bush-Gore I from a recently discovered "Gospel"

{These passages were discovered in scrolls near a saline body of water in Southeast New Mexico known to ancients as the "Sea without a bottom." The author's name is derived only from cryptic notations marked "Rodrigo." They have just now been translated from the original Spanish/Greek/Hebrew hybrid language. }

....... And behold the media cried "debates" though there were no debates and the campaign was without form and void. But the people knew this not, and they cried out with one voice, "tell us who won?" And the media told them.

And the people were sore afraid. And darkness was upon the face of the nation and the people were ignorant.

And the many whom the media labeled "the undecided" waxed moronic and sought fervently to share their ignorance with others. And this they did, knowing not of which they spoke.
(Gospel of Rodrigo Chapter 10, Verses 8-11)

.......Thence came W., the son of George, the Elder, of Massachusetts, and of Connecticut and of a hotel room in Houston, and of Kennebunkport.

And he spake unto the people and they understood him not for he was unschooled in the ways of grammar, and of syntax, and of sentence construction in general (let alone rhetoric or any persuasive art that did exist).

And Albert, the lesser, son of Albert, the elder, of Tennessee, (who had been among those who fervently opposed civil rights for those of color, but whose son didst seek to deceive the people on this point---and countless others) strode forth and sought to smite W. around the forehead that he might slay him with his greater knowledge.

And as he spoke, forsooth the people saw that Albert's countenance did contain poundage [Revised Standard Version [original language is ½ "measure" which was rendered in that day and age between a pot and a kab, but less than an omer] unforeseen of makeup whereupon the people cried "pancake face" [RSV] [original language is "countenance of leavened bread"] and they shared much mirth. But W., unawares, merely shewed himself in natural form.

And it came to pass in his much speaking (for Albert the less thus commandeth the speech which W. knoweth not) Albert's body and his faculties betrayed him, and his countenance contorteth and shewed forth disdain to all the people, and they were sorely vexed.
(Gospel of Rodrigo Chapter 9, Verses 1-32)

And they spake unto themselves, "Wherefore cometh such a man, that he may be lord over us? We like him not."
(Gospel of Rodrigo Chapter 11, Verse 1)

Why the Joint News Conference mistakenly called "debates" are worse than nothing at all

"Debates!" As my niece used to say, "Get real!" There are no debates.

Every American, and certainly every Republican should set forth as an immediate objective, if he or she has not already done so, to read the Lincoln-Douglas debates. They were recorded faithfully, all six of them by skillful scribes, without the aid of tape recorders, film or the like. They are absolute classics of American history. Just as one cannot understand much of American politics today without being a student of what Allan Nevins titled "The Ordeal of the Union," one can understand little of our two major parties without a thorough review of Lincoln and Douglas.

But these were real debates. No need for quotation marks. They are a tremendous record of the thinking that dominated the two major parties---the Republicans in only their fourth year of existence and the Democrats in their 30th. In the modern era, dominated by television, "debates" are the dominion of the media celebrities. For the proper balance, their figure (however unassuming he or she may want to claim to appear) must share the central role. It is their questions on which the "debates" must turn. It is their reaction to which the candidates must kowtow. And it is their colleagues on the sidelines who will pronounce which candidate scored and at precisely which moment. In Illinois in 1858, the people could listen for themselves, or read the entire texts without editorial, published six times (the next day after each debate).

And the candidates, much more thoroughly educated and schooled not only in the issues, but in every part and parcel of political rhetoric and forensic device, dominated the subject matter. Today's weak imitations cannot come close---no matter what issue is raised.

Today's "debates" are actually joint news conferences which tell us almost nothing. They are somewhere between Jeopardy and Trivial Pursuit. But the world isn't like this. The presidency does not offer situations of instantaneous decisionmaking. The president has an enormous personal staff, in addition to the uncountable resources of military and civilian staffing in every branch of the cabinet. Decisions are weighed and taken with great deliberation.

Even items which are of a relatively spontaneous nature such as the famous Mayaguez incident of 1975, lend themselves to enormous resources of counsel and consideration. The phony bombing of the Sudan (truly a top 10 abomination in American presidential history) was carried out by a president who thoroughly knew that what he was doing was absolutely evil and without basis. He did this DESPITE the knowledge of counselors and the intelligence-gathering resources he had available to him. His was a decision based on his own character----one that chose the death of innocent people solely to deflect attention from the personal scandal crisis of the moment.

We learn nothing in these "debates" about the candidates or how they will perform in office because the format does not recreate any part of the functions of the presidency. We may find out how much they can immediately recall in narrow lines of questioning. But again, it isn't like Jeopardy, if you "buzz in" too quickly and lose your train of thought, you DON'T lose Yugoslavia, nor do you take a submarine or destroyer off the board. We live in a game show mentality-dominated media world. The debates are largely irrelevant to the questions before the American people.

To Gore's disadvantage, it is possible that these joint appearances may shed some light on what each person may be like. But this does not justify the hype nor the title "debate."