All right, so we’re at Bobst right now after watching the first presidential debate at Brad’s. (It was a packed crowd, which confirms we go to a weird school.) We are drunk right now. This is what we thought about it:
Drink of choice: rum and coke
So basically this debate was silliness pretending to be seriousness. Romney and Obama took the crowd’s apparent desire for absurd statistical analysis, and just churned out number after number. The problem is, “wonky” figures =/= actual substance. This debate was wispy and hilariously antagonistic—at some point, Romney and Obama were like “nu-uh, I’m not gonna raise taxes, YOU’RE gonna raise taxes!” They lived in two different universes—the trick of this election will be to convince their respective bases to vote. (Undecided voters are like the tooth fairy and Social Security. My face feels weird.)
But liberals gotta check it: Romney was clearly the edgier one tonight. His punchiness translated well to a debate environment (apparently he didn’t sleep last night, which reminds me of a final I aced once), while Obama came off as a college professor whose lecture I fell asleep in. President Obama may have been correct in his facts, but he sounded less convincing than Mr. “I like Big Bird and coal.” And that’s really what matters.
Also, fun fact: this was the most tweeted-about political event ever, and Politico thinks Twitter jumped the shark because of the idiotic level of discourse. (They have never seen tweets from the Emmys.) Also I just asked, “What do you call television traffic?” Viewers?
Drink of choice: redacted because he’s an RA (and also 21+)
Debates are fun, no two ways about it. The two hours I just spend posted up at Brad’s, Finney in hand, slapping F5 Twitter, were a thrill. For a politics junkie like myself, not much beats watching Romney and Obama sling zingers and diss Big Bird.
That said, let’s not overvalue the debates. A good debater does not a good president make, and tonight was little more than an hour and a half of highly polished rhetoric. Against this we have years of actual governing and policy implementation. It’s less fun and it’s tough to justify doing at a bar, but actual policy research beats debates 10 times out of 10 for determining who to vote for.
Perhaps less important than what the two candidates sparred over tonight was what they might agree over. Both candidates support a military-backed war on drugs which has lead to the arrest of over 850,000 Americans last year for nonviolent marijuana charges. Both candidates support drone warfare in the Middle East, without judicial oversight or apparent concern for civilian casualties (to date, over 1,200 citizens killed). Both candidates, despite their stated concern over the nation’s deficit, are happy to maintain 2012’s $3.1 billion in aid to Israel.
To summarize: As fun as it is to watch the candidates spar over their disagreements, let’s see someone challenge them on the things on which they agree.
Drink of choice: Gonzo Imperial Porter Ale (9.2% alcohol, 100% bald eagle)
No one won this debate. In a metaphysical sense (nah, I’m just drunk but still…), no one ever wins an American political debate. Unless you sweat like Dick in 1960. Because the audience’s reactions to their leaders wins in the end and, for the most part, we’re an unphased people. With that being said, Romney and Obama didn’t ‘wow’ anyone. Except maybe Jim Lehrer. Yes… definitely, Jim Lehrer.
But, at the same time, Romney scored with the actual debate ‘moments’ – this dude told a PBS host that he was against subsidies for PBS. But, come on, can we trim Bert and Ernie from the budget? Eh, maybe. The Bain man attacked, he persevered, he yelled like a wildebeest. And he acted like a true politician: he said everything contradictory to his past actions. But, in the face of flip-flops, Obama kept cool the whole time, subtlety responding to his opponent, but, in the end, not doing enough with volume; the most important factor for most Americans is how LOUD you can make your attacks. Because volume, not policy one-ups, is what’s remembered in the end.
The entire MSNBC crew – especially Mr. Chris Matthews – made this point clear after the debate: “HE LET ROMNEY WIN. ROMNEY IS WINNING.” No, Mr. Matthews, Romney did not win. None of us won. And, now, we’ll drunk chat about it until Ryan and Biden face off and we’ll give half a shit. (I paid a rough tab tonight. America did too. Also, Rocky and Drago in this awesome Cold War montage of masculinity)
Drink of Choice: Whiskey and rocks or Corona upside down in a frozen margarita.
I’m intrigued by Romney’s choice of words: “immoral” for our government to take on more debt. As opposed to “unethical,” “immoral” evokes a sense of faith, some sort of a higher power. That might be reading too deep into his rhetoric but maybe not in light of his later comment where he said we are all made equal under one creator. While that was intended as a direct quote from the Constitution, the choice of extending the quote by those three words does smell strategic, of a tongue-in-cheek reference to his oft-debated religious views. Tell me I’m not the only one who cringed at that one. Ugh, anyway… So a personal tally said Medicare/Medicaid/Healthcare was mentioned about 30 times. Incredibly disappointed however, that women’s rights/LGBT rights/social issues were not even touched upon. Romney once mentioned she would work toward a constitutional provision to prohibit gay marriage on a federal level, while Obama has been the only president to overtly support same-sex marriage.
Romney won the debate, and I’ll give you that one. But Obama always ends on a strong note. He noted that Romney can’t prioritize, that he can’t say ‘no’ to his own party and allocate his attention to pressing matters. In that way, I see Romney as even more of an idealist [bullshitter] than 2008-era Obama. Romney note that “the cost of healthcare is prohibitive,” but like most of his comments tonight, that seems based on faulty platitudes.
Obama made the admirable demand that everyone pull his/her own share of the burden. And that the capacity to open up new ladders of opportunity is the great quality of this nation. In a debate aftermath primarily concerned with the surprising success of Romney, I would like to note that Obama, while not in full throttle, was a formidable opponent. Unfortunately, he played defensive. There is no end of issues on which Obama could have drilled Romney, but he sidestepped all landmines. Ending with the promise to keep fighting, I couldn’t keep thinking how white and clean Romney’s shirt cuffs were. Dude, wear blue and roll ‘em up and get busy.
Drink of Choice: Kool-Aid
How was the debate? In a word, it was awkward.
It was awkward because Barack Obama was demure and deferring to the point of absurdity; because Mitt Romney looked so confident as he was delivering statistic after statistic that no one had the heart to tell him that they were mostly full of shit; because Jim Lehrer was so happy to be back in front of a camera that he forgot to moderate at all.
It might be bad that the only thing to jump out at me from this experience was the word “PLATITUDES” flashing anxiously across the closed captioning over and over again. Maybe it’s the beer talking (maybe it’s the candidates talking, too), but this seemed more like an hour and a half-long circle-jerk of buzzwords and party truisms than an opportunity for Obama to coherently defend his accomplishments, or for Romney to candidly discuss the trickle-down, hardline platform he’s been campaigning on for months (as opposed to the watered-down version he doodled on his hand 5 minutes before the debate).
Those seeking for substance need look no further than anything else on TV that wasn’t this debate. Yes, Barack – we get that your grandmother had it rough. Can we get to the part where you actually justify why you spent two years on a mostly-flawed health care bill? Can you please answer a single question without first telling a parable about someone from Whosit, Wisconsin? And yeah, Mitt – well actually no, Mitt, I’m not quite sure what you’re talking about. The words you’re saying are nice, but something stinks of rehearsal and a little whiff of “THIS ISN’T WHAT YOU’VE SAID BEFORE EVER.” You’re all for regulations? You’re concerned for students and education? You’re treating Obama like a human being instead of a political fleshlight?
What the heck have I been drinking?
Drink of Choice: Nesquick
(A short bit of narrative on the worst moment of the debate from a former Local writer/guest.)
About one hour and fifteen minutes into the candidates’ debate regarding the role of federal government, Jim Lehrer, apparently woke up from a nap. The, no doubt, well-intentioned yet tragically inattentive moderator politely and groggily asked, “Do you believe there’s a fundamental difference between the two of you as to how you view the mission of the federal government?”
Millions of viewers trembled. Lehrer had unwittingly hit the reset button on the debate. Americans prepared themselves for another round of Romney’s calls for a healthy dose of market competition and for Obama’s claims about the importance of the development of opportunity. Pundits were granted some free time to work on their post-debate round-ups, the twitterverse continued to discuss Sesame Street, and the engine of American democracy sputtered.