The Agony of Debate


The Agony of Debate

<br</brby Thomas Lindaman 


If you ever want to see some of the best political reporting on Election 2008, there are a number of places to go. If you don’t, go to the Washington Post. Seeing some of the subjects they cover as real news from the campaign trail makes my twice-monthly screeds look like Paradise Lost.


But I do have to give them credit on one story they ran on July 23rd. The story in question dealt with how the Democrats running for President are having to endure, get this, debate fatigue. Although the first official debate among the Democrat candidates was set for July 23rd, they’ve been having debates and discussions in front of just about any group who would have them. No word yet on if they’re going to swing by my place while they’re in Iowa to debate whether Dennis Kucinich is Gollum from The Lord of the Rings or a genetic cross between Ross Perot and Casey Kasem.


One major problem that the Washington Post story mentioned was how individual special interest groups are hosting candidate debates, but the big-name candidates feel they can’t skip them after second and third tier candidates accept. After all, they can’t risk offending the North Petaluma Anti-War Lesbian Same Sex Marriage Coalition and Bridge Club, right? Of course, this is a problem Democrats have brought on themselves by having so many special interest groups to pander to for votes. Since the 1990s if not a little before, the Democratic Party has gone from being a real political party to being a laundry list of special interest groups all jockeying for position in the political equivalent of Lord of the Flies. But unlike in the book, nobody’s quite sure who has the conch shell right now, but everyone in the race thinks George W. Bush is the monster.


This brings us to another point that is overlooked in the story. Democrats were announcing they were thinking about running for President in 2008…before the Congressional elections of 2006 were even held. That exercise in jumping the gun created the longer campaign season that the candidates and their staffs are complaining about now. I have zero sympathy for the nozzlehead who announced in 2006 that they wanted to run for President in 2008 and now complains about the long hours and numerous debates that go into running for President. Seriously, if you guys didn’t factor this into your decision when you made it, I don’t want you running my local 7-11, let alone the United States.


A representative from John Edwards’s campaign also lamented the short amount of time for candidates to give answers to questions. Eric Schultz said, “Senator Edwards feels strongly that voters deserve more substantive debates between the candidates….You cannot explain how you will end the war in Iraq or solve the climate crisis in 60 seconds.” You know, reading anyone talk about substance while representing John Edwards always makes me giggle. I can’t explain it. But it’s not like the candidates themselves are trying to figure out more substantive answers to questions in first place. I can summarize the core of the Democrat debates so far in the following vignette.


Moderator: The biggest issue right now is international terrorism. Senator Edwards, what do you think we should do?


Edwards: George W. Bush sucks!


Other Candidates: Yeah! George W. Bush sucks!


Moderator: How do you propose to get our troops out of Iraq? Senator Clinton, let’s start with you.


Clinton: [yelling in a loud monotone] BY DOING THE OPPOSITE OF WHAT GEORGE W. BUSH HAS DONE!


Other Candidates: Yeah! By doing the opposite of what George W. Bush has done!


Repeat that for another 59 minutes or so, throw in Anderson Cooper or Wolf Blitzer to add credibility to the event, and you have yourself a Democrat Presidential debate.


The Post article mentions that a big risk to the major candidates by having so many debates is that they have more opportunities to screw up. Please. The only way these “debates” could be any more tightly scripted would be if writers for professional wrestling wrote them. Then again, it would be interesting to see “Macho Man” Mike Gravel go up against “The Rock” Barack Obama…provided, of course, Gravel can smell what Barack is cookin’.


And here’s the funny thing about all of this. Most people don’t pay attention to political campaigns until around Labor Day of the election year because, well, they have lives. In other words, the Democrats are knocking themselves out to attract the votes of the true believers, who most likely will vote for the eventual nominee. And these folks question George W. Bush’s intelligence?


Thomas Lindaman is a Staff Writer for the New Media Alliance, Inc. and The New Media Alliance is a non-profit (501c3) national coalition of writers, journalists and grass-roots media outlets. He is also Publisher of


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