I give up.
For some time now, I’ve been trying to fight the idea of politics as entertainment. It cheapens the debate, it trivializes the political process, whatever… but I give up. Politics isn’t just a form of entertainment – it’s the best form of entertainment we have outside the sports world. And when you’re faced with a debate with a goofy format (a bunch of YouTube questions) and a crop of candidates that I’m probably not voting for next November (unless something really bizarre happens and Kucinich gets the Democratic nomination, followed by Romney renouncing torture), well, there’s nothing you can do but enjoy the ride.
So with apologies to ESPN’s Bill Simmons, whose sports event running diaries are sublimely awesome, I’m doing the same for the Republican debate tonight.
All times Eastern, since my computer is convinced that it’s in the Eastern time zone even though I’m in Arizona.
7:57: Auspicious beginning to the debate – some talking head on CNN expects the debate to be “feisty, entertaining, and maybe a bit educational.” This is going to be awesome.
7:58: Talking head: “If Billiam the Snowman doesn’t show up, I’ll be disappointed.” So we’ve come from the Lincoln-Douglas debates to questions asked by snowmen. Ain’t that America…
8:00: Talking head: “After the debate, the party keeps on going!” Oh boy! Will there be a pinata? In other news, Anderson Cooper’s moderating… and he immediately panders to the audience, saying that Republicans submitted more questions than the Dems. Journalistic integrity at its finest.
8:02: Oh, so Charlie Crist’s name is pronounced “krist,” not Christ. Also, he said “duty” and I thought “doody.” Where is my mind?
8:03: I think the introductions would go a whole lot better if we had them come out basketball-style and bump chests with one another, though Thompson’s chest-bump would probably knock Paul on his ass. And I love how, like, six people applauded Tancredo. That’s gotta hurt. Also, I note that Anderson Cooper’s cheer dwarfed that of the other candidates. Cooper ’08!
8:05: Talking head: “lot of elbows thrown.” I hope they have bandages.
8:09: The first video – it’s country music! Oh dear God, can you make this any more stereotypical? Also, this guy thinks the Dems have one candidate? Actually, this song is kind of awesome. He managed to make fun of everyone, which I as a former humorist appreciate.
8:11: Giuliani gets the sanctuary city question. Rudy points out that kids of undocumented workers would be on the streets if not for city-funded education. Good point. Oh, what the hell is a “virtual fence?”
8:13: Giuliani calls Romney on employing illegals, Romney points out that the homeowner can’t confront anyone with a funny accent who a company hired to work on his property. Romney, surprisingly civil.
8:15: Wow, Cooper can’t get Giuliani to shut up. Everybody sing it with me: “Rudolph the red-faced mayor…”
8:17: Question: will you pledge to veto “amnesty”? What BS. I think its interesting how doling out a punishment that fits the crime in question (in this case, crossing the border illegally or overstaying your visa) become “amnesty.” Drop it. Seriously.
8:20: McCain actually brings up the humanity of the immigrants. Shocking. I think I see Tancredo over there marveling at the idea that illegal immigrants are humans too.
8:23: Uh-oh, here comes Tancredo – and he pulls the Joe Biden “you never let me talk” line. I think Joe’s suing for plaigiarism now. Notice that he blames immigration for our problems – not just illegal immigration, mind you, but immigration in general. Apparently it’s hard for a mass immigrant movement to assimilate. One might want to bring that up with his Italian immigrant grandparents.
8:25: Hunter: “I built the border fence in San Diego.” And Gore invented the Internet.
8:26: Huckabee’s actually being humane to immigrant kids, saying they shouldn’t be punished for their parents breaking the law, and that kids of illegals who went to school in-state should be treated like in-state students. Surprisingly humane. Of course, this goes right through Romney’s brain.
8:27: Romney whips out the L-word! Romney apparently doesn’t realize that the kids in question didn’t get something better than the rest of the students, and Huckabee calls him on it. Was Romney even listening? Sometimes it’s hard to tell.
8:31: Paul’s first question is about a wacky North American Union conspiracy theory. This is basically the Kucinich UFO question. Paul deserves better. Oh, and how did this libertarian dude get so protectionist?
8:33: The national debt comes up. McCain wants to veto pork bills, which, since he won’t have the line-item veto, will basically shut down the government. Awesome. Romney talks about a “fundamental change” in the way Washington works… of course, that’s worked so well for outsider candidates in the past. Giuliani tells us we shouldn’t replace retiring workers, and that we should cut failing programs. Not bad ideas, really.
8:37: Question: what would you cut? Thompson dodges. Ron Paul, predictably, plays hatchet man, cutting Education, Energy, DHS… yeah, good luck with that. Huckabee wants to replace the IRS with a sales tax.
8:40: A fair-tax question from Uncle Sam wanders into the Iraq war when McCain wants to respond to a Paul crack about intervention costing us money. Uh-oh. McCain is talking about how isolationism caused WWII. Is he gonna Godwin? Is he gonna Godwin?
8:41: GODWIN!!!!!!! Our isolationism allowed Hitler to come to power! Ron Paul will cause the second Holocaust! Pictures at 11!
8:43: Cooper rebukes McCain for bringing up Iraq, but allows Paul to respond. Um… Paul points out the difference between non-interventionist and isolationist, which needs to be cleared up, and we hear boos. Awesome. Someone points out some definitional confusion and gets booed for it. Republicans – they’re FANtastic.
8:44: Only McCain and (oddly enough) Hunter refuse to pledge to not raise taxes, which means that they actually are fiscally responsible and recognize the possibility of an emergency. Shame on Tancredo and Huckabee for making promises they might not be able to keep.
8:45: Next question is on farm subsidies. Why don’t the Democrats get questions like this? Of course the Republican debate is going to be more substantive – the questions they get don’t suck! Anyway, no one wants to cut subsidies, citing competition from overseas… and any pretension to “small government conservatism” the Republican Party ever had just went out the window.
8:49: Ooh, campaign videos. Tancredo first. I don’t think it said anything.
8:52: Thompson’s video. Isn’t that Romney’s voice? Now Huckabee’s? Where’s Fred? After it’s over, Anderson Cooper asks, “what’s up with that?” Note to Fred – any time you do something that induces a “what’s up with that,” you probably screwed up.
8:58: McCain’s video consists entirely of a cheap shot at Hillary Clinton involving Woodstock. You stay classy, John.
8:59: Next question starts with someone shooting crap. Sweet. He asks about gun control, then cocks his gun, and says you can answer however you like. Holy crap, that was awesome. God, I love this country… and Duncan Hunter chastises him for his safety technique. Not, say, for the fact that he’s issuing a half-assed threat to anyone who likes gun control, but for the fact that he’s not doing it safely.
9:00: Giuliani on guns: “Government can impose reasonable regulations.” People boo! Mike – leave Pinellas County. Now. Before you get shot.
9:04: Question about candidates’ personal gun collection. Ah, America.
9:06: Question about black on black crime – and Romney turns it into “need a mom and dad” thing. According to Romney, not having a mom and dad is the root of all crime… not, say, poverty, or desperation, or mental weirdness. Glad you cleared that up for us.
9:08: And here comes the abortion. I’m turning my TV off now.
9:10: Thompson: overturning Roe is our “#1 focus.” Above, say, Iraq?
9:12: Giuliani says he wouldn’t sign a federal abortion ban. He’s perfectly okay with taking drug policy away from the states, but not abortion policy. Romney too. Selective federalism appears to be the latest fad. At least Paul would kick both back to the states.
9:15: Huckabee: “Jesus was too smart to run for public office.” Amen, brother.
9:16: Question: Do you believe every word of Bible? Apparently that tells this guy “all we need to know” about the candidate. Is this a political debate or a theology discussion?
9:18: If there is a God, this amateur (save Huckabee) theology discussion is going to end now.
9:19: Cut to Romney’s video. Lo, we are delivered.
9:23: Giuliani’s video includes King Kong and claims credit for reduced snowfall. That was sublimely awesome. And it didn’t mention 9/11.
9:23: Question: How to repair the American image in Muslim world? Giuliani’s first response – remain on offense against terrorism. Giuliani – completely ignoring the effect of rhetoric, since 1887.
9:24: OK, wait a second, Rudolph. Democrats “put their head in sand” because they don’t mention “Islamic” when they talk about terrorists? Uh, terrorists aren’t just Muslims, dumbass. Remember Timothy McVeigh? And do you really have to mention that the al-Qaeda terrorists are Islamists at every turn? I think we all know that by now.
9:27: Romney says he won’t describe specific interrogation techniques because it’s not wise. Why? I don’t get it… Oh, and then he says that people accused of terrorism shouldn’t be in our legal system, and then jabs at the very honorable folks over at the ACLU. That sound you heard was Romney dropping like a rock in my esteem. McCain proceeds to deal the obvious smackdown, taking the moral high road. I like him now.
9:32: A questioner thinks that a permanent commitment in Iraq will be a “deterrent to troublemakers.” Yeah, it deterred the hell out of Iran, didn’t it? Ooh, and Paul can’t identify the Kurds. He calls them the “people in the north.” Was that a senior moment? He points out that you can achieve in peace what you can’t achieve in war, which is actually logical.
9:34: McCain blames public opinion for the loss in ‘Nam. Dumbass. You just lost any good will the torture thing got you. Paul points out that occupation of a country is a reason that people turn to terrorism. Idiots who don’t understand the truth of that statement boo. You can’t boo facts! Stop it!
9:38: Giuliani brags about keeping Haitian refugees out of Florida. Vote for me! I helped precipitate a humanitarian crisis! Also he claims he reduced abortions. And Hunter built the fence. And Gore invented the Internet.
9:42: Hunter’s video: “He built the border fence. He saved the veterans’ memorial! He leaps tall buildings in a single bound!”
9:46: I look up at Huckabee’s video and the first thing I see are the words “Christian leader.” Mike Huckabee, running for president of 88% of the country.
9:47: Question: A gay vet, who sounds like Marge’s sister, asks why he’s not fit for service. This oughta be interesting. Here’s Hunter: openly gay people are bad for unit cohesion. How? What sense does this make? He mentions that Israel lets gays serves, but says that American soldiers are different because they have “Judeo-Christian” values. Because Israelis don’t have Jewish values, or anything. Good one there, Duncan. Huckabee parrots. Romney thinks that because we’re in a war we can’t let gays in. Apparently gay soldiers are too busy decorating the barracks to fight. You stay classy, Mitchell.
9:50: The vet is in the audience, and says Americans are professional enough to serve with gays and lesbians. Can this guy run for President?
9:51: McCain: “don’t ask, don’t tell” is working. Unless you need Arabic translators.
9:53: Thompson on Social Security: We need to protect your generation from our generation. My wife: “By shooting yourselves?” None of the candidates say anything substantive.
9:56: Question: Who wants to send someone to Mars? This question exists for the sole reason that someone will talk about sending Hillary Clinton to Mars. Huckabee obliges. Also, why do none of the Republicans, with the exception of McCain, refer to Senator Clinton by anything other than her first name? If they started making references to “Barack,” or if the Dems started invoking “Rudy,” don’t you think they’d be ripped for their lack of respect?
10:01: Holy shit! It’s a rebel flag! And he’s asking a question about it! And it directly followed the question on how black people don’t vote Republican! You go, CNN! Thompson comes out against the flag. And he’s from Tennessee! Having lived in Nashville for four years while going to school, I’m now wondering how he got elected down there.
10:03: Paul’s video. I love how he talked foreign policy and snuck small government in there so no one would notice it.
10:07: Paul, on one of his rallies: “We had blacks, we had Hispanics…” Maybe one of them was his Official Black Friend that shields you from claims of racism.
10:09: Mercifully, the last question, and it’s aimed at Giuliani… “Why did you root for the Red Sox?” That’s our nation's political debate, kids.
And if you want a Banditos Theorem proof, look no further than this article that reveals some of the rumors on the Interwebs about Obama.