Tuesday, October 23, 2012
I didn’t have the heart to watch the third presidential debate. I watched the first two and was unnerved, appalled, saddened and angered. Now I’m just curious: Is there really any reason to have these events anymore? Do they prove anything, aside from the fact that both men are sort of idiot-savants capable of memorizing and spewing out meaningless statistics? What, exactly, was accomplished?
During the first debate I saw an autocratic schoolyard bully throwing his weight around. The President looked sort of like Alfred E. Newman, accommodating and fragile, attempting to show that good manners might win the day. They didn’t. I didn’t think Romney ‘won’ because he intimidated the debate’s ancient arbiter; rather he struck me as a man unused to being questioned by lesser being, and we are all, in his eyes, lesser beings.
Obama came to the second debate with advice ringing in his ears: be more forceful, less compliant. There were more meaningless statistics. Does anyone really know what a billion means? A trillion? I don’t. I measure numbers by their relationships to my life and while I can fathom a million or two (there are multi-million dollar homes not far from where I live; a Bugatti Veyron costs a million), when the zeros start piling up into the double digits, they cease to bear any relationship to my life. The friends I spoke to after the debate feel the same way, and some of them make pretty good money. My point is that it’s easy to throw numbers around. Anyone can do it; it’s political white noise, and I would have thought—and hoped—that both the President and the Governor had more on the ball, that they wouldn’t have to resort to such cheap tricks.
What bothered me the most, I think, is that the staged encounter between these two politicians gave them both the opportunity to wreak havoc with facts and figures, further confusing the really important issues the nation faces. Both Romney and Obama were equally guilty of massaging statistics to fit their needs, whether speaking about the debt, unemployment, defense spending or the GM bailout.
What I wanted to hear was Obama saying, “OK, folks, let’s get down to brass tacks here. The Governor is a pretty smart guy, but in the US, smart guys are a dime a dozen, and many of them have the bad habit of speaking out of both sides of their mouths. Kinda like George, here. Oh. Sorry. Mitt. Who the hell names their kid Mitt? But I digress. Elect me, and you get a man serving his second term. I know the office—hell, I’m already President! I’ll work my ass off. I know the job, and I’m not going to be seeking re-election so I’ll be able to spend the time working for you.” Here, he would turn to Romney and smile graciously. “Elect the governor and he’s going to spend the first two years in office going—pardon my French—‘What the f**k!’ Then he’ll spend the next two years trying to get re-elected. You think he’s gonna have time to take care of the nation’s business? Dream on…”
But Obama didn’t say that. In fact, neither of them said much of anything new, and what they did say isn’t to be trusted, skewed as it was so serve their political needs.
In the end, I did like Obama’s suit better, and I didn’t think much of Romney’s 1961 haircut. I suppose that’s all I’ll have to vote on.