“Now” and the Debates
The next set in our Faux Presidential Cup match begins this week. The first and third sets are complete. In the first, the primaries, Kerry and Bush each won one game, but the tiebreaker as decided by the public via polls gave Kerry the set. The third set came to us in July and August. Both were on their games but NY was the bigger draw and Bush pulled it out in the end to win that one. The second has yet to conclude. The air-war games that commenced in March and will not conclude until election-day. Both have won a few, but the score at this point is Team Bush 2 and Team Kerry 1. It will not be known until the day after the election if the match will be decided in four sets or there will be a fifth, winner take all, set that will keep all of us on pins and needles for weeks as we witnessed in 2000, one of the longest matches in the history of this game.
The fourth set relies as heavily on virtual reality as all the other sets. Three games in this one. It’s rigged so that neither side has much, if any, chance to lose. Of course, that also means that neither one has much of a chance to win either and is why we have to wait a few days for the pundits to tote up their scorecards (arithmetic not being one of their strong suits) to tell us who really won in spite of what we may seen and heard with our own eyes and ears. That may also account for why only thirty percent of the public tuned in to the first game in 2000 and even fewer for the next two. We are not a nation that likes to wait to get the final score; we prefer the instant gratification of knowing it at the end of the last volley.
The worst thing about this set is that it’s bad TV. It’s boring. Two old white men standing at podiums and pretending to answer easy questions is not visually stimulating. For the most part they don’t even answer the question. They pawn off-well memorized 120 second speeches that address some component of the question, but really only answer the question as phrased by their trainers, but the audience never gets to hear that question and therefore are left to puzzle out what the question was. Mini-speeches not designed to inform the public but only to make them look strong, resolute, commanding and not dumb.
The sagging TV ratings for all the sets in this reality TV show should concern our corporate masters. It would be none to good to hold an election and have nobody show up because all the voters had died of boredom during the fourth set. Since we all already know that issues of national import like war and peace, equality, healthcare, education etc. are irrelevant to this match, it would be nice if they could make at least one of the games in one of the sets entertaining. Something that we might enjoy watching.
Instead of three games, all versions of a fake joint news conference, in the “Debate” set would it be too much to ask that two of them be different kinds of fake games? One of them could be Jeopardy! – The Presidential Edition. Let them give us the questions instead of the answers. The two sides could negotiate the categories and rules with Alex Trebek just as they now do with the Presidential Commission on Debates run by the GOP.
The stage and podiums would be constructed to insure that Kerry and Bush appear to be the same height (either Kerry will stand in a hole or Bush will stand on a box – the “hole” is the better option because then there is no risk that Bush will slip and fall. The judges would be instructed to be very liberal in giving points for the question/answers that were close enough, novel or funny. All winnings would go to the candidates’ favorite charity, thus demonstrating their generosity and compassion for others.
We’ll all get to see who has the quicker reflexes by how fast they push the button after the answer is given. We’ll see their capacity for bold moves in how much they wager on Daily Doubles and Final Jeopardy. We will never be in the dark as to who is ahead at any point in the game – it will always be the one with the most money. We’ll see how the perform under pressure. Bush will have to study hard to build a knowledge base of useless information. Kerry will have to work hard not to take up the entire thirty minutes articulating one question.
The categories? “The Bible” for sure. It’s very important to American voters that the POTUS know his Bible even if most of us don’t . “Baseball, Football and Basketball” would similarly pass muster with both teams – can’t have a POTUS ignorant of America’s favorite pastimes. (Golf, skiing and sailing wouldn’t be included because that would make the candidates appear too elite. Nascar - too “unpresidential.”). St. Reagan (Team Bush expects to ace this one, but Team Kerry knows that Bush was drunk for most of those years.) American History. (None of the French stuff or “girlie men” answers about anything other than war for our POTUS candidates. This one will also give both of them the chance to demonstrate what a degree from Yale buys you). “Evildoers (1980-2004)” (Bush will hope the answers are: OBL, Saddam, Noriega, Abu Nidal and Carla Fay Tucker; Kerry will hope that George W. Bush is the answer five times). The Final Jeopardy category will be “The Bush Family, a real American Dynasty. (Anyone hoping for “fair and balanced” in a GWB TV appearance hasn’t been watching TV for the past four years.)
The ratings still might not approach that of CSI, American Idol or Survivor, but they would surely beat whatever we will see from them this week. Plus, we might actually learn something relevant about both of them (not necessarily important but surely no less relevant than stories about what they each did for a few months as young men – yes, GWB was awol and yes, Kerry really did earn his medals) before casting our ballots for one of the worst Presidents ever or the one I have my money on to win Jeopardy! The Presidential Edition.
Note: If you missed “Now with Bill Moyers” last Friday, check out the Open Debates.org overview on this page: