Ballot Box

Debate Cocktail Chatter

(With apologies to Moneybox)

1. “With so many debates, just about every conceivable question has now been asked and answered repeatedly. The result is that the debates are turning into press conferences on the latest headlines. Tonight’s topics from Grand Rapids, Mich.: Elián González (again), John Rocker, and the AOL-Time Warner merger. A few more debates and Tim Russert will be asking these guys what they think of that presidential race up in New Hampshire.” 

2. “The post-game analysis on MSNBC was that a newly conciliatory John McCain sounded like he wanted to be George W. Bush’s running mate. When I heard McCain’s opening spiel about the ’growing gap between the haves and have-nots in America’ and his criticism of how Bush’s tax cuts favor the rich, I had a slightly different take: McCain wants to be Bill Bradley’s running mate.”

3. “Bush had another brief spasm of anti-intellectualism when he stopped a question that referred to a comment from a Harvard professor by retorting, ‘consider the source.’ When Bush’s father Harvard-baited Michael Dukakis in 1988, it was pretty disingenuous. But at least W.’s dad didn’t actually have a Harvard degree.”

4. “George W. finished his answer to the John Rocker question by saying that he appreciated the effort by the Atlanta Braves to get Rocker psychological counseling. After a pause, Steve Forbes interjected a Gary Bauer-like dig: ‘And perhaps they should have psychological counseling for some team owners as well–to rescind their statements they’ve made about religion in America.’ But Forbes is no Bauer. Bauer’s ‘God help all of us’ line in the Nashua debate made fun of Bush’s intelligence, not his sanity or his beliefs. And Bauer’s line was funny. This time Piggy was the only one laughing.”

5. “Forbes is replaying his 1996 campaign exactly. Once more, he started the race as an inept political amateur. And once again, he’s ending it as a destructive sore loser.” 

 6. “When Bush made his argument for continuing the boycott of Cuba, Bauer drove a truck through it by asking why the same logic didn’t apply to trade with China. Bush responded with a fatuous distinction: that trade with China supports an “entrepreneurial class” whereas with Cuba it nourishes only Fidel Castro. Bauer is right to point out the inconsistency, but wrong in his conclusion that we should isolate both Communist dictatorships. Or does Bauer think the 35-year Cuban embargo has been a big success?

7. “What’s up with Bush always offering to ’share my heart’ with voters? I know what he means, but in English we usually say, ‘I want to share what’s in my heart.’ Otherwise it sounds like an invitation to an Aztec banquet.”