Wednesday, September 29, 2004

The countdown to the first debate has begun, and I'm afraid nobody really cares. Much has already been made of the 32-page Memorandum of Understanding between the campaigns that has made sure that the debates will be as un-spontaneous as possible, but I plan to watch anyway.

True, the three events planned can hardly be called "debates," but they are our only chances as a nation to see the two major candidates side-by-side - even if they are only repeating their canned and rehearsed statements. There will be no surprise curve-ball questions, and absolutely no interplay between the two, but we will see them on their feet for 90 minutes, each having to answer the same basic questions on where they will take this nation over the next four years.

Of course, each side is already doing damage control. Each will claim a victory by simply doing better than the expectations that they are working hard now to lower. Kerry's campaign reminds us that Bush's strength is debating (?!) and that his folksy way of talkin' to folks virtually guarantees a Bush win. Bush's operatives remind us that debating is all Senators do ("Presidents act, Senators debate") while Dubya can barely say his name without stuttering.

This strategy has worked for W before. In 2000 the expectations on him were so low that all he had to do was string together three sentences, and only screw two of them up, to be hailed as the winner. Of course, Gore's famous sighing didn't help. Or the lockbox thing.

Oops, am I talking about Gore? Last night on Hardball Chris Matthews slipped a couple of times in calling Kerry by the G-name. Freudian slip or subtle campaign message? I like Chris Matthews, but his partisanship has been obscenely on display lately - something more fitting to somebody on FoxNews, not MSNBC.

Oh, and a comment about yesterday's posting. I may have sounded a bit flippant and disrespectful in my discussion of becoming an ordained member of the clergy. While I am not taking my online ordination as being as meaningful as somebody whose earned theirs through years of seminary study, I'm not taking it completely as a joke either.

The truth is that it partly came out of my frustration with organized religion in general, and my lack of spiritual connections as of late. But more of that later. Right now, I have a message for my followers: Though shalt watch the debates with an open mind and try not to scream when the other guy talks. Go forth and vote.

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