So much for a debate

(Flickr/DonkeyHotey)

John Denver — who sang about “raining fire from the sky” in Colorado — would have been disappointed. There was no fire from the sky, no fireworks, no zingers, hardly any pulse. Wednesday night’s much anticipated first presidential debate at the University of Colorado was one long snooze fest. Watching the debate on Wednesday, actually, reminded me of the saying to the effect that if voting made a whit of difference, it would be illegal. And for lots of people (like many felons), it is illegal. But mostly, people don’t vote because they don’t see the point.

President Obama wore a plush blue tie and called Michelle “sweetie.” Mitt Romney wore a striped red tie and stared at Obama during the split screens with the expression of a condescending puppy. (I welcome suggestions for an alternative description because puppies cannot be condescending.) Jim Lehrer, veteran and venerated journalist, barely registered during those longest 90 minutes of my life — aside from asking a few softball questions and genteelly requesting specifics from the two candidates as they recited talking points and statistics.

I think I would have had a better time if I had been playing one of the many debate drinking games that were available. One drink for ObamaCare? Really, BuzzFeed? Between the two of them, it was uttered 21 times!

Rachel Maddow called debate night her “favorite night in politics,” but I was not enthused. The Thursday morning pundit-backs have made hay fact checking the debate. That’s good. There were some doozies as a “professorial” Obama and an “aggressive” Romney crossed swords.

Deployed Sailors watch a presidential debate. (Flickr/Official U.S. Navy Imagery)

I perked up once during the hour and a half. When President Obama mentioned that under a President Mitt Romney the military would get a $2 trillion boost that it did not need and had not asked for. Now that is a headline-worthy takeaway. What? Come again? Here we are, with the world’s largest military budget, which has only continued on its skyward spike under President Barack Obama, while we are saddled with a groaning deficit, a splintering social infrastructure, and an ever-growing alienated and impoverished population. And Candidate Romney wants to hand the gold-plated Pentagon even more of our hard-earned bucks? That is something to resist, to protest, to organize against.

Where is an additional $2 trillion for basic infrastructure like bridges, ports and highways? For a educational system that graduates skilled workers and critical thinkers? For a health care system that keeps people healthy? For energy efficiency and green jobs? For all of the things that both candidates trumpeted as so important. Until these guys start talking about putting real resources into tackling our real problems, they are just farting around. Obama and Romney are suggesting thousand and million and billion dollar fixes to our problems. Trillions of dollars are reserved only for warmaking, for bloodletting, for nation-dismantling.

Between the networks and cable outlets, it is estimated that almost 60 million people tuned in. That is actually sort of an impressive number — one in five Americans. I spent the whole debate wondering who else was watching. Were the people referenced by either candidate watching as their successes and failures became grist for the political mill? How about the woman who told Romney she could not afford health insurance for her son, or the guy with the small business who complained about his high tax bill, or the husband who just lost his fourth part time job in three years, or woman who went back to school at 55 and is proud of her new job?

I wondered what two trillion dollars worth of change would look like. I wondered why any sane person would want to be president. I wished that our election season were 18 days long instead of 18 months long. I wished that the protesters who gathered outside were part of the debate, invited to bring their creativity and energy into that totally stale environment. And, I wished that Big Bird had moderated instead of Jim Lehrer. And then it was over. Yawn.

The good news is that the Ryan-Biden debate promises to be a bit more interesting. You know how Catholics like to mix it up, right? (Two Catholic veep candidates; a first for the history books!) Let’s all stay tuned, if we can stand it.

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